Dear Mentor: How can I practice hospitality?

Dear Mentor,


I understand we are called to be hospitable, and as the holidays approach, this seems to be a big deal — cook good food, have your place looking great. I know this image of entertaining is not what we as Christians are called to, but what does hospitality look like for a grad student? Living in a small apartment with minimal income, I am having a really hard time being hospitable to anyone.

From Kelly Aukema


That’s an easy one : ) Jon Dahl, IV grad staff for UW-Madison, always said that just like a three year old, grad students spell love T-I-M-E. Hospitality is so much more than food.


From Dorothy Boorse


In grad school, we were hospitable in very small ways but quite frankly more often recipients of hospitality. Even now, I am not a very good cleaner and I do not feel obligated to cook anything fancy. We offer what we have to offer. I learned that from my parents who never had money, had a dilapidated house, four kids, clutter, and a lot of pets. But they would invite people over and offer whatever they had. Most people loved it.

So my advice would be, offer what you have to offer, and don’t worry about it. Be friendly and open to people, and be hospitable in other places such as departmental and church events. Do have people to your home, but just the number you can handle and don’t feel obligated to fix fancy things or have a perfectly kept place.

From Sylvia Chen


The question you ask sounds like one I would have. I’m not particularly hospitable by nature, so I resonate with the sentiment expressed.

In my world, hospitality can be simply a cup of tea or coffee and a listening ear. Sometimes I even forget the beverages, though they’re in the house! Hearken back to the Mary-Martha story (Luke 10:38-42) and remember Jesus’ words to Martha who was distracted by all the preparations she was making for her guests, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” If you don’t feel pressured to cook and clean as a sign of hospitality, perhaps you can be free to exercise the more important sign of hospitality, a listening ear.

From Kelly Monroe Kullberg


I believe hospitality has to do with being a host — offering some kind of bread of life to hungry people. We can take the gift of hospitality with us into our classrooms and workspaces.

Hospitality is the gift of presence — greeting and welcoming colleagues each day with a smile that says, “I’m glad you’re here and that we are working together.” When some U.S. professors were leaving Mother Teresa’s home in Calcutta they asked if she had any words for them. She did. She suggested that they might smile at one another more. This begets a warmth in return, and there we have the beginnings of friendship.

You could also bring food with you or think ahead to have it delivered once in awhile to your department for conversation over lunch. You might suggest a film or book discussion during that time, or something less structured. Post a few signs on the wall. Let’s discuss, “What matters to you and why?”, with lunch provided. Or use a nearby coffee shop. At Ohio State IVCF staff often use the faculty club for conversations.

Abiding in Christ we become a branch that bears fruit for others to find shelter and food. They’ll know us by our love.

From Hillary Lum


This is a great question, and something I just experienced myself. The neighborhood we recently moved into has an annual progressive dinner. It’s a large coordinated event that involves more than 100 people. Since it’s a great way to “get-to-know your neighbors,” my husband and I jumped right in by hosting a soup course. Since the event was on my one day off for the week, I didn’t even have the chance to think about whether we fit the “style” of the night. We hadn’t decorated our place in festive fall decor, bought fancy wine (we didn’t provide any alcohol at all), and were one of the few folks dressed in normal weekend wear. Nonetheless, the whole evening was very enjoyable.

I was reminded that hospitality is a gift from the Lord, and ultimately, our desire to welcome, serve, and love others comes from Jesus’ model. For me, hospitality is also life-giving and fun. The freedom we have in Christ allows us to be humble and gracious with whatever we have. Sitting around the second “kids” table in our house because we couldn’t host all ten people around one table, I was able to easily say to a long-time progressive supper participant, “Thanks for coming to our place tonight. I’m glad you like this simple soup. It’s great to see how much some people get into hosting and decorating their places, but for us, we’re just glad to have made it through a full week and to be meeting new friends around the table.” This was well-received and similarly acknowledged by others around the table.

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