I find that people in the church are often surprised to see a single person practicing hospitality. I’ve never understood why. Last I checked, the biblical imperatives to show hospitality don’t exempt single people (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2). Hospitality—a concrete expression of loving one’s neighbor—involves inviting others into one’s life. While the form of hospitality can vary among contexts, it often involves the opening of one’s home and the sharing of food. There is no reason why these actions should be reserved only for the married. Yes, hospitality as a single person does come with unique challenges, but the challenges are not insurmountable. In this article, I’m going to give you a rapid-fire run down of how single people can overcome common obstacles to showing hospitality.
-I don’t know who to invite.
Pull out your church directory. Scan through the names. Find someone you think might be lonely, and invite them over.
-People turn down my invitations.
Are you giving adequate notice? Families don’t operate on college-student schedules. Invite them 1-2 weeks in advance. If someone turns down the invitation, ask if they’d enjoy coming over in the future. Ask what day of the week might be good for them. Invite them again. And again if you need to. I’ve had multiple busy (but fellowship-hungry) people thank me for my persistent invitations.
-Practicing hospitality as a single person can be awkward. Things will feel lopsided if I invite a married couple or family.
You can set the tone to decrease the awkwardness. How? Shift your focus from yourself to your guests. What might they be feeling? What do they need to feel at home? What can you say or do to make them feel welcome? If/when it's still awkward, love through the awkward.
-Kids will be bored.
I've invested in a small collection of toys. Sometimes kids also bring toys from home. My heart was warmed last week when a child in my congregation asked: “Miss Rachel, can I come over to your house soon?” Apparently, it’s possible for kids to enjoy coming over to the home of a single person! (As an aside, I also think it's fitting for children to see what the life of a God-honoring single person can look like).
-Married people should take the initiative in hospitality.
This just isn’t true. Single saint, you are just as much a member of your church and your society as a married person is.
-I can't prepare the food and keep the conversation going.
I try to have as much of the food ready ahead of time as possible. On Sundays, I usually cook in the crockpot so things are ready when I get home from worship. If the guest offers to bring something, I usually let them contribute a dessert or salad. I try to keep things simple enough to allow me to enjoy my guests. Furthermore, I don’t just prepare food. I prepare questions. As I’m chopping vegetables beforehand, I think about and pray for the people I’m having over. I consider what kinds of questions they might want to be asked. That way, I am able to carry on conversation while serving once they arrive. This isn’t cheating—it’s taking practical steps to love people well!
-It's just not feasible for so-and-so to come over.
Sometimes, this is true. Maybe your home isn’t handicap accessible. Nap times and early bedtimes may make it difficult for some young families to come over. In these cases, I shamelessly invite myself over. I usually say something like: "I'd love to have you to my place. I realize that might be difficult for you given your current circumstances. Would it ever work for me to bring dinner to you? The house doesn't need to be perfectly clean. I'd just enjoy coming over and being part of your family for an evening." I've done hospitality-to-go a handful of times, and it's a lot of fun.
-People won’t like my cooking.
Are you more worried about showcasing your cooking or loving the person you are inviting over? Do the best you can, given your time, budget, and culinary inclinations. It’s fine to have a list of easy “go to” recipes for hospitality, even if that list is only one or two recipes long.
-I am a guy.
Single guys can be hospitable too. Over the years, I’ve known a few single guys who have found ways to practice hospitality. In fact, one of these guys impressed me so much that we’re planning to spend the rest of our lives showing hospitality together.
In every congregation I’ve been a part of, I’ve had the privilege of learning from the wonderful examples of many hospitable people. As I’ve worked to emulate these examples, I think I’ve still made (and learned from) just about every hospitality mistake in the book. I’ve found that my guests are overwhelmingly gracious. Even when my hospitality is a work in progress, people know when the love is genuine. There are many lonely people in your church and community who need your care and friendship. May the Lord give you grace to surprise and bless someone with your hospitality.