Why We Keep Getting Hospitality Wrong

Friendships, Healthy Relationship Rhythms

Hospitality is an idea that gets thrown around a lot in church. Many people in society and from all walks of life say they like hosting people and entertaining guests. But I sometimes think we have misunderstood what it is meant to be, and try to over complicate it instead of keeping it simple. If we stopped overthinking it, our relationships would be stronger. 

I have always been involved in churches which emphasise community and relationships. They always highlighted the need (alert, Christian jargon coming up) for us to ‘do life together’. 

Essentially, it’s about realising the value of forming deep relationships, and intentionally pursuing them, so that we can support each other. Whether that means spiritually, emotionally, or just having people around us that we can laugh with.

It Feels Like A Burden? 

But the reality is that people struggle to host. Or approach it with dread. 

The number of times I’ve said to people or they have said to me ‘we need to get together for dinner or something’. Then it never happens. Or we pull out our diaries, and I’m hoping they say we can go round to theirs so I don’t need to put in the effort of organising the meal. But why is that the case? 

I think it comes down to a misconception that says: Hospitality is about impressing. 

Need To Impress 

Without trying to make too big a sweeping statement, many other cultures have the reputation of giving good hospitality. There are always loads of people in each other’s houses. People can turn up on the doorstep and the host drops everything and invites them in, etc. 

Yet there are many of us who believe we need to put a date in the diary, clean the house, go and get the best food, etc.. In other words; it’s an event. One that takes time and the thought is ‘I need to make it an occasion’.

Hosting then becomes something we gear up for

We see hosting as a time to impress. 

This is on top of the fact that we often see our homes as a retreat, as a shelter, as space we own to relax. Which isn’t bad in itself, but then having people coming over, especially if they are new, is seen as a sacrifice of that space we protect. It’s an invasion of our home. 

Hosting then becomes something we gear up for and can feel like hard work. (Read The Simple Trick For Better Relationships That Most People Ignore)

Experience Over Information 

The reason I think hospitality is important is because I think just hanging out with people, inviting people into your home and vice versa, is where relationships are formed. When we see each other just being ‘normal’ in their home, it’s when we learn from each other. 

For example, I can barely remember the advice my parents gave me. Not because it was bad, but growing up in my family home for 22 years, lots was said and I don’t remember most of it. 

But I remember seeing how my parents treated each other. I remember that they never got violent or verbally abusive towards each other. I remember seeing them going out of their way to help people who were struggling. I remember them always helping me and making me laugh. 

I have close friends I’ve known for 15 plus years now, and again, can’t remember most of what they have said, but I remember them praying for me when I needed it. I remember us hanging out lots and feeling like I could ask for support and trust them. 

Deep relationships come from spending time with each other. Despite what our culture says, more information will not result in deeper friendships with people. Yes, deep conversations are important, but spending time together I think is just as important. 

Hosting Better 

We need to learn from other cultures and people who do hosting well. Who invite people in when the house is a mess. Who are cooking a basic meal, but say ‘you can stay if you want’ and just add in an extra handful of pasta to the pot, rather than aranging a later date for when we have the ingredients to make a spectacular dish. 

It’s just an opportunity to invite people into what is already going on

We need to remember that our home is ultimately a blessing and gift from God. To be used as a place to relax, but also a place to bless others. 

We need to remember people come to see us, and not our housework.

We need to remember hospitality is about creating time to form deep friendships. It’s not an event or time to impress. It’s just an opportunity to invite people into what’s already going on. (Read Why Friendships Are Too Easy To Break, And How To Avoid It.) 

Imagine If…

We all have different challenges, different jobs and different personalities. We are all at different stages of life. So hospitality will look different and be different to different people. 

But imagine if we didn’t see hosting as a time to impress or entertain, but just as a time to share what we’re already doing with others, and build a deeper friendship and connection in these authentic moments. (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)

How would your culture/community define hospitality? Comments welcome below

Originally posted 3/6/2019

Why Friendships Are Too Easy To Break, And How To Avoid It. Part 2


Part 2 of this article continues to unpack the importance of friendships. This relationship is often unintentionally undervalued until it’s too late. Yet it’s so important to everyone’s wellbeing. There are 3 things I think we can do to value them more: Deep Talks, Fixing Over Fading, and Quality Time.

In Part 1, we began to highlight some of the unique dynamics of friendship compared to other relationships. Namely, that they are there to be enjoyed. We pick friends based on our mutual enjoyment, shared interests, and the like. 

But this can mean we walk away when it gets tough. 

The unspoken view that we pick people we like to become our friends, whose company we enjoy, is valid and necessary. But unless we learn to add to this perspective, our friendships will be easily broken. 

