Developing an Ethos of ‘Extravagant’ and ‘Intentional’ Hospitality

Editor’s Note: This essay is the second excerpt from the author’s doctoral project titled “Reaching Generation Z with the Gospel at a Christian University through Faith Integration, Radical Hospitality, and Missional Opportunities,” completed as part of the Doctor of Ministry program at Knox Theological Seminary. The content has been edited to adhere to MTC’s guidelines. For the full dissertation, please refer to this provided link, and to read his first excerpt, click here .

Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
1 Peter 4:9


In this chapter, I will discuss the importance of exhibiting an ethos of “extravagant and intentional” hospitality as a means to deepen relationships with my students. [1] The ideas in this chapter took root several years ago when a group of students showed up at my office door for help with chemistry homework. We spent several hours together solving problems on a large whiteboard on the wall behind my desk. I thought it would be a good idea to put together a tray of snacks for them for supplemental brain sugar. Word quickly got out and more students began showing up for “homework help.” On several occasions, I had as many as seven students crammed around my desk, sitting on the floor or just outside the door, craning their necks to follow along. My office has now become a place for more than just chemistry tutoring. It has been dubbed the “chill zone.” It is the place where students can grab a snack, a free book, a cup of coffee, engage in casual conversation, ask me for life hacks, or drop in for prayer. Sometimes, they come just to pray for me. Accidentally and then intentionally, I have sought to make my office a place of hospitality.

From Abraham to Jesus—our ultimate model—the Bible is full of characters who showed hospitality.[2] The lesson—taught implicitly and explicitly in Scripture—is that God’s people should do likewise. Demonstrating biblical hospitality is not a suggestion. Scripture commands that Christians show hospitality to the saints, strangers, and, I might add, to our students—who are, after all, our neighbors.[3]

To make my argument, I will first define what the Bible teaches about hospitality, what this means in practice to those of us who teach at Christian universities, and how I demonstrate hospitality to my students in meaningful ways.


What is Biblical Hospitality?

When one thinks of hospitality, it is almost always accompanied by mental images of Martha Stewart or the concierge stand at a Marriott resort. That’s actually not far from one New Testament definition. The Greek word philoxenia (lit.: “lover of strangers”) is a term for hospitality, meaning to receive a stranger as a guest. A second Greek word, xenodocheo (lit.: xenos, “stranger” and dechomai, “take with the hand, receive, accept”), is used by Paul in a list of godly characteristics of a deserving widow: “if she has…shown hospitality” (1 Tim. 5:10).[4] Here, the word has the added concept of extending hands and accepting a marginalized person into one’s home.[5]

The Old Testament emphasizes the concept of the stranger or the foreigner. It was forbidden by Mosaic Law that “the seed of the righteous” be left “begging for bread” (Psalms 37:25 cf. Exo. 22:22, 23:9), and so most instances of hospitality were extended to aliens and strangers. In Judaism, showing hospitality to guests is considered a mitzvah, a command, or an obligation.[6]

Henri J. M. Nouwen writes, “[Hospitality] is one of the richest biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships to fellow human beings.”[7] Even more, Garwood Anderson, Dean of Nashotah House and Professor of New Testament at Marquette University, explains that all hospitality originates from God.

Hospitality, in its biblical context, is shaped by the beneficent character of God. It reflects his saving acts and is regulated by divine instruction. One reason that the people of Israel must treat aliens and strangers with hospitality is that Israel experienced being strangers and aliens in Egypt (Exod. 22:21; 23:9; Lev. 19:33–34; Deut. 10:19; 24:17–18; see also Jer. 7:5–7). Another reason to practice hospitality is that Yahweh cares for aliens and strangers (Pss. 39:12; 68:6; 146:9), and his people should share his concerns.[8]

Broadly speaking then, hospitality is the “quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.”[9]


From Then to Now: Biblical Hospitality Today

The definition of hospitality is especially appropriate for my students, most of whom are freshmen and away from home for the first time. Some are homesick. In a sense, they are strangers in a foreign land, and often in need of a friendly place where they can experience genuine hospitality.

