If you knew me in real life, you would say that I tend to be reserved. You might even suggest that I’m not an easy person to get to know.
You would probably be right.
If you didn’t know me very well, you may actually believe that I’m a snobby person or that I think I’m better than other people.
Nothing is further from the truth, though I can understand why you might get that impression.
If you knew me and my husband, you would clearly see that I’m pretty much the opposite of his life-of-the-party personality.
It’s not that I don’t like people, and it’s not that I don’t like spending time with them.
I do like it, and I would like it even better if it weren’t so exhausting.
Early in our marriage, I wondered at this discrepancy in my personality and my husband’s. Why was he so energized after a large gathering, while I was so depleted?
In recent years, I’ve learned that there’s a word to describe these tendencies of my temperament.
As a Christian with an introverted personality, I’ve grappled long and hard with some of the Bible’s teachings.
Like the one about first-century believers meeting together daily for encouragement and fellowship. (Acts 2:42-47)
Or the one highlighting the importance of entertaining strangers. (Hebrews 13:1-2)
Or the one exemplifying a willingness to offer shelter and make provision for God’s servants. (2 Kings 4)
Hospitality is a term we can apply to all of these habits. It’s a Christian mandate, evidence of our love for strangers and friends, offering opportunities to live out the gospel in relationship with people.
Knowing this to be true, and accepting its truth for me – regardless of my natural inclinations otherwise – I have learned several keys to making hospitality possible (and enjoyable!) for me…
and perhaps also for you who would say with me, “I’m not really a ‘people person.'”
Keys to Hospitality for the Introvert
Have you ever noticed that when someone says, “That’s just the way I am,” they’re almost always referring to a negative trait? For the Christian, it’s freeing to know that God loves us just as we are and that He loves us too much to let us stay that way. Most personality traits come with both advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to be willing to make adjustments when the less positive aspects of our natural personality interfere with our obedience to God.
Pray for Yourself
Thank God for making you the way He did. Acknowledge to Him the benefits as well as the challenges of the personality He gave you, and ask Him to give you a willing and obedient heart. Ask Him to help you be aware of sinful attitudes like pride or selfishness that make hospitality even harder. Pray that He would lead your steps as you pursue hospitality.
Establish a Plan
Typically, what doesn’t get planned doesn’t get done. For introverts, hospitality must be intentional or it simply won’t happen. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly, schedule particular times when you will open your home to those in need of encouragement and fellowship.
Know Your Boundaries
Many factors can affect the frequency and types of gatherings you’re able to host. If you’re new to showing hospitality, start small and build from there. Don’t compare your hospitality with the hospitality of others; those with a natural inclination toward hospitality will have a different style, and that’s okay! It doesn’t make your hospitality efforts less valuable or worthwhile.
It’s easy to think of hospitality solely in terms of gathering with friends. But the Bible makes a point of emphasizing the importance of entertaining strangers and caring for God’s servants, as well. And what about the new members of your church, or acquaintances you’ve greeted in passing for years but have never taken the time to really know? True hospitality isn’t a cloak for strengthening our cliques or heightening the walls between BFF’s and the rest of the world. Be a Christ-follower whose hand is extended and whose door is open to all.
If the preparation of a gathering is overwhelming for you, ask your husband, your children, a close friend, or a family member for their help. Delegating tasks and receiving help from others doesn’t take away from the hospitality you’re offering; it merely spreads around the blessing that accompanies a spirit of hospitality, allowing others to experience that blessing with you.
Some of us fall very short of the Martha Stewart-esque ideals of hospitality. We recognize that our homes aren’t Pinterest-perfect, and neither is our food, and in fact neither are we! But hospitality is not about perfection; it’s about creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for fellowship – and a less-than-perfect environment can often accomplish that goal even better than a perfect one.
Plan to Speak Life
Proverbs teaches us that death and life are in the power of the tongue (18:21). Spend some time considering how you can speak life and blessing to the hearts of your guests. What thoughtful questions can you ask them? What genuine compliment can you offer? What verse of Scripture or personal testimony can you share? While it’s important to refrain from forcing a conversation according to your own agenda, having a few ideas available can help you be purposeful about the encouragement you impart to others.
Remember the Blessings
When the people have been invited and the food prepared and you’re waiting for that first knock on the door, you may sense some anxiety as the event looms close. Here are a few snippets of truth I rehearse to myself to steer my heart toward warmth and hospitality:
“I always enjoy conversing with people once an event is underway.”
“God is bringing across my path someone who needs some encouragement today.”
“Being hospitable, even when I don’t feel like it, is an act of spiritual worship.”
“Living outside my comfort zone will bring growth.”
“Showing hospitality is a powerful gospel witness to the unsaved.”
“Being hospitable will allow me to strengthen relationships today, which will build up the body of Christ.”
“I’ve been given so much; today I get to share just a small part of those blessings with others.”
Allow Time for Rest
It takes some time for an introvert to recover from the pressures and challenges of being a hostess. Taking some quiet time to rest following an event is a legitimate need for those with introverted personalities, so plan for that need as much as possible.
Being the introverted wife of an extroverted husband has posed some challenges for me along the way. But as is the case with all challenges when coupled with a hefty dose of God’s grace, I’ve done a lot of growing in the process.
Do you have an introverted personality? Do you struggle with being hospitable? Which of these ideas most resonates with you, and why?