New Perspective

I realise we all have different personalities, different amounts of time to spare and socialise in different ways. However, I would say there are three things that can help us raise the importance of friendship in our lives.

None of these suggestions are necessarily new, but they are easily forgotten and they can help us to change the perspective that tells us friendships are just easy, and when it gets hard we just need to break it off.

We need to remember: 

  • Deep Talks 
  • Fixing Over Fading 
  • Quality Time 

Deep Talks 

Sometimes we want to meet up with friends and just talk about surface level stuff that doesn’t matter because we have no headspace for anything else. But doing this all the time can stop us from creating those stronger bonds. 

Now obviously, some people are more guarded than others, while some people find it easy to share their deeper thoughts and fears. But this is important to do because without trust and vulnerability, friendship or any relationship, won’t grow strong. 

This stuff is hard. It isn’t easy. Thankfully it’s not something we need to do with everyone we meet or all the time. However, forcing ourselves to talk about this stuff will bring us closer to people, and make us better at supporting each other when things in our lives get tough.  

Fixing Over Fading

Due to the hidden assumptions that friendships are meant to be fun and enjoyable if something happens and we end up arguing, then we are tempted to just walk away rather then work it out. 

All relationships have their ups and downs because people are messy

I think we need to at least try to fix it. We need to try and reconcile instead of just letting the friendships fade. This isn’t easy, and we may need some help in order to do this (Read I Want To Trust Them, But I’ve Been Hurt Before). 

The truth is, good and long-lasting friendships aren’t easy to come by. All relationships have their ups and downs because people are messy. We need to try and fix it when it’s broken, otherwise, we may miss out on many more enjoyable years of friendship. 

Quality Time

Everyone nowadays is busy. We all have lots of things to do and not enough time to do it all. Often meeting with friends, making time to travel to see old friends, or prioritising hanging out gets harder and harder. 

That is why it’s important to make the time we spend with friends count. We need to not just try and make some more time to see each other, but do different things and new fun things together. Research shows this can make the relationship stronger (Read Revealed: The Best Way To Build Better Friendships, In Half The Time?!) 

Imagine If…

Imagine if we agreed that friendships are meant to be fun. However, we also realise, like with all relationships, that they do require hard work sometimes as well. 

By forcing ourselves to have those deep conversations, fixing the hard issues and fallouts, and spending quality time together, we can make sure our friendships are strong and not easily broken. 

What else would you do to make friendships stronger? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 4/2/2019

Why Friendships Are Too Easy To Break, And How To Avoid It. Part 1


In many ways, friendship should be the easiest relationship to maintain. We can choose our friends, we choose who we like and who we spend time with. However, many people (as they get older) find it awkward to make new friends, or just lose touch. So why are friendships so easily broken? Part 1 of this blog begins to think about this important issue. 

Friendship is one of those things that should be easy to define, but it’s actually harder than we might think. What are the expectations? What are the boundaries? Does it change from person to person? 

I guess the idea I’ve been thinking about for a while is the underlying assumption that friendships should be easy. This idea is true in many ways, but untrue in other ways too.

Friendships Are Easy (?)

We hang out with friends because we enjoy being with them. If it gets awkward or hard, we can stop contact, unlike with family or work colleagues. 

If we get a job offer and move city or country, we aren’t ‘betraying’ our friends if we go. Yes, we can ask their opinion, but we don’t make the decision with our friends in the same way we would with our spouse, for example.

There is a different level of commitment and expectation in a friendship compared to other relationships. It’s primarily based on enjoying each other’s company. 

A Unique Trait

But what about when it isn’t easy anymore?

Should we stick it out when it gets hard? Or when we get a ‘better offer’ and move to a different place, should we just leave friends behind? Or as we get older, do we just need fewer friends somehow? 

In a recent talk at church, someone was speaking about our relationship with Jesus, and specifically on John Chapter 15. They shared this quote from a guy called N.T. Wright: 

‘The vine-dresser is never closer to the vine, taking more thought over its long-term health and productivity, than when he has the knife in his hand’.

The idea that God will challenge us, ask us to sacrifice, and change us through processes which may be hard work, is easy to understand (maybe harder to live out and accept though).  

Thankfully that isn’t the only trait our loving and gracious God shows, but the idea that a relationship will be hard at points is clear and accepted. 

This is true in marriage too. The overall experience should be fun, enjoyable, and mutually fulfilling, but we accept there will be hard times, and we can’t just walk away when we get challenged. 

But what about friendships? 