It is impossible to look at the word hospitality and not recognize the idea of a hospital at its root. In fact, Latin takes us there: “The words hospitality and hospital are both derived from the Latin hospes, uniting both Old and New Testament concepts. In this vein, biblical hospitality is the demonstration of obedient, compassionate action towards strangers, using our means to meet the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves.”[10]

Pastors Kyle Richter and Patrick Miller co-wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition in which they offer five suggestions for how to feed Gen Z’s hunger for Jesus. One of them is by offering “extravagant hospitality.”

From the first time a college student enters our doors to the day he or she moves away, we’re extravagantly and intentionally hospitable. We smile when we greet people. We learn their names. We immediately connect them with insiders. We follow up after they leave. We let them know we miss them if they haven’t shown up for a while. We train leaders to invite students into their homes for meals. After spending over a year isolated during a global lockdown, Gen Z is hungry for the hospitality Jesus showed to sinners, disciples, and Pharisees alike. His ministry was a movable feast, breaking cultural norms — ask the woman who cleaned his feet with her tears — so he could communicate a deep truth through action: God wants you at his table too.[11]

The first miracle of Jesus’ ministry pointed to this kind of hospitality. This first miracle occurred at a wedding feast. John, the gospel writer, added that the miracle of transforming water into wine was also a sign, a portent of Jesus’ ministry to follow: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him” (John 2:11).[12] Jesus wants all people at his table. Richter and Miller emphasize that it is the older generation’s responsibility to get involved in reaching out to Gen Z, explaining that it’s not just a free meal they want but also “mentoring relationships.”[13]

Likewise, Abigail Thompson asks the reader to “reimagine hospitality.”

What if it wasn’t about creating the perfect environment for entertaining but about making our homes purposeful for the kingdom? What if, instead of hiding from a broken world, we invited the broken in? This is how we make the gospel real to the loneliest generation on earth.[14] It’s not an overstatement to suggest that Christians opening their homes and inviting young people into their lives could transform a generation. We have a God who sets the lonely in families (Pss. 68:6). All we need to do is make room.[15]

Hospitality is not some stuffy, outdated practice.[16] If we want to be able to minister to our students outside of the classroom, we have to treat them like family. If we want them to listen to us when we speak to them about the gospel, we have to earn the right.

As Willis and Clements memorably put it, “[Hospitality] is the Gospel with flesh on.” [17] God extends hospitality to humanity from Genesis to Revelation. He created a home for Adam and Eve in a lush garden, and he will create a city — the New Jerusalem — for believers as our final home (Rev. 21). If hospitality is so important to God, then it must be practiced as the “the primary way, we tell the astounding story that God hasn’t given up on us. Any time we practice hospitality, we follow in the steps of our lavishly hospitable God.” [18]

How, then, can Christian faculty model this same ethos of hospitality to students?

What follows is a list of practical suggestions to create an atmosphere of hospitality. Although most of the following are specifically related to the school office, faculty must work to develop an ethos of hospitality, remembering that the goal is gospel advancement through “care and healing — we do the caring and Jesus does the healing.”[19]


  1. Order: Maintain an office characterized by logos, not chaos, thus reflecting the Divine Order of the Creation.

After reading The Benedict Option, by Rod Dreher, I thought about the changes I could make to my school office that would allow me to reach my students more effectively for Christ. Dreher writes, “If we don’t have internal order we will be controlled by our human passions and by the powerful outside forces who are in greater control of directing liquid modernity’s deep currents.”[20] As a chemistry professor, I am most at home discussing the logos — the Divine Order of the Cosmos that characterizes God’s handiwork in the Creation. I saw the need for my office to reflect the character of the world I taught about.

