Hospitality Hints is a monthly feature on our blog with some helpful tips for being hospitable in everyday life. Our hints may involve inviting people over, but not always! Most of the time, they will be about having a posture of hospitality—welcoming others into our lives.
In 2008 I took my first tentative steps onto arctic Alaskan soil, our new home. I was so unsure. We had moved our family to the proverbial ends of the earth, and I keenly felt it. A few acquaintances. No family. No friends.
But suddenly and unexpectedly we found ourselves thrust into the welcoming circle of a different kind of “family.” When new friends brought dinner that first night, it fed our hungry stomachs and began to fill the aching in our souls left from missing our former life.
The very next day, 15 people came to unload our moving truck, carefully transferring boxes of china and mattresses and flatware and our treasured wedding picture. Another homemade dinner was placed in the fridge—we needed only to warm it. Cookies appeared in the afternoon along with a sweet, welcoming visit. And suddenly I knew we’d found our circle—we were in.
Jesus demonstrated bringing people into the circle. He called His 12 closest friends to follow Him one by one. He embraced fishermen and tax collectors and even His own betrayer; He welcomed them into the group and showed them through His compassion that they belonged. But He didn’t stop there. He regularly widened His group to include the marginalized, the sick, the lame, the prostitute, the swindler.
For us as well, belonging shouldn’t be about having to follow a certain set of rules to be part of the group. Belonging is about doing away with the rules, welcoming everyone.
How often are we given the perfect opportunity to bring someone new into our circle, but we miss it? What does it mean to belong, and how can we be more intentional about drawing others in?
- Practice noticing. Becoming a person who notices takes intentionality and practice. We are so often wrapped up in our own comfortable group, and we simply don’t notice the person standing on the outside looking in. But few people are comfortable standing in the corner like an outcast. Try this the next time you’re in a large group setting: Spend the first few minutes intentionally looking for anyone who seems to be alone, and then make a beeline to welcome them into the group. Set an example in noticing. Be the person who seeks out the lonely, the left-out.
- Invest time in listening. Inquire beyond name and occupation. Ask questions. What drew this person to the group? We all have a story. Listening to her tell her story and then reciprocally sharing your story will connect you as women with hopes, joys, fears, and needs on this path called life. Make the effort to really get to know a newcomer. You’ll be surprised at how you, too, will be blessed.
- Offer help. How can you help her fit in? Once you get to know a little of her story, you may see fulfilling connections you can make. Offer to pray for her and any hardships she’s facing in her transition. Drop by with a loaf of bread or a plate of brownies. Could you run to the store for her or watch her children for a bit? Helping someone else allows you to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
- Value the contributions of new members. We all know how gratifying it is to be needed. When someone values our opinions as well as what we have to offer the group, we begin to feel like a connected, active member of the group. Find a good fit within your group for the newcomer. For example, when assigning responsibilities for a project, be careful not to simply give her the unpleasant or boring job because she’s new. Find a place where she can flourish. Utilizing her gifts and interests shows that you value her contributions.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. Help your new member feel valued by inviting her to be a part of your everyday life. Text, call, email. Invite her to a social event, or ask her family over for dinner. Check in with her each week to see how she’s doing. When you make a conscious effort to include her in your life, you may find a wonderful new friend.
When new people stand on the outside of our circle, we have the remarkable opportunity to bring them in, showing the love of Christ. And as a result, we may find ourselves with an unexpected, heartfelt friendship—now couldn’t we all use another of those?
Originally from the Deep South, Natalie has served for the last 11 years alongside her husband and three children in the Far North of Alaska, with the evangelical mission organization SEND International. True to her southern roots, she loves sweet tea, front porch rocking chairs, and a strong cup of morning coffee. Natalie loves to write about her many Alaskan experiences and has a passion for sharing with others how they can step out in faith to be a part of God’s plan in the world—whether near or far. She blogs at arctictravelogue.com.