In our first 20 years of marriage, my wife and I seldom welcomed guests. Our parents had not modeled this in our childhoods, and we didn’t realize how wonderful it is to offer hospitality to others. Now hardly a month goes by that we don’t fellowship regularly around our table with old and new friends. In these tough economic times, we find this relaxed but meaningful ministry can do much to ease the isolation and tension some of our friends are facing.

Even though all of God’s people should be hospitable, it is an especially important part of being a church leader. Caring for people by offering them fellowship and a meal is a meaningful part of ministry. Spontaneous or planned hospitality allows people to get to know each other on a deeper level so that we can pray for one another. With practice we can reach out in natural, unstructured ways so that our homes become frequent stops for friends and even strangers. (Heb. 13:2)

Offering hospitality has two main objectives. First, we can graciously provide for the physical needs of others – food and lodging. Second, we can provide an environment where relationships can be nurtured and developed. Whether we are on the giving or receiving end, hospitality is a blessing.

Unfortunately, we allow many excuses to interfere with this blessing. Here are some practical suggestions that have worked for our family.


  1. Don’t worry about the size or condition of the house. One family I know has a dollhouse size kitchen and eating area, but they entertain small groups frequently. The home is clean, the family is prepared and that’s all that matters.
  2. Plan ahead and give guests clear instructions and directions. Make sure people know the date and time well in advance, who else is invited, driving directions, if they are expected to bring anything, appropriate dress, the telephone number, the general plan for the evening and if children are included.
  3. Consider carefully the size of the group. Keep in mind that the ministry aspect of showing hospitality increases as the number of invited guests decreases. Small groups provide more intimacy; large groups provide opportunity for meeting more people. Both kinds of events qualify as hospitality, but consider the emotional/spiritual difference between them.
  4. Keep the meal simple. Do I hear an “amen” to that? Remember, the meal is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Physical nourishment is secondary to emotional and spiritual nourishment. When we have people for dinner, we usually serve a simple meal that includes a casserole, salad, bread and dessert.
  5. Make the evening a joint effort among family members so that one person is not unfairly burdened. Decide ahead of time who takes responsibility for cleaning, meal preparation, serving and cleanup.
  6. Greet people when they arrive. This pivotal moment conveys friendliness and puts guests at ease. Make sure they are introduced to others, offered refreshment, can locate the restroom and know the plan for the evening.
  7. During the meal, direct the topics of conversation. Without some direction, conversation can drift to trivial, meaningless, even questionable topics. The host can steer the conversation by initiating certain topics. We can ask people to share about themselves or their family, how they got involved in the church or where they call “home.” Avoid topics that could be uncomfortable for some guests. Asking everyone to share their testimony would be risky unless the host knows everyone would be comfortable with that. Likewise, asking everyone to share about a favorite vacation could leave out someone who is unemployed and can’t afford a vacation.
  8. Control most of the conversation. Don’t let some people dominate the conversation while others sit in silence. Try to vary the topics so more people have a chance to find a topic of interest. Imagine how a non-musician would feel if the entire evening is focused on classical music.
  9. After the meal, engage in additional “one anothers.” When we move to the den, we might share a short devotional and pray for one another, making sure ahead of time that no one feels obligated to pray aloud. During this time we may find opportunities to comfort someone who is hurting or encourage someone who is raising children.
  10. Provide closure to the evening. Let people know when it is okay to leave without disrupting the evening’s agenda. We can invite them to linger for fellowship, but some guests may have other obligations and are looking for the courteous moment to say good-bye.
  11. Personally affirm each person as he leaves. Make sure guests know how much their presence has meant.


Showing hospitality may also involve offering lodging. Whether for a night or an extended time, here are some house rules for making sure things run smoothly. Make sure husband and wife are unified in the offer of hospitality and that everyone else in the house knows who is coming and for how long. Clearly define how long the houseguest will stay and what meals and transportation will be provided. It is not fair to you or your guests to be unclear about these arrangements. Communicate house rules that will make you and your guests comfortable. For instance, no food in the living room, don’t let the cat out, breakfast on your own, what to do if the phone rings, etc.

Hospitality is a two-way street. Here are some hints for being on the receiving end.


  1. Graciously receive and quickly respond to an invitation.
  2. Offer to bring part of the meal.
  3. Be on time and park without blocking a driveway, etc.
  4. If appropriate, bring a simple gift.
  5. Respect the house rules.
  6. Respect the host’s leadership. Don’t hijack the conversation, turn on the TV or leave early without notifying the host.
  7. Don’t dominate the host’s attention.
  8. Leave at a decent time.
  9. Express gratitude verbally and follow up with a written note.


Too often we think fellowship involves excessive amounts of time and money. Perhaps our focus is on being impressive instead of on being hospitable. Generally, our guests remember how warmly they were treated long after the meal has been digested. 


Don McMinn, Ph.D. (with Kimberly Spring)
Executive Director of
The 11th Commandment: More Insights into the One Anothers of Scripture


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