My office is a museum. There is glassware and molecular models of oligopeptides and nucleic acids on the shelves and windowsill where a Chinese Elm Bonsai reaches up towards heaven, its delicate green leaves giving praise to its creator from beneath two bright grow lights. The walls are lined with framed newspaper articles I have written and color photographs I have taken of tropical waterbirds in the lakes behind our south Florida home. A periodic table of the elements, a photograph of Albert Einstein, a right brain/left brain piece of art and photos from missionary trips I have been on over the years surround a large whiteboard that is always covered with equations, reactions, or solved problems from students’ homework. Across from my desk nailed to a wall pillar are two plaques; one reads, “Climb Every Mountain,” and the other, “It’s Not About You — to God be the Glory.” A celestial star globe sits on a high shelf next to a humorous caricature of me. Over my doorway hangs a painting of the scene of the throne of God from Isaiah 6 that my older daughter painted shortly after our move to Florida in 2017, when I was struggling to adjust after leaving behind in New Jersey our family and friends for over thirty years. I always enjoy observing students who, for the first time to my office, sit in one of my two visitor’s chairs and allow their eyes to wander. Inevitably, something sparks a conversation, often aided by my diffuser, its vapors gently wafting towards the ceiling; a liturgy in its own rite especially when the oil is frankincense. The eclectic adornment of my office is designed by intention. It is a reflection of God’s intelligent design. God just didn’t make life. He created life. His creation was artful, beautiful and complex. There is beauty to be seen everywhere.  Dreher writes, “You never know how God will use the little things in a life ordered by His love, to His service, to speak evangelically to others… Everything is evangelical. Everything is directed to God. Everything has to be seen from the supernatural point of view. The radiance that comes through our lives is only a reflection of God.”[21]


  1. Prayer: Engage with your students prayerfully and pray with them often.

It is important to be great educators in the Christian tradition by integrating faith into the classes we teach. But there’s more to it than starting class off with a prayer. I do begin almost every class with a prayer that includes praying for my students to learn and for me to be clear in my lecture. But prayer doesn’t end in the classroom. When students come to my office for whatever reason: whether help with a difficult assignment, to review an exam, to discuss a research project, a personal issue or just an emotional meltdown, they know that my office is a sanctuary, a “chill zone” as one of my students has characterized it, where they can come and share whatever it is that is on their minds or hearts. I make it a habit to pray with them before they leave; a tradition that has sometimes resulted in moist eyes.


  1. Work: “can become very transformative—and very prayerful too.”[22]

Work is a word that some students dislike. No — they actually find it anathema. In science, this attitude is the quickest way to a change in major. Pinned on my corkboard is a copy of a New York Times article entitled, “Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard).”[23] The headline alone serves as a reminder to students entering my office that they need to commit to four years of hard work, which means not just reading countless textbook pages but lots of pencil pushing across scrap paper, as well as time spent in the laboratory. An opinion piece I wrote in 2021, entitled “10 Suggestions for Incoming College STEM Freshmen,” contained this as one of the ten suggestions for success in STEM courses: “My college physics teacher had a cartoon on his office door that showed a confused student explaining to his professor that he really understood the material, he just couldn’t do the problems. You cannot learn science by osmosis. Magic happens when the brain, eyes and hand all come together in beautiful synaptic choreography, guiding a pencil across a sheet of paper.”[24] When students come to my office for help, it’s time to roll up their sleeves. And I often ask them to take out a pencil and a piece of paper even if they are working on an online assignment on their laptop or tablet. Helping students in their labor is an important part of demonstrating hospitality. If they are struggling to understand a difficult concept that I might not have explained clearly in one of my lectures, or if they need a nudge in the right direction to get started on a homework assignment, this is meaningful to them since it directly impacts their grade.


  1. Stability: My office is a place where students can find stability

I like to think my office is a place where students can come and feel settled. It was only two years ago that we climbed out of a years-long pandemic that impacted students’ lives in ways we are still learning about. The majority of my students are first-year students, and my assumption is always that they spent two or three semesters in high school sitting home behind computer screens, attempting to finish their sophomore and junior years as best as they could. They now need stability and structure in their lives. Yes, they are in college, and they are supposed to be adults. But I know better. My wife and I have raised four children; two sons now in their 30s and two adopted Chinese daughters who are both Gen Zers and attend the university where I teach. I know what my girls went through and they like many of my students need help finding their way.


  1. Community: “A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”[25]

Anyone teaching at a Christian university knows that it is a community. But the idea of community must extend beyond the classroom and the office hours mandated by a course syllabus.

Here are a few, simple suggestions to extend the idea of community among students in a meaningful way. In my experience, they’ll catch these and appreciate them.

