Exploring Christian Hospitality as Provision and Care

As we continue to explore hospitality as a Christian practice this year, we at OC Online have focused our attention on two aspects of welcome: provision and care. 

We begin in the biblical narrative where we see God deeply committed to people’s needs and also to companionship.  Whether God is walking through life with the Israelites or advancing the good news of the kingdom globally, it seems that God welcomes us in with both tangible and intangible acts of hospitality.  God’s hesed (loving-kindness) includes strong affection (such as we see in Zephaniah 3:17: “he will exult over you with loud singing”) and also provision of essential and basic needs (such as in Exodus 16:4: “I will rain down bread for you”).  Even in the Lord’s prayer we see that Jesus empowers us to posture and plead to God for both affection (calling on God’s parenthood) and also for sustenance (daily bread).  Later in John’s prophetic vision he hears the voice of the resurrected Christ saying, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.” (Rev. 3:20).  Once again, God offers both care in hearing, listening, and entering in as well as the provision of a shared meal. 

Seeing God’s perfect hospitality, we are invited to respond in kind in the giving and receiving of hospitality with one another; we offer and accept both care and provision.  And yet so often our go-to images for hospitality include just one or the other.  For some, hospitality tends to mean offering money or food or something similar while for others friendliness, a warm hug, or a listening ear come more naturally.  The challenge is to strive toward “making room” for others which means both in our hearts and in our resources.  Similarly, when we are in need and come as strangers we are invited to seek compassion for and also solutions to what keeps us from welcome.   

In the case of education, this can raise an important question:  How do we offer both care and provision to our students?  Once again we see the potential to lean in one direction or another—offering either organization, support, and resources or kindness, engagement, and joy.  As Christian educators, we strive for both.  This is, of course, a lifetime pursuit and there is certainly no ‘arriving’ perfectly at hospitality but like most spiritual disciplines we practice it with students, growing along the way. 

As a faculty we wanted to hear from students what this looked to them—especially in an online environment.  We wanted to know: what does the practice of hospitality look like to students?  When do they see their teacher extending hospitality as care and provision?  To find out, we asked all of our full time OC Online students to complete these two sentences: 

A) Two ways I can tell my OC Online teacher cares about me are… 

B) Two ways my OC Online teacher provides what I need are… 

We were fascinated and encouraged by what we found.  Five categories emerged from the student responses.  In order of frequency they were: 

They are responsive and available. 

They are invested in my learning. 

They are engaged, kind, and supportive. 

They leave assignment comments. 

They recognize and respond graciously to my struggles with course content. 

If you are a fellow educator—especially online—do you see these as opportunities to extend hospitality to students?  Does this feel like something you’re growing in or would like to start practicing?  One faculty member spoke to the both/and of encouragement and challenge in seeing this data.  She said, “I love how this solidifies what we are already doing and encourages us to do more in some areas.” 

To close, here are some of the student quotes.  See if you can identify the ways they are seeking both provision and care from us as educators.  As you do, search out God’s wisdom in how to continue in your hospitality practice with students: 

My teacher…. 

shows he/she cares by how quickly and helpfully they try to answer any questions I send them. 

acknowledges when I’m interested/excited about a subject whether that’s offering additional resources or their knowledge beyond the course material. 

is very kind and reaches out. She is very thoughtful in responses, and she makes sure everybody feels heard and appreciated. 

listens to me and leaves comments on my assignments. I like this because I know they care to let me know how they feel about these assignments and how I did. 

makes me feel comfort in the fact that I know someone will always hear me!  It’s important to know that my teachers have my back and want the best for me. 

gives me study guides before tests to help calm my nerves, helps me get good grades, gives me another chance if I mess up on an assignment, goes over hard assignments in live classes so I know what to do, and teaches me what I need to know. 

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