We don’t have as many people as we used to have, or want to have, around us

Easily Lost 

I think this question is vital because so many people, me included, move cities and/or get caught up in the busyness of life. Then before we know it we don’t feel as close as we once did to our old mates. 

Or we end up in a hard situation and realise we don’t have as many people as we used to have, or want to have, around us that we can ask for help. 

Friendships are different from other relationships, and rightly so. We get to pick friends, unlike family, and we can choose to see friends, unlike work colleagues. But unlike romantic relationships, which we do also pick, friendships have a different type of commitment and dynamic.  

When Easy Gets Hard

I think friendships are easily broken because they are seen as ‘easy’ and just there to enjoy. This means the work needed to maintain it is often not prioritised or appreciated.  (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)

Deep down we may not want this to be the case

After all, friendship is there to energise us. Obviously, our friends may go through tough times and we support them through it at personal cost, but overall there’s a goal of mutual enjoyment. 

So when it gets too hard, or we get too busy, or we get a better offer (like a job in a new city) we feel like we can drop the friendship. Easily make new friends. And walk away. 

Deep down we may not want this to be the case. Yet it can be. And there are people who really struggle to make (new) friends for various reasons.

So how can we view this relationship differently to avoid breaking a friendship unintentionally or too easily? 

Imagine If…

In Part 2, we keep exploring how we can change our perspective to make our friendships stronger. For now, imagine if we realised how important friendships are before it’s too late. (Read How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving)

Friendships are different from other relationships that are often seen as more important. Nevertheless, friendships are vital if we want to thrive and feel fulfilled.

How would you define friendship? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 28/1/2019

Christmas Is About: The Family Jesus’ Birth Begins To Create

Friendships, What The Bible Says

Many people say that the real meaning of Christmas has been lost. Who can blame them? The commercialism and the money involved is too much now. Many people just want it to be about spending time with family, drawing people together and enjoying time with one another. But I actually think that creating a family is indeed one of the things Jesus started to do at his birth. 

I really love Christmas. 

Now I realise Christmas is a hard time for lots of people. There are many who can’t enjoy it because of past situations or current difficulties. I realise that it isn’t a happy time for everyone. 

But we do all hope that it would be good for everyone. It’s one of the times of year where everyone is wishing the best for everyone else. There is a hope that people will be able to come together and be blessed at Christmas.  

I think this was one of the original intentions behind the first Christmas when Jesus was born. Jesus’ intention to bring people together, and bring them into a relationship with himself and others, is not remembered enough.  

The Birth Of Christ 

I really think that in church, we can unintentionally under emphasise how important the meaning of Christmas is in regards to our salvation. Yes the cross is the moment in history that changed everything, but without Jesus’ authentic human birth, his sacrifice would not have been able to fully save us (Read The Cross Needs To Be Forgotten At Christmas)  

His birth also did something that was vital, and it revealed part of his mission on earth: It began to draw people from different parts of society to himself, and by consequence to each other as well, because we are all welcome and equal before him.  

Wise Men And The Shepards

When Jesus was born, the Bible says that angels told some shepherds, who were working at night, about the good news. They then went to find Jesus. 

‘And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them… “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”…So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed…’
Luke 2:8-18

It also says that the Magi, also known as wise men, came to visit Jesus too.  

These visitors represent so much

‘After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem…and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him…’
Matthew 2:1-11

These visitors represent so much and remind us that Jesus was always in the business of drawing anyone and everyone to himself. This was the case from the very beginning of his life.

Rich & Poor 

Now shepherding did not pay well at all. Night shepherding was particularly low paying. Yet these people, who were not that well respected or well-off in their culture, were told about Jesus and invited into the story. 

This is also true at the other end of the spectrum because the wise men would have had lots of money, proven by the fact that they brought Jesus some very expensive gifts. They were also invited in.

Educated & Uneducated 

The job of a shepherd would also have signalled someone who was uneducated and not regarded as being very intelligent. Whereas the wise men were able to work out when and where Jesus was born. 

Again, they represent people from different parts of society, from very different backgrounds who probably didn’t mix often. Nevertheless, Jesus draws them all to himself, and all are welcomed. 

Foreign & Native 

The other main difference they represent is that the shepherds were local and natives, while the wise men had to travel from a foreign land to meet with Jesus. 

Two very different groups of people, but Jesus’ birth brings them together because he wants to draw all people to God and each other. He is creating a new family from the very start. (Read I Wouldn’t Have Survived Without My Church Family)

Men & Women 

The final thing to emphasise is the fact that these characters were men. However, in the lead up to Jesus’ birth Mary the Mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, hold very prominent roles and parts in the story (Luke 1-2)

In a culture where women were often marginalised, the Bible makes sure that they are given prominence and recognition. 

