Hospitality (two-way)

In the New Testament the Greek word philoxenia which is translated as ‘hospitality’ literally means ‘love (philo) of strangers (xenia)’ eg Hebrews 13:2. Hospitality is therefore not limited to inviting somebody to your home for a meal. It includes every activity that helps a stranger to feel welcomed and loved. In practice this can include both hosting and being hosted.

Be Hosted: Visiting

In many cultures people demonstrate their desire to build a friendship by visiting not inviting. It is considered an honour to receive a visitor and to welcome them with food and drink, even if they arrive unannounced! You will find this illustrated in Genesis 18 and is the pattern that remains in the Middle East and many non-western countries. By visiting students in their accommodation we are therefore giving them the opportunity to serve us. This is very important because, as Catherine Weston writes:

In many cultures, which are untouched by an understanding of God’s free grace as ours has been, there is a strong sense of reciprocity in relationships. I may do you a favour on the understanding that one day you will repay me in kind. Thus if we are always the one to provide help, our student friends may feel ashamed that they are unable to return the favour and withdraw from us because of an overwhelming sense of obligation. This is one reason why visiting can be such a good idea, because it gives them an opportunity to host. Similarly, accepting practical offers of help (putting away chairs or cleaning up after an event) is important. We can invite students to share something of their culture – a presentation, music or (especially!) food. [1]

[1] Catherine Weston, Welcoming International Students in your Church, new edition to be published in 2019



Hosting students can take a number of forms both formal and informal. A last minute invitation for coffee or light lunch is as welcome as a full meal and should be a natural outworking of a growing friendship.

Food and Fellowship go hand in hand so it’s worth thinking about!

On a more formal level it is possible to arrange a Hospitality Programme linking students with volunteers from local churches.

 You may also consider arranging a “Dinner and Discussion” evening as a single or repeating (weekly) event for students who may be interested in looking at what the Bible says (or “stories Jesus told”).