The Ministry of Hospitality
By Lara Krupicka
CBN.com (excerpted from Pampering Gifts)
One New Year’s Eve I attended a party at a friend’s house. It was an intimate affair, only four couples for dinner and games. Yet it felt lavish. When we entered the house we were greeted by soft music. Gentle light dappled off garlands of stars hung from the ceiling. The table was set with china and gauzy rice paper napkins puffed out of wine glasses. On every plate was a silvery star box containing chocolates. It was an enjoyable evening. But particularly because of all the thoughtful details, I left there feeling as if we’d been treated to an elegant night out.
In the hectic world of today’s adult, “pampering” is synonymous with relaxation and luxury. We’re often glad for just a few minutes of quiet to read a book or take a walk, let alone consider pampering ourselves. And if someone suggests a group outing to a spa, or even simply a tea room, chances are everyone will be excited about the idea, but few will have room in their schedule for it.
This is why pampering the people who are already committed to being involved in your ministry has such a big impact. You have done for them, without taking extra time out of their busy lives, what they’d been wishing to do for themselves.
So what exactly does it mean to “pamper” people? It means paying attention to minor details. It means, like my friend did for her New Year’s Eve party, adding little touches to your meeting, party, Bible study or other occasion, that express to those attending that they are valued. It can be as simple as a single decoration and a treat or as elaborate as a themed event with fully festooned room and “favors.”
Another way of saying it is that pampering is excellence in hospitality.
As Nancy Leigh DeMoss points out, “The word hospitality in the New Testament comes from two Greek words. The first word means love and the second word means strangers. It's a word that means love of strangers.”1 Therefore, your meeting should be an instance of showing love to the strangers (and friends) in your midst. When you show hospitality in this manner, you take your event from the every-day, to the extraordinary.
I liken it in some ways to a five-star hotel. What distinguishes these properties from their competition is not just the price, but the level of service provided. At other hotels you merely expect to sleep safely and in relative comfort, shower in a clean bathroom, and that’s about it. And that’s fine. But when you stay at a five-star hotel you hope to be catered to. You expect mints on your pillow, room service, and luxurious bedding. And after a night there you come away not only rested, but also refreshed.
The same thing happens in women’s ministries. Women attend groups and events expecting to enjoy some fellowship and perhaps learn and be challenged.
Add some pampering elements and suddenly it’s gone beyond the expected. It becomes a five-star event where women generally leave satisfied, maybe challenged and definitely refreshed. You’ve met not only their social and intellectual needs, but also the emotional need to feel special and cared for.
I recall a visit my husband and I made to a pastor’s house as newlyweds where I first experienced excellence in hospitality. We were spending several nights staying with them and were immediately shown to the guest room. It was a cozy room, in many ways like guest rooms I’d seen in other people’s homes. But I noticed one small difference that made me feel loved, welcomed and cared for. On the bed was a little basket filled with toiletries – a bar of bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and even a new toothbrush. Basically it contained any item we might need for our stay that we could have forgotten to bring.
Did it take the pastor’s wife a lot of work to do that for us? No. Did it make a big difference in the hospitality she showed us? You bet!
That instance forever changed my idea of what hospitality means. I learned that it does not have to be elaborate or expensive. It doesn’t always take lots of time. And it doesn’t have to be done for one person in particular. But in genuine hospitality there will always be an aspect of thoughtfulness and caring that makes it feel personal.
In most instances if an event costs a lot and is done to impress, it cannot be called hospitality. “Entertaining” is what you call a gathering that is focused on the image of the host. And often that sort of “hospitality” has the effect of making guests feel uncomfortable rather than cared for. Genuine hospitality concerns itself with the well-being of the guests, keeping them in mind rather than the host.
People Need to Know They Matter
You might be asking yourself at this point, “but will it really affect my group that much?” Try asking yourself this question instead: “do I want the people in my group to know that they matter?” Maybe you’ve wanted to express their value to them but have not known how. Or maybe you have reached a certain level of familiarity that has caused your group to stagnate and you need a way to reinvigorate things. Pamper them. Demonstrate to them in a small, but concrete way, that they have worth to you.
At GEMS ® (a Christian mom’s group) we are often reminded to be thinking of “the preciousness of others.” Generally we take that to mean that we are to be considerate and respectful of others. Silence while the speaker is talking, taking care not to interrupt in conversations, and waiting your turn in line are common ways we demonstrate the preciousness of others. But in providing pampering, we’ve taken a common nicety beyond its expected conclusion and shown excellence in considering other’s worth.
Such demonstrations of caring have a positive effect. They induce people to return. When done well it impacts them enough that they will tell others how you cared for them. And oftentimes those who have been pampered will later bring others to your group to experience it as well.
Pampering wraps your whole meeting in a “hug.” It establishes a welcoming atmosphere of open hospitality. People relax. They’re glad to be there because they know you’re glad they came. Knowing they’ll be cared for, they can leave the quotidian demands of life at the door and be fully present. They may, in actuality, get more out of being there than before.
It Need Not Be A Bother or a Big Expense
Don’t think you need to hire a band and set off fireworks to make your point. Start simple. Give a small token to each person. Our group’s first pampering gift was a jar of homemade jam. Such a simple act of caring can speak volumes. The pastor’s wife we visited did not serve us breakfast in bed. In fact, if she was anything like me, she had loaded up the toiletries basket years before and kept it in a closet for when guests came. Maybe she replenished supplies on occasion, but the initial work was done in a few moments. Did the lack of effort necessary diminish her caring in any way? Not to me. And probably not to any of the other guests who stayed in her home.
Likewise, don’t feel like you need to have a mega-church budget to do this. We make our gifts for a dollar or less and our centerpieces usually cost under eight dollars. Putting lots of money into what you do may actually be an impediment to what you are trying to accomplish. People may believe you’re trying to buy their loyalty. They may feel a need to reciprocate or somehow pay for what they’ve been given. And although we have our ladies pay when they attend our meetings, the nominal two dollars––a dollar for decorating and overhead and a dollar for the gift––seems worthwhile for the value of attending.
Excellence In Hospitality
You can conduct a respectable meeting without including favors or decorations. But if you desire to show excellence in hospitality, this is one way to do it without having to hire a professional. Chances are your group has one or two (or even a handful) of talented women that could use an outlet for their creative abilities. Provide them the opportunity to try this. See what your group thinks. Just beware––they may like it so much you won’t be able to do without it any more.
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1 Nancy Leigh DeMoss from the December 3, 2002 radio broadcast of Revive Our Hearts
Lara Krupicka is the author of Pampering Gifts: Crafting a Ministry of Treating People Well for Less. She frequently speaks to women’s and mom’s groups on hospitality, gift giving, and seeing God’s hand in everyday circumstances. Lara makes her home in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Mike, and her three daughters, Bethany, Katherine and Evelyn.
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