Ways to Serve Outside the Church
by Cheryl Grantom
Over the years, Steve and I have used our home as a way to minister to people through hospitality. It was early in our marriage that we decided to be purposefully generous with what God had given us—our home.
During different seasons of life, it has looked many different ways. When we were youth leaders early in our marriage, we had gatherings of teenagers for an impromptu cookie bake, Bible study, or New Year’s Eve party.
As young parents, we had neighborhood kids hang out with our kids and play for hours. We had a trampoline and swings, so it was fun to play at our house, and there were of course snacks always available. We had made a decision for me not to work while the kids were young. This way I was available to show hospitality. So you didn’t think play dates for your kids was a form of hospitality? They definitely are. This is how you show your kids and their friends what being hospitable and generous is and how to practically and naturally do it. What better way is there to display God’s love than to cultivate generosity through hospitality?
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV) As the kids grew and became teenagers, occasionally the trampoline was still fun, but they needed a hangout space. So our garage became a bonus room. We got the neighbors’ huge projection TV after they got a new one and got some old couches and chairs. Add the Wii and VCR/DVD player, and you have a fun place to hang out with your friends. We chose to be flexible with the space we had to give. I could have parked my car in the garage, but that wasn’t as important as giving the kids a way to practice hospitality. Of course, there were always snacks and most importantly chocolate milk. It still makes me smile thinking of how comfortable some of the friends were to just come over and open the fridge and help themselves to a glass of chocolate milk.
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13 (NIV) We’ve also had people live with us during times of need. Was this convenient? No it wasn’t. Was it easy? No it wasn’t. However, God had blessed us with an extra room each time it was needed. This requires you to be open, flexible, and transparent in your hospitality. It can’t be an act or a role you play. Hospitality isn’t always fun but can have a real effect on those whom it is shown. God wants you to be a part of His plan in their story. Fortunately, I was raised to show hospitality, but those on the receiving end may not have ever experienced it before. Just showing them you care enough to be there in their time of need may be overwhelming for them. God’s love is powerful.
There have been times that hospitality wasn’t happening for us. We got caught up in our “busy” lives and made excuses. You know what happened? We missed being hospitable. As part of our move to Canby, we made a decision to get back to doing God’s work and making our home available again as a way to serve God. When we were considering homes, we looked at it through the lens of hospitality. God brought us the perfect home to use for Him.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2 (NIV) Currently, we host a Life Group at our home and have enjoyed opening our home this way. We also were blessed with a pool and backyard that works well for entertaining groups. We’ve only lived here for about one and a half years so far. I often fall asleep thinking of the next group I can have over. In my mind, I’ve planned a neighborhood get together. I don’t really know my neighbors yet, so it’s a little scary to invite strangers over, but I’m going to do it. I’ve also thought about having all the people from my work over. It’s a little out of my comfort zone, as again, I kind of know them, but only on a work level. Then we could have Steve’s coworkers over, or the youth from Church, and the list goes on.
The main thing with hospitality is to just do it. There is never a perfect or convenient time. Be available. Don’t keep your schedule so busy that you can’t invite someone over when you feel the Holy Spirit nudge you to invite them over. Be flexible. Having someone over for dinner doesn’t have to be a fancy meal. It can be hot dogs and mac and cheese. The conversation that will happen is most important not the food. Be transparent. My sink is never completely free of dishes. You will find dust on the blinds and a pile of mail on the counter. Be real—people appreciate it. It will open the door to conversations and opportunities to show God’s love to others.