Before our first baby was due we decorated a room, purchased and washed clothes, toys, and bedding. We thought about what might make him smile. Provided bottles, cups, child-sized dishes and towels. We even selected the perfect chair for when he would join us at the table. I was passionate about extending hospitality to this expected child. We spent months preparing for the day we would bring him home, but when it arrived I still felt completely unprepared.
Somewhere between expecting the first baby and having a houseful of kids, I lost my passion for extending hospitality to the residents in my home. Oh – we worked hard to make sure our home was child safe (outlet caps, chemicals and medicines locked away, etc.), but my desire to make sure the house was inviting, delightful, and tailored to their needs evaporated.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. I just googled “tips for home hospitality” and at the top of the results page, it reads: About 72,300,000 results (0.35 seconds).
I made a quick scan of the “7-steps” and “15 Tips” and “Top Ten Tips” and “Tips for the Reluctant Host” and “Tips for Entertaining in a Small Home”, etc. It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that I didn’t find any posts , articles, or YouTube videos about being hospitable to the people that live in the house.
God used an innocent comment from one of my children several years ago to help me see that I had changed. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like, “I love when we have visitors, our house gets clean and pretty and fun.” Ouch.
Granted, part of the not-so-clean of our everyday experience is related to the unwillingness of my children to put away their toys, laundry, books, etc. But that’s not really what was in question here. But it served as an unintended accusation that I made a special effort to make our house welcoming to people who don’t live here and don’t do that for the people who do.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Scripture calls us to entertain visitors (Hebrews 13:2) and there are examples of hospitality throughout the Bible. We should not abandon the instruction to practice hospitality (Romans 12:13). I just think we need to expand our vision to include extending hospitality to those who live in the home as much as those who will visit us in our homes.
My kids need to feel welcome. They need to see that I plan to delight them. They need to see me intentionally considering their needs and providing for them. Maybe I don’t put a Hershey’s Hug and Kiss on their pillow every night (after all, they did just brush their teeth, right?), but are there ways I can modify my home to make it more child-welcoming? What can I do to make sure my kids want to be at home? How can I make sure they know they are wanted? Do they sense that I am excited and pleased they are with me?
There are several practical things we’ve done to make our home welcoming to our kids. We have deliberately designed our house and schedule to accommodate, appeal to, accept, assure, and advise our children (and the adults!).
- Accommodate This is sort of the flip side of the child-proofing coin. We have modified or arranged our house to make sure the smallest of us have access to what we need (child-proofing ensures that they do not have access to what is hazardous).
- Appeal This is the fun part! When guests come we make a great effort to create an environment they can enjoy. Usually this means removing an obstacle course of toys, books, and clothing. It is so fun to expend the same effort to create an environment that our kids can enjoy – every day! This looks a little different based upon the ages of the kids in question, but we want to create a world where they want to be – and ultimately to extend hospitality by inviting their friends to enjoy it, too.
- Accept Making the house a “Yes” zone. I don’t want them to feel like they live in a museum – unless it’s the “Please Touch” variety. We provide an environment where they can be free to be kids – and feel safe doing so.
- Assure It is important to know how to repair damage, and then to remain calm when accidents happen. I know, easier said than done. But having the right tools for repair, really helps. And don’t they need to see that there is a cure for brokenness? Doesn’t the opportunity to redeem their mistakes open a door to talking about the Redeemer?
- Advise A child-friendly home is great, but we also need home-friendly children. Not everywhere you go will be a “please touch” experience. If you give your kids the opportunity to learn self-restraint at home, they’ll be comfortable in other places as well.
Over the next few weeks, I will provide concrete lists, options, and ideas for putting these concepts into practice. Since we are still talking about work on Wednesdays, I’m going to start with accommodating our kids (it dovetails nicely with providing tools) and then move into the fun part, which the kids will really appreciate!