  • Attend chapel and make it a part of your weekly schedule. Our campus pastor tells me that students notice which professors attend chapel regularly.[26]
  • Eat lunch with your students in the dining hall.
  • If one of your students invites you to attend a sporting event in which he or she is on the team, show up.
  • Encourage your students to attend a doctrinally sound church where they can get involved serving. The best way to accomplish this is to be involved yourself at your church, perhaps teaching a small group, serving on the welcome team, or singing in the choir.
  • Look for opportunities to participate in an off-campus university-sponsored work opportunity as a volunteer with a student group.
  • Lead a mission trip.[27]
  • Consider inviting a group of students to your home for a meal.
  • When the “Big Red Bus” pulls up on campus, roll up your sleeves and donate blood, then encourage students to join you. I can’t think of a more appropriate illustration of the gospel than giving one’s own blood so that another person can live.[28]


  1. Sustenance for the Mind and Body: Make Snacks, Coffee, and Good Books Available

My syllabi list official office hours but I always add, “any time my door is open, and my light is on, feel free to drop in for whatever.” Once my students find out that I have a tray with a generous variety of salty and sweet snacks, they take me up on it (as do a number of my professorial colleagues). My wife goes to great lengths to keep my inventory well-stocked with chips and cookies. It is an inexpensive way to make students feel welcome.

But it’s not just about food. Several years ago, I began a program to purchase Christian books in bulk that I thought would be helpful to students depending on where they were in their spiritual walk.

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper was among my first offerings.[29] For students planning to go on a mission trip I purchased copies of Eternity in their Hearts by Don Richardson.[30]. And for any anxious members of Gen Z, The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness by Timothy Keller is a great read.[31] These can be purchased at reasonable prices from online book distributors. Some publishers offer faculty corporate account status, allowing the purchase of books at a significant discount.


  1. Balance: “prudence, mercy and good judgment.” [32]

The Benedictine monks define balance as being Christ-like in all things while fulfilling the Lord’s calling. It doesn’t matter whether a person is called to a secular or a sacred life; the Bible makes no distinction between the two. Our students need to see this type of balance in our lives. The only great tragedy in life, according to Dreher, is that “no matter what a Christian’s circumstances, he cannot live faithfully if God is only part of his life, bracketed away from the rest. In the end, either Christ is at the center of our lives or the Self and all its idolatries. There is no middle ground.”[33]


  1. Attentiveness: Be Actively Involved in the Student’s Mental Health.

As I wrote at the beginning of this chapter, it is impossible to look at the word hospitality and not recognize the idea of a hospital at its root. The incidences of depression, anxiety, suicides and overall mental crises have reached an all-time high among young children and teenagers.[34] The second highest cause of death among teens after accidents is suicide. In light of these bleak statistics, faculty must make themselves available to talk about mental health with our students. Our university recently hosted a mental health seminar to train members of the PBA community to become “young mental health first aiders.” Attendees learned how to recognize and deal with the signs of mental health struggles among students, including anxiety, depression, threats of violence to themselves or others, and thoughts of suicide. This is an issue that every faculty member at Christian universities should be concerned with, especially since they are the ones who spend the most time throughout the week in the classroom with students and can observe changes in behavior and performance.


In this chapter, I suggested numerous ways to demonstrate hospitality to students by creating a welcoming atmosphere in my school office. This is an important next step in continuing to develop mentoring relationships that lead to gospel conversations with students. But hospitality is not limited to an office. Professors at Christian colleges must be known as people who love their students, are interested in them as individuals and not just names on a roster, and are willing to become involved in their lives outside of the classroom. Teaching the subjects in our fields of expertise with passion and excellent pedagogy is our calling: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness” (Titus 2:7, NIV). But pointing the way to God for students so that they may be transformed into the likeness of his son, Jesus Christ, requires that we develop an ethos of “extravagant” and “intentional” hospitality.

[1] Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994) 26. Chapell explains that Aristotle’s logos, pathos and ethos are all necessary when ministering the gospel. In modern parlance, if we’re not walking the walk, no one will listen to our talk. If we wish to reach our students with the gospel our love and testimony have to be manifest.

[2] Camilla Klein, “The Ultimate Guide to Christian Hospitality: What the Bible Says,” Christian Educators Academy, April 2, 2023.

[3] Cf. Luke 14:13-14: “But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you…” Heb.13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Titus 1:8: “…but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled.” Source: .

[4] Eric Foley, “Prevenient Grace: The Theological Term for Hospitality,” Do the Word, .

[5] “Extending Hands” is one of Palm Beach Atlantic’s core values so this definition is especially pertinent to my ministry.

[6] Jewish Virtual Library, “Jewish Practices and Rituals: Hospitality,” .

