Today, I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post with you from my friend Katie who blogs over at Hospitable Homemaker!
After I finished The Gospel Comes with a House Key earlier this year, I was thoroughly convicted about opening my home and living out true Christian hospitality.
However, having three energetic kids did seem like a hurdle.
Instead of just trying to figure it out myself, I thought I’d ask someone who truly has the gift of hospitality to share her insights with all of us. I hope you’re all as encouraged as I was by this today!
If you aren’t already familiar with Katie from her site, Facebook, or Instagram, I would highly recommend you jump right in and sign up for her free email series on Creating a Welcoming Home right here. It is fabulously practical and encouraging. I wish she didn’t live 2500 miles away from me; I would surely invite myself over to her house but this email series is a good alternative.
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Here are four practical ways your kids can help with hospitality from Katie!
Whenever the doorbell rings at our house, my children use all the speed their little legs can muster to race to the door. There is always an intense round of questions and greetings and happy little feet and sometimes I fear it’s intimidating to guests.
I know I’m often nervous about my children’s behavior and whether or not guests will be overwhelmed.
Once my daughter told a first-time guest in our home that I made the bread with “rotten eggs”. She was quite convincing and it took a long time to figure out that she thought the brown eggs I had purchased were rotten. It seems funny now but I wasn’t laughing that day.
In moments like those it can feel like children stand in the way of hospitality done well but that is simply not true.
Children are not a hindrance as we seek to obey the commands of Scripture. They are little souls we are privileged to disciple while they watch us obey God.
1 Peter 4:9 tells us to “offer hospitality to one another, without grumbling.” Extending hospitality is not just a nice thing for us to do; it is direct obedience to the command of God. Yet, sometimes it feels like drudgery, if we are honest.
Extending a hospitable welcome often means more dishes in our already overflowing sinks and more cleaning when we know little people will busily work behind us to undo everything we have done.
It is easy to think that we can start offering hospitality when our children are older or our schedules are less cluttered or our lives feel more organized. But the truth is, we will never reach the goals we set for the future if we aren’t taking baby steps in the right direction now.
These are challenging years, to be sure, but they are also joyful years and they are years filled with growth, not only for our children but also for us!
There are even some very real benefits to having young children in the home when we offer hospitality - my favorite of which is that there are never any lags in the conversation.
However, there are some practical things that make hosting with young children challenging. So, how do we walk in obedience, without grumbling, and show our children the path to cultivating community that Scripture lays out for us?
There are a lot of ways that children can be included in our hospitality efforts.
1. Set the Table/ Decorate
Here, the perfectionist inside me has to settle down a bit. If I’m going to ask my children to help me set the table or decorate for guests, I need to do so with the willingness to let them make mistakes or do things differently.
I can instruct them on how to properly set the table and come alongside them to help, but if it isn’t perfectly straight and the fork is on the wrong side, I need to bite my tongue and give my children the freedom to genuinely help and enjoy what they’ve accomplished.
Young children can carry closed containers (like salt and pepper) to the table and the level of difficulty and involvement only increases from there.
You can ask your children to color pictures that will be used as placemats or a large piece of paper that you can use as a table runner. You can ask them to pick flowers for the centerpiece or make a craft to send home with guests as a gift.
There are a lot of ways to use your creativity with this and during the whole process you can be talking with your children about the behavior that will be expected and how much of a privilege it is to welcome others into your home.
If you know a specific guest is coming, begin the day with a breakfast prayer for the guest. You can pray for these things and involve your children in the prayers:
Pray for their safety in travel to and from your home.
Pray that the conversation you enjoy would be edifying.
Pray that everyone will have fun and leave feeling relaxed and encouraged.
Pray that everyone would accomplish what is needed so that the time can be undistracted.
Pray that you will be able to truly bear one another’s burdens.
Pray for specific requests if you know ahead of time.
On days when you don’t know about anyone coming, take the opportunity to pray with your children that God would make you a blessing to someone.
After guests leave, pray for their specific life situations and struggles and thank God for the time you had together.
You can even give your child an index card (depending on their age) and instruct them to ask the guest for a prayer request and then pray with them about that throughout the week. This is a great way to bless your guests and a practical tool your children can use to build Godly relationships throughout their lives.
3. Ask a Question
This tip comes from Sally Clarkson’s book The Lifegiving Table and it is one of my favorites.
Have your children prepare a question ahead of time that they will ask each guest during the meal. It is easy to get caught up in adult conversation and forget to include our children. When we do this, children get discouraged and they often get louder as they clammer for attention.
One way to prevent this is to have them prepare a question to ask each guest and take turns asking. This way, they are learning how to respectfully interact, they get to talk about something that interests them, and they feel seen and heard.
We can’t expect this to be a cure-all, children still get loud and clammer for attention but this is a practical way to show them they are a valuable part of the interaction and you are glad for their presence.
I know this isn’t easy and, especially when they are young, it takes a lot of extra work to teach children to cook and clean but this is a great way to involve children in the hospitality process.
Your home doesn’t need to be perfect to host because Christian hospitality is not the same as entertaining but most of us do clean up a little more when guests are coming.
This is the perfect way to involve our children!
Similar to setting the table and decorating, we can’t expect that our children will do everything the way we would like them to, but as they learn, their skills will improve and eventually their help will genuinely take work off your plate.
In the meantime, embrace the challenge and allow your children to be involved.
It doesn’t make you a failure if you put on a 30 minute show so you can finish up last minute prep without the children underfoot, but the time they spend with you preparing can make memories of good hospitality for a lifetime.
Children are a Blessing, even in Hospitality
It seems that everywhere we turn, we are told that children are a burden and that they make life difficult. While I admit to having many difficult days with my children, I also believe that what the Bible says about children being a blessing (Psalm 127:5) is true.
So today, let me encourage you to cherish the children you have been given and disciple them as you obey God’s command to offer hospitality without seeing them as a cause to grumble.
In this simple act of obedience you will have the opportunity to trust Christ and His sufficiency in all things, disciple your children, and love your guests.
This is no small thing, mama, this is beautiful ministry for the glory of God and it has lasting implications for your home, your children, you heart, and your community!
Katie Deckert is a wife, mama, and writer who believes the goal of the home is to help us live on mission. She blogs at Hospitable Homemaker where she encourages Christian women to cultivate community right where they are through obeying God’s simple call to “offer hospitality.”