Everyone is welcomed in

Imagine If…

I was speaking to a priest the other day and she said she is always struck at how communion brings everyone to an equal level. Young and old, people from different ethnicities, with different education, means, and stories, come to Jesus and meet with him in the same way. 

Remembering Jesus death during communion, the act which brings together people from all different parts of society, is reflected at his birth as well. All come together in the story to relate to God because everyone is welcomed in. And by extension become part of the same family. 

Imagine if this Christmas, in our own families, communities and friendships, we made sure we tried to bring people into the family, remember that Jesus welcomes everyone, and we are all equally loved and accepted by him. (Read 2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities)

This way, everyone can see some of the true meaning of Christmas.

What else is important about the true meaning of Christmas? Comments welcomed below.  

Originally posted 24/12/2018

2 Things You Should Always Do To Build Strong Communities


We’re encouraged to build community a lot, particularly in churches. Loads of people have opinions on what this means and how we can best do this. But a recent conversation with a friend who recently planted a church reduced it down to 2 bits of advice, which I think are both wise and easy to apply.

If you read any of my other posts, on this site or on other sites, it won’t take you long to realise that I think strong relationships with friends, colleagues, family, and the community, are vital if we want to feel safe, secure, and fulfilled.

I think in a culture which focuses on the individual and self-sufficiency, we can undervalue and ignore interdependence. We can then feel the negative effects due to a lack of community and be worse off as a result.

‘Community’, More Than A Buzz Word

I was speaking to a friend the other day who is involved in a new church plant with some of his friends and family. They’re really excited about it and have wanted to do it for a while.

It’s interesting talking to him about what he wants to prioritise, what the vision is, and how they feel God has spoken to them. But I find it fascinating that they are essentially involved in building a community out of nothing. And trying to gather people and get them to buy in and get excited about this new community.

He really wants to create and foster an authentic community

Community isn’t just a word my friend wants to just throw around. He really wants to create and foster an authentic community. (Read Family’ Is Redefined In Light Of The Cross)

He said he feels that in order to do this it’s important to make people feel like they are wanted and needed. If people feel wanted and needed, they will feel part of the community and want to stick around.

Feeling Needed

It sounds so obvious, so simple, yet it’s easy to forget.

Take church as a case study, we can often be so keen to get people to feel needed that we get them to sign up to help out on different rotas. We can forget to make the individual feel wanted when this happens.

I remember walking into a church once and was instantly handed a form that asked which teams I was going to be part of, I hadn’t even spoken to more than two people at that point!

Now, helping out is part of being invested in a community. We can’t just be consumers. We need to have a role, to feel like we are adding value. I believe part of discipleship is getting stuck in and serving and helping the community.

However, if it happens too fast or on its own, we can feel like we’re being used, and not really wanted.

Feeling Wanted

I remember when my wife and I were looking for a new church. We ended up visiting a lot, and I must admit I don’t like not being part of a church and needing to find a new one.

Anyway, we went to several over a few months. Some we went to once, some we went back to two or three times. The ones we went back to were the ones that welcomed us and made us feel wanted. We felt welcomed in.

They didn’t just say hi, but really took the time to talk

The church I’m involved with now has one of the most genuine cultures of welcome I have ever experienced anywhere. In our first few visits or so, multiple people came up and spoke to us, asked us how we were doing, and chatted for a long time.

They didn’t just say hi, but really took the time to talk.

Moreover, there were also opportunities to serve too, and get involved. I have been in communities where you feel wanted, but you don’t feel like you can add value, or help out, you don’t feel needed. Then I slip into consumer mode and start to complain.

Feeling wanted and needed are so important. (Read How To Tell If Our Relationships Are Thriving)

2 Key Principles

I think this is true in most relationships too, isn’t it? When we think about friendships, romantic relationships, other communities we’re part of, we want to feel wanted. We want to know we matter to someone, and they want to feel the same.

We also want to feel needed. People like to help each other out, feel like they are adding value and making a positive impact on one another.

We can forget to do this, or make it all more complicated than it needs to be

Imagine If…

Imagine if we remember that we can be part of fostering communities and relationships that thrive. It isn’t always easy, but we can make a difference to individuals and communities by making sure other people feel wanted and needed.

It’s so simple, but in the busyness of life and other things that happen, we can forget to do this, or make it all more complicated than it needs to be. So let’s try to strip it back and let these 2 bits of advice guide and help us in our relationships, churches, and communities. (Read Revealed: The Best Way To Build Better Friendships, In Half The Time?!)

How have communities made you feel both wanted and needed? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 1/10/2018