[7] Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out, The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1975). 47.

[8] Garwood P. Anderson, Hospitality, ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 40.

[9] Elizabeth Byma, “Hospitality and Nursing,” Christian Scholar’s Review, December 8, 2021.

[10] Christine Pohl, Making Room: Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999). “[T]he biblical meaning of hospitality—making room for the stranger, especially those in most acute need. Such care must not be reduced to mere social entertainment, nor may it be self-interested and reciprocal; instead, biblical hospitality reaches out to the abject and lowly and expects nothing in return. Hospitality is not optional, nor should it be understood as a rare spiritual gift; instead, it is a normative biblical practice that is learned by doing it.

[11] Patrick Miller and Kyle Richter, “How to Feed Gen Z’s Hunger for Jesus,” The Gospel Coalition, November 4, 2023.

[12] Timothy Keller, Prodigal God, (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), 120. “Amazingly, John, the gospel writer calls this miracle a ‘sign,’ a signifier of what Jesus’s ministry was all about. Why would this be his inaugural act? Why would Jesus, to convey what he had come to do, choose to turn 150 gallons of water into superb wine in order to keep a party going? The answer is that Jesus came to bring festival joy. He is the real, true ‘Master of the Banquet,’ the Lord of the feast.”

[13] Patrick Miller and Kyle Richter, “How to Feed Gen Z’s Hunger for Jesus.” “Older saints must be challenged not to simply retire but to use their freed-up time to pass down the good deposit of the gospel to future generations. This can happen formally through mentoring programs or by encouraging older church members to lead small groups for young people. But it can also happen informally on Sunday morning, at coffee meetups, or through an invitation to lunch.”

[14] Ryan Jenkins, CSP, “3 Things Making Gen Z the Loneliest Generation,” Psychology Today, August 16, 2022.

[15] Abigail Thompson, “Gen Z Needs a Place at Your Kitchen Table,” The Gospel Coalition, September 1, 2023.

[16] Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements. The Simplest Way to Change the World. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017), 40.

[17] Willis and Clements, The Simplest Way to Change the World, 40-41.

[18] Willis and Clements, The Simplest Way to Change the World. 40-41.

[19] Willis and Clements, The Simplest Way to Change the World. 70.

[20] Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option, (New York: Sentinel, 2017), 3.

[21] Dreher, The Benedict Option, 57.

[22] Dreher, The Benedict Option, 62.

[23] Christopher Drew, “Why Science Majors Change Their Minds, (It’s Just So Darn Hard),” The New York Times, November 4, 2011.

[24]Gregory J. Rummo, “10 Suggestions for incoming college STEM freshmen,” The Orlando Sentinel, July 30, 2021.

[25] Oxford Languages,

[26] I continue to be embarrassed by the poor attendance of faculty at chapel on my campus and the excuses some have made. Students are watching. They know which faculty members value chapel. The chapel is one of the most important aspects of a Christian university and is the one that establishes its culture.

[27] On this point, see Chapter 8.

[28] “Inspire Change Today. Every person has the power to save a life. Donating blood only takes a little of your time, and it can mean a lifetime for patients in need.” Blood Donation Saves Lives | OneBlood.

[29] John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003).

[30] Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1981).

[31] Timothy Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, (New York: 10Publishing, 2012).

[32] Dreher, The Benedict Option, 63.

[33] Dreher, The Benedict Option, 74

[34] Andrea Petersen, “A Rise in Suicides by Young Children Leaves Families Searching for Answers,” The Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2022. “The number of children dying by suicide has risen dramatically in recent years. Parents often don’t know that their children are having suicidal thoughts, new research shows. Among females ages 10 to 14, the rate of suicide more than tripled between 2007 and 2020, from 0.5 per 100,000 to 2 per 100,000, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Among males the same age, the rate jumped from 1.2 per 100,000 to 3.6 per 100,000 over the same period.”

Photo by Jared Gould — Adobe — Text to Image


  • Gregory J. Rummo

    Gregory J. Rummo, D.Min., M.S., M.B.A., is a Lecturer of Chemistry in the School of Arts and Sciences at Palm Beach Atlantic University and an Adjunct Scholar at the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is the author of The View from the Grass Roots, The View from the Grass Roots - Another Look, and several other volumes in the series.

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