When was the last time you had someone in your home that didn’t live there? If you are like most Americans, it may have been awhile. A quick read through the New Testament though and you will notice it seems like people were regularly inviting others to come into their home for a variety of reasons.
Barna recently published research that had an interesting twist. They found Christian homes that worked actively with their children on spiritual things by praying and studying the Bible were not as successful in raising children to be active Christians as those that did those things and also practiced hospitality. The authors of the study aren’t sure if the hospitality made the difference or the types of people who were hospitable made some sort of difference, but they felt hospitality was key.
If you aren’t used to having others into your home, the idea of hospitality may make you break into a cold sweat. You may be fearful of people seeing your messy house, judging your decorating choices, hating your cooking or a hundred other nightmare scenarios.
Actually, most visitors to your home don’t really care about any of those things (unless perhaps your house was recently condemned by the health department!). They are just thrilled to be invited somewhere. They feel special someone thought of them and liked them enough to include them. Oh, they may pick at some food, but that’s probably more about them than your cooking.
In fact, make it easy on yourself if you are concerned. Invite people over for ice cream. Or popsicles. Or muffins from Costco. Use paper plates. Serve take out. Eat a picnic in your yard on plastic picnic cloths.
Evidently, it doesn’t really matter whom you entertain either. Family counts. So do your kids’ friends. So let them have that sleepover they’ve been begging to have. Let your daughter plan a tea party for her grandmother. Invite the neighbors to bring a lawn chair and sip lemonade as you watch the sunset.
Why does hospitality matter? We may never really know for sure. What we do know is that it is something God has always encouraged His people to do. Plus it’s a great way to build relationships that will give you opportunities to serve others and share your faith. Or to encourage Christian brothers and sisters. Best yet, it teaches your kids how to truly show God’s love to others. It really is worth taking the time to focus your family on hospitality.
Did you know kids need boredom to grow? A huge part of learning can only be done when you have unstructured free time to think on deeper levels and explore. This is just as true for spiritual growth as it is in other areas of your kids’ lives.
There’s a trick to this unstructured free time though. You have to create an environment where thinking and experimentation will actually happen. If your kids spend all of their free time playing video games or watching Netflix, there will be no positive growth.
So what does an environment look like that encourages growth when there is unscheduled free time? Here are some ways you can create that type of environment for your kids.
Summer break starts in just a few weeks. Most parents of children under the age of eighteen are currently in enrollment mode. The mantra seems to be, “The more things your children have on their schedule, the better.”
The average child will attend camps, lessons and classes. A privileged few will also spend hours at a community or neighborhood pool playing with friends. And let’s not forget a long list of summer school assignments that are due the first day of the coming school year.
You may have seen something recently about a new Barna study on spiritually vibrant homes. These are homes were they seem to be the most successful in raising children to be active, productive Christian adults.
One of the most interesting findings was that spiritually vibrant homes regularly were hospitable to others – invited others into their homes. Although, another category of parents did a lot of the right things like Bible study, prayer and conversations about God – the missing hospitality element seemed to make them less effective in the end.
According to the Barna study, spiritually vibrant homes include family and individual Bible study and prayer. They have lots of conversations about God and what He wants from us and for us. They also consistently invited others into their home. Barna isn’t sure whether hospitality creates a spiritually vibrant home or if spiritually vibrant homes are just more hospitable, but the correlation is strong. Hospitality makes a huge difference.
One of the best things about the holidays is that your kids get time off from school and many of their activities. Bed times can be a bit later, because they can sleep in a little longer. You have more time at home together.
What does your family do with that extended family time? If you use even some of that time more intentionally, you can have fun with your kids while teaching them some important things God wants them to know.