1 Peter 4: 10 -11 (NIV)
“Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Proverbs 11:25 (NIV)
“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

“Hospitality begins at the level of basic physical needs, involving provision of food and shelter to those who find themselves vulnerable. However, it goes beyond this to encompass social and spiritual needs. It includes a focus on welcome into table fellowship. It requires openness of heart and genuine attentiveness to the guest. “ (Smith & Felch, 2016, p. 67)

When I think of the word host or hostess, my mind immediately goes to two different scenarios. The first is that of being greeted at the door of a restaurant and welcomed by the host/hostess. The number of our party is taken and the host escorts us to our table where the waiter or waitress then takes over with food, drink orders and service. The second scenario of a host or hostess that comes to mind is that of giving a dinner party in my home. As hostess, I want everything to be just right – the house sparkly clean, the food delectable, the entertainment delightful and at the end of the evening, a spoken or unspoken applause at how enjoyable the evening was.

The two scenarios above do not provide us with a clear view of what Christian hospitality truly is. Rather, they show us what “entertaining” looks like. “Hospitality, unlike entertaining, treats everyone as a guest of honor rather than grasping at honor for yourself.” How Is Christian Hospitality Different from Entertaining? | Lifeway

If we, as educators, view our role as host or hostess in accordance to the two scenarios above, we are welcoming our students and then “handing them off” to the curriculum that is required, the structures that are demanded and the type of consumerism that is seen at a restaurant. Or, we are the harried teacher, always on the go, always feeling the stress of providing the best lesson plans, implementing the leading educational protocols, achieving the most impressive student marks and presenting the most “put-together” classroom—all for seeking the praise and approval of our colleagues and administration.

The classrooms within which we teach and our students enter each day have the beautiful potential of being a welcoming and hospitable space for pilgrim students. It is in the hospitable classroom with the teacher as host that students are welcomed, needs are met, accommodations are given and safety is provided. It is here in the hospitable classroom that pilgrim students feel safe, cared for and challenged to grow by the educator as host.

In “Teaching and Christian Imagination”, Smith and Felch make reference to Abraham and the fear that he had upon approaching the area of Gerar. Abraham introduces Sarah to Abimelech as his sister rather than his wife out of fear of danger. Abraham needed to be shown hospitality, but rather expected danger (Genesis 20).

Can our students find true hospitality in our classrooms, or are they expecting danger, insecurities, and fear? How do we provide a safe space for our students – space that is safe to learn in and safe to fail in, space that provides for their needs (academic, social-emotional and spiritual), but also challenges them to grow in these same areas? Is their individual growth encouraged and celebrated, or are they stymied because the teacher needs to be “in control”?

How do we, as teachers, show true hospitality to our students? We first need to recognize that our students are pilgrims along a journey and that our classroom is but one of many stops along the way – a stop which should provide care, sustenance, and tools for the next part of the journey. As Christian educators, it is our calling to help our student pilgrims learn how to hear God’s voice and seek out the Holy places that God calls them to. As pilgrim students leave our classrooms, their needs (both surface and deeper) should have been met and they are ready to continue on their journey. When pilgrim students experience grace, service, acceptance, challenges and support, perhaps they too will begin to extend that same Christ-like hospitality to others.

Proverbs 11:25 (NIV) says that “he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” When we as educators serve our pilgrim students with true hospitality, putting their needs at the forefront and equipping them for the journey, we too will be “refreshed” and will feel the blessing of showing true Christ-like hospitality.

Smith and Felch (2016) say, “When we reconfigure our classrooms as hostels along the pilgrim way, we may glimpse a more robust image of what it means to be hospitable, beyond simply being”nice “. And we will learn perhaps to ask questions like these: Have the students in this class thought about how what we are studying relates to their larger life questions? Have I created tasks or experiences that encourage them to do so? Do students feel an appropriate sense of safety? Have they also learned to ask and listen to questions?” (p. 71)

Practicing true Christ-like hospitality not only refreshes the host but also the pilgrim. Let us serve our students with the strength that God provides, speak to our students with the very words of God, administer grace to our students in various ways, and use the gifts that God has given each of us to minister to our pilgrim students along the way.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Stacy Kok is a Senior Kindergarten teacher and Teaching for Transformation early adopter at Cairn Christian School in Stoney Creek, Ontario. Stacy is originally from Tennessee, USA and moved to Ontario, Canada in 1999, after teaching at a missionary school in Indonesia. While teaching in Indonesia, Stacy met her future husband who is originally from Grimsby, Ontario. Both Stacy and her husband spent a total of 5 years teaching in Indonesia before moving to Toronto. Stacy took time away from classroom teaching and devoted her time and energy to their 4 children. Seven years ago, Stacy returned to the classroom after serving 4 years on staff at her church as the Children’s Ministry Coordinator. Over the past 7 years, Stacy has had her teaching degree from Tennessee transferred to the OTC and has also received her Christian School Teacher’s Certificate. Stacy is currently enrolled as a part-time student with the Institute of Christian Studies in the Master of Arts (Philosophy) in Educational Leadership.