Editor’s Note: This article is written by Sherry Allchin, a longtime counselor for Biblical Counseling Center. In this series, we are featuring articles written by the women of the Biblical Counseling Center, talking about how God has shaped them for their ministry of biblical counseling.
You may not know the story of how a youth pastor’s wife became a full time biblical counselor with more than 25,000 hours of counseling experience. Sherry overseas our training and works with students around the world to learn the skills of biblical counseling, but it all began with a strong desire to bless others through hospitality.
Although I have been counseling for nearly 40 years, I think back to getting started in biblical counseling and it didn’t start the way that many of you may think. I didn’t yet have an advanced degree in biblical counseling or a position at a counseling center, I had a home and strong desire to bless others through hospitality. As a family, we would prepare enough food each Sunday that we could invite another family over after church (sometimes planned and sometimes random). We would enjoy a good meal, engaging conversation and would let our kids play.
We noticed that these conversations would often turn personal, and in the comfort of a caring host and relaxed atmosphere, people would reveal more of themselves than many had ever done before. They would talk about family, marriage, personal pain and emotional struggles. Growing up, my own family was full of pain and my heart compassionately went out to them.
What would you say if someone you just invited to dinner opened up their heart questions over dessert and coffee? Would you feel confident that you could guide them? Could you welcome the opportunity to help them with a concern or struggle?
If God has given you the desire and ability to display generous hospitality, I want you to consider what comes next. If you are like my husband and me, we have loved to open our home to others and we have so many good memories of sharing good food and blessed conversations with friends and even strangers. We firmly believe that hospitality was designed by God to impact people’s lives as we demonstrate the generous and comforting love of God. As a family, we grew in our hearts because of hospitality, and we learned to look for opportunities to share both God’s wisdom and hope with those in need within the comfortable atmosphere of our home.
Hospitality is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but it is also one of the requirements for Pastors and Elders (Titus 1:8). Many women are recognized in scripture for demonstrating hospitality and they are commended in both the OT and NT for showing hospitality to the poor, to strangers or travelers or even to angels at times. One of the requirements for widows to receive help in old age was that they had been hospitable and lived a responsible life of serving others (1 Tim 5:10). Jesus calls us to love and serve all people regardless of status as if we were serving Him (Mt 25:34-40).
Let’s define hospitality. The simple definition is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Hospitality requires a willingness to love and serve others without an expectation of a return or reciprocation (Lk 14:12-14). As Jesus defined it in Mt 22:36-40, it is loving your neighbor as you love yourself. It is treating others as you would want to be treated. Hospitality is being the Good Samaritan, or making the visitor at church feel welcomed. Hospitality stems from a heart attitude of loving and serving others (1Pet 4:8-9)!
How does this apply to the 21st Century?
After all, we have social services, welfare, hotels, and we must protect our families from “stranger danger!” Agreed, we can’t help everybody and we must show prudence and caution. However, God has gifted his people with ministry gifts. Hospitality is one of those gifts that all, but especially the women in our churches, can develop to benefit the body of Christ, as well as the needy communities where we live. Women often have care-giving natures that lend themselves well to giving hospitality to the glory of our Lord. From the First Century until now, the impact of hospitality hasn’t changed. We shouldn’t let fear stop us, but rather pursue growth in this area by simply embracing opportunities that present themselves daily.
Food and friends!
We all have to eat! If your family, your neighbor, or even your enemy is hungry, feed them! It might be as simple as buying a homeless man a sandwich or sharing an orange with a woman of the street. What matters most is seeing each individual as created in the image of God and thus having all the possibilities of the greatest among us. It may be as casual as a picnic in the park with your children and their friends, or helping a kid with a skinned knee. But what if this encounter opened up the possibility to help one of those kids with a struggle? Do you know how?
Still other times the entertainment might be a backyard barbeque with neighbors just to get to know them as persons and to show kindness and neighborliness, with no ulterior motives but to show the love of Christ. When those neighbors need help, would they feel safe to come to your family for help? That might be the day they truly acknowledge the God who helps in times of trouble, the God whose love they saw in you in your backyard!
Hospitality doesn’t have to be formal service and caviar, but it does have to come from a heart of love and compassion. At our home, Friday nights were pizza nights with ice cream sundaes and our kids could invite as many friends as they wanted. During their college years, we often had a house full on the weekends and enjoyed deeper talks that ministered to our children and friends alike. These hospitable qualities are what the Lord has called us all to develop and mature in as a regular practice. Hospitable invites pertinent and meaningful conversations with good listening and shared wisdom, qualities that characterize good Biblical counselors!
Taking Hospitality on the Road…
Hospitality may include visiting the sick and shut-ins, helping the poor and needy, sharing clothes your child has outgrown with a neighbor in need, doing prison ministry or Angel Tree gifts at Christmas. True hospitality originates in a heart of humility, considering all the Lord has done for us, so we compassionately extend His love and grace to others. It really is that simple! But the rewards are great, perhaps even eternal!
Jesus said, “When you do it to the least of these, you do it to me!” When we let others see Jesus in us, that is when they begin to ask questions. This happens as we love freely without judgment. They begin to listen to our answers for the hope they see in us. Jesus is that hope, and hospitality opens the door to hearts so they can find hope in Jesus, too.
Hospitality and Biblical Counseling
Perhaps you already have training in Biblical counseling, but you haven’t thought about how you might be more effective if you brought together your training and your love for others through hospitality (Rom 12:9-21). Many women are already equipped to use their gift of hospitality to minister to the needs in others in tangible ways. That often opens the door to spiritual conversations, and we must be equipped to engage in both love and truth, pointing them to Christ and his Word.
Counseling at your kitchen table with an open Bible and a cup of coffee or tea is such a beautiful picture, but it takes a lot of serving and prayer to gain that privilege. You become more effective as you train yourself to use the Word to help people see how God desires to help them grow. Hospitality is a ministry every woman can learn to do on some level, using your gift of serving others. If you combine your hospitality and training in biblical counseling, you may be amazed at the conversations that happen under your roof.
Perhaps you will never stand before the crowds to teach others, but you can graciously serve the warmth of coffee, cookies and change by open-heartedly welcoming people to your kitchen table!