For most of my life, my family has lived in Mississippi, but we also lived in Louisiana during some of my early childhood. We called New Orleans home for two years and then Bogalusa (the very tip of the Boot) for five.
We moved to Bogalusa (a paper mill town) because my dad was called to pastor Superior Avenue Baptist Church. While I can remember a few good memories of that time, the main ones involve the church's Hostess committee. In fact, I was a faithful member of said group as a seven year old. (Yes, I'll let you take a minute to laugh out loud; it's okay.)
Admittedly, I don't remember if this "appointment" was part of some punishment to reign in my "wild man jack" tendencies or if I voluntarily joined. (I tied my dad's shoelaces together once during a Sunday morning service, so it's probably the former.) Nevertheless, my experience serving on this team opened my eyes to hospitality and the fact that it is definitely part of my gifting.
In those days, my main jobs were to properly plate desserts and clean up spills near the punch bowl. I didn't mind because the others on the committee paid a great deal of attention to me, and I got to slip out early from the service to help with the finishing touches for various covered dish meals and receptions.
Years later, I'm still finding myself in these roles, for I'm now part of the Coffee Hour team at my church here in New York. My hope is that people feel loved, heard, and cared for in this setting. It's why I do what I do anyway: to create the best possible space for that to occur.
You can be hospitable too.
While some may more boldly identify themselves as "the party planners," I believe everyone can practice hospitality, even if it's just a small gesture. Consider these pointers:
APPROACH PEOPLE // MAKE CONVERSATION
It's easy to see the role of hospitality as just the person who plans an event or who's wearing the apron or restocking the food. That may be true, but it's also important that guests feel welcomed and included. That's where the "hype (wo)man" comes in. This is the person who immediately looks for people who are by themselves, usually with their head down (or looking at their phones).
In some settings, the event host can fill this role but not every time. Admittedly, I'm much stronger when it comes to pre- and during-event logistics, so I usually try to make it a point to encourage folks who I know do this well to do it, or at least ask them to help me do it.
In fact, two of my friends do this exceptionally well, and it's always a very appreciated thing when they know that's a role they can fill. It definitely doesn't go unnoticed, and it is a big part of hospitality. I encourage you to give it a try too!
OPEN YOUR HOME // DO NOTHING
This may sound weird, but I'm writing to those who don't think they have a planning bone in their body. Sure, big parties are fun (and some do them very well), but that's not the only way to flex hospitality.
Honestly, all you have to do is open up your home. There can be no agenda other than just to be in the company of others. This directive highlights the part of hospitality, which is all about initiating. Just do it.
I first found comfort in this when I heard a pastor say, "Sometimes the best way to care for someone is to call them and say, 'Hey, I'm not doing anything today. If you aren't doing anything either, how about coming over, so we can do nothing together?'" What a strangely comforting thing!
LISTEN CAREFULLY // FOLLOW UP
A major way to show you care and practice hospitality is to listen carefully when conversing with others and asking a follow up question. In these moments, it's less about you and more about others.
Another way to follow up is to check in with them later. Exchange contact information before ending the conversation, so you can text them a few days or a week later. Or, take the time to write them an email or letter. Personally, I love writing (and receiving!) handwritten notes. It further humanizes our interactions, especially in today's rapid, digitized world.
Ultimately, you don't have to be on the church's Hospitality committee to practice hospitality, and you don't even have to plan a party. Sure, this may not be your strongest gift, but I firmly believe we all can take a bolder step to practice it more regularly.
I believe the Holy Spirit will guide you. Trust that, and take the next step!