Sep 15

When People Live With You

2009 at 2:21 pm   |   by Carolyn Mahaney Filed under Homemaking | Hospitality

We wanted you to hear from Charlotte Ennis again—this time about long-term hospitality. Charlotte has a unique perspective on this topic as she lived with a family as a single woman, and now invites others to live with her family. So whether you are considering such an arrangement or have never though of it before, here’s some advice and encouragement from Charlotte on “extended stay” hospitality:

When People Live With You

by Charlotte Ennis

My husband and I each spent several years living with families when we were single, and the experience changed our lives. There is no way we could have forseen how much God would use that time to prepare us for the years to come.

The mature Christian families we lived with invited us to watch them closely and to ask questions. We learned much from observing how they applied the gospel to marriage and parenting in all kinds of circumstances. I was privileged to live with a pastor’s family, not knowing one day I would be married to a man in ministry. How grateful I am now for the nine years I watched Betsy Ricucci serve her husband, Gary! God knew how much I would need that experience to be able to serve my husband now.

ennis familyThose times were so rich that we became eager to provide similar opportunities for others. First, we hosted wonderful friends who had been invited to attend the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College. Fellowship was rich but sometimes sporadic. We each started with a small child, then I had a baby, then she had a baby, then I had a baby, then she got pregnant. They gratefully moved to their own home about that time! We’ve also hosted two single international Pastor’s College students, and three other single men, and have joyfully walked through courtship and marriage with every one of them. Another single man lives with us now. Most people spend two to four years here, and everyone who has lived with us seems like extended family.

Inviting people to live with you, like anything else, starts with God. You and your husband should be convinced that sharing your home this way is what God intends, and that He will provide the grace for all parties to do it. Remember, it can be just as daunting to move into someone’s home as it can be to open that home. Both sides will have adjustments to make.

Because of my husband’s ministry responsibilities, we think it wise to open our home to people who are fully involved in the church in ways a bit separate from us. When my husband is home, his primary responsibilities are his wife and children. While he loves to help counsel and care for the people who live in our home, family comes first. Our home is a place of rest, rejuvenation, and discipleship for our family, and we guard those things carefully. The people who live with us watch and benefit just as we once did, but they have friends and pastoral accountability apart from just us.

Finances are important, but it’s good to think twice before taking people in purely for financial reasons. It’s one thing if you are renting a basement apartment, and another altogether if people are sharing your living space. While the rent money helps, we try to live in such a way that we are not dependent on it. We want our motivation to be the desire to serve. We have had paying boarders and we have also welcomed those who were serving the church but were unable to pay rent. They have served us in practical ways instead, like lawn mowing and childcare.

Before people move in, take the time to discuss expectations on both sides frankly. How will food and chores be handled? Will you have private family times when your boarder is not invited? How will childcare be handled? Laundry? What about your boarder’s need for privacy? Will they be able to have friends over? When? False expectations often are a source of conflict and dealing with them quickly can help reveal God’s purposes in every situation.

We try to treat our guests as much like family as possible. We talk a lot and ask and answer questions, and pursue observations. We learn from them as they do from us. We eat together, watch movies together, and we laugh. Above all, we try to make the most of the time we have. Scripture says so much about the growth that comes from biblical fellowship and personal interaction. We don’t want to miss any of it!