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One of the most requested topics this year on my speaking circuit has been a lesson in which I list a hundred ideas for training our kids to be servants. Service oriented kids grow up to be productive adult servants in the kingdom and it’s those people to whom the Lord will say, “Come ye blessed of my Father,” according to Matthew 25. So it matters if I’m making a real effort, as a mom, to put the heart of a servant in my child. For this reason, I’ve decided to devote a post, every now and then, to a service suggestion—a simple idea for moms to make their homes busy service centers for young hearts and hands. I’d love to hear from those of you who try them. So here goes:
Hospitality is not merely a dying art form; it’s a forgotten command (I Peter 4:9). It’s an elder qualification (Titus 1:8)– one of those that’s hard to come by if you’re married to the wrong woman. It’s a natural part of Christianity. It’s a non-negotiable part of Christianity.
So what gives? Why are our homes so often privatized to the point that we never have anyone in for meals or lodging, we rarely carry blessings of homemade goodness to others and we almost certainly would not think of dropping by without notice to visit with fellow Christians?
Maybe it’s culture. It’s just not the thing to do in our communities anymore. Maybe it’s the hurried lifestyle we live. There’s just little time to maintain our own homes and less to visit in homes of others. Maybe it’s wealth. Are we intimidated by the “perfection” we see (or imagine) in the homes of others—perfect furniture, perfectly clean baseboards, perfectly served meals? Whatever it is, it seems our generation is doing less and less with more and more. We are not short on resources. Perhaps we are short on resourcefulness. Perhaps we are just short on gratitude to the ultimate Resource of all good things. Whether it’s culture, convenience, or cowardice that keeps us from sharing our homes, we must be convicted it is is sin and we must restore this very obvious part of New Testament Christianity.
We can turn this around, moms, if we start putting the simple joys of hospitality in our little girls. We need to put them in pretty little aprons when they are preschoolers and we need to get excited about having people in our homes and eating around our tables. We need to maximize the joys of hospitality and minimize the stress.
One thing my husband was determined to put in our kids from very early ages was the ability to be good table servants. As they grew to be able to pour from a pitcher, I can remember him often saying, “Don’t get up, Cindy. Filling tea glasses is what kids are for. That’s why God gave them to us.” While he was being a bit facetious, he was wise to train them to watch for the needs of those at the table and to be quick to fill those needs. It’s such a simple thing to teach our kids to watch for glasses that are empty, forks that are dropped from high chairs or spills that need a dishcloth from the drawer. (Remember Rebekah was identified as the bride-to-be because of a simple incidence of ‘beverage hospitality” in Genesis 24.)
So have that weak family over. Invite the new couple for snacks. Have an unbelieving neighbor family over for hamburgers. But before they come, double the rewards by challenging your kids to be good table servants. You can play games with this. You can promise your kids a small reward –five minutes later bedtime or five cents for every tea glass refilled when it gets to be over half empty. (Don’t be ridiculous now…Your kids won’t become mercenary helpers over a nickel.) This will help them learn to watch. The big rewards of service won’t be lost on them, especially if you are emphasizing all of the “whys” of your hospitality. Teach them, at first, to take the glasses to the kitchen sink to refill. Then as they become adept at pouring, teach them table etiquette of pouring from the right side, etc…
Paul places the injunction that we be given to hospitality right between God’s commands about prayer and those about the treatment of our enemies (Romans 12:13). Pretty deep stuff. Pretty important stuff. And pretty impressive that it’s in a chapter that begins with the warning that we are to “be not conformed to this world.” While the whole world is privatizing home, Christians are still teaching the next generation to be hospitable.