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Hospitality, Caught more than Taught

What better time to begin working with our children on hospitality now that the holiday season is quickly approaching.

Early in our marriage, we had three small children and we wanted to be the best parents we could be.  So we set out to kill two birds with one stone.  We facilitated a parenting class in our home, and simultaneously let our little children learn to be good hosts and hostesses.  This went on for about ten years, and boy, did we all learn a lot!  Let me tell you some very interesting things we learned over those years, and some funny things that happened along the way.  Maybe God will speak to you through our experiences, and you’ll be inspired to have some families over to your home during the holidays.

Scripture talks about being “given” to hospitality.

• Romans 12:13 “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”
• 1 Timothy 3:2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”

With this in mind we began to practice hospitality in everyday ways. We wanted to create a love for hospitality in our children’s hearts that would carry over into their adult years.

For instance, when the door bell rang, it wasn’t difficult to convince our young children to accompany us to the door. We used this to teach them how to greet guests.

• Look them in the eyes
• Smile
• Shake their hand or hug them when appropriate

Simple things, yes, but they made visitors to our home feel immediately welcomed. Everyone loved Eric’s enthusiastic, “Welcome, welcome, welcome to our home!”

I just noticed a few weeks ago at our home group meeting that everyone came to answer the door without prompting when families began arriving. It’s like saying to people, “We were ALL looking forward to having you come.” This is especially attractive when the young adults in your family join in making guests welcome and then stay to visit with them instead of scurrying off to their own space.

We are currently working with a young family that has had some difficult years. Our older children have endeared themselves to their younger children by these very simple means – greeting them when they arrive and being willing to spend time with them.

So our simple efforts to train our children to greet people when they came to our home are still reaping rewards.

When we began hosting the parenting classes our girls quickly picked up on the idea of providing beverages and treats for our guests. I had to be careful not to thwart their creativity and interest by remembering that people were coming to visit us and learn parenting skills, not to critique my table. This gave me the freedom to let them experiment a bit with how they set the table and what they served – even when dandelions became the centerpiece flowers. The result was that every once in a while we would have some very interesting-looking treats or some imaginative color combinations. We often had long discussions about what we would bake or what flowers were blooming that we could use as a centerpiece. I tried to let them choose as much as possible, but did make suggestions so they would continue to learn.

Our family’s Bible verse for vacations is Philippians 2:4;

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

We also used this to train our children to look out for the needs of others – especially our guests. We showed them how to take their jackets and hang them up, entertain a toddler so a mother could visit for awhile, get them a glass of water – and to watch for ways to meet their needs. We often suggested that if they couldn’t see a way to help they could ask, “Is there anything I could do for you?”

Our daughters are now accomplished young ladies, able to prepare anything from a snack to a full dinner and serve it in a very appealing way. They are spending time training two eleven-year-olds by baking and cooking with them once a week. I can’t help but smile when I hear them saying things I’ve often said to them, such as, “It’s easier if you clean up as you go.”, “What is your Dad’s favorite cookie?”, or, “Do you think your brother will like these?” They are continuing to use our vacation verse to train these children to look to the needs of others.

After a dinner with another family, one of our daughters came over to me and asked, “Mom, is there anything else I can do for you?” We didn’t see anything unusual in it, but the mother who was visiting said, “How in the world did you get her to do that?”  Once again, our small efforts in training are still reaping rewards. Do you see how we’ve created a love for hospitality in their hearts?

I’m reminded of the words from Zechariah 4:10 which say,

“For who hath despised the day of small things?”

The above training examples have one thing in common: as parents, we were there – by opening our home to families, setting an example of Biblical hospitality, and showing them very practical ways to do it. It’s not the “big” things that make us hospitable. It’s the process of “looking to the needs of others” that makes hospitality appealing because each of our children, no matter how small, could find simple ways to serve our guests.

These words from a poem by Donna Reish of Training for Triumph* titled, “I Looked into the Eyes of My Children” spoke to me more than once about the necessity of training our children by our actions.

“Day after day, God showed me, my children learn what they live,
And before I can help them to change, I must be willing to give–
Yes, give up the things that hold me from being, what God wants me to be,
And willing to be an example–of Jesus—for my children to see.”*

Remember, what you are doing WILL be caught – by your children, so be sure you are teaching them to love the Lord by showing hospitality to all who enter your home.

Finding Joy in the Journey,

Phyllis Sather
Proclaiming God’s Faithfulness at:

*Used with permission from Donna Reish of
To read the entire poem

Contact me at:
© 2007 Phyllis Sather


  • Bud Berland
    Posted April 15, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    I really love your site! Thanks for sharing and keep it up. I will be back again!

  • Belinda Letchford
    Posted November 11, 2007 at 8:31 PM

    I love this Phyllis – I think I will have to put a link on my website – give me a bit and I’ll get back to you!

    We are right where you talk of – we have people coming for classes – and the kids see it as a part of their ministry too. It is delightful to see them supporting us this way.

    I chuckled over your greeting guests – our kids do “car watch” waiting for the cars to arrive up the long drive way and then greet them on the veranda and help our guests bring anything in. So many people are taken by this – it is now normal behavoiur we are surprised by their comments.

    But I have been reminded, gently, by your post, to pick up on some of these things – especially the younger ones – to go the extra mile.

    I’m glad I visited today.

  • Maridel
    Posted November 10, 2007 at 5:35 PM

    Thanks for the ideas and encouragement.


  • Phyllis
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 11:22 AM

    Oh Tamera – thank you so much – Only by the grace of God. I have you on my list to contact today!!! I’m missing you.
    Blessings, Phyllis

  • Tamera
    Posted November 9, 2007 at 6:19 AM


    When I grow up, I want to be just like you!

    I think you have done a wonderful job raising your children!

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