Last Updated on August 30, 2013

My doorbell rings and I see three little faces peering in the windows on either side of my front door.  Since they are staring me down, I have to open the door.  I always find it a bit disturbing to see the neighbor kids with their faces smashed against the glass and hands cupped around their eyes.  My blood pressure immediately begins to rise before I even greet them.  These kids can destroy my home and empty my snack cabinet in less than 30 minutes.  They leave a trail of broken toys behind them.

Our home is the local hang-out for the neighborhood, but this trio quickly squelched my hospitable urges and left me cowering behind closed blinds.  After hiding for a couple of days (with my duct tape repairing broken toys), I realized that it would be better to lay down a few visitor rules than to deny them hospitality.  I wanted to be wise in protecting children with food allergies and also from those who would take advantage of them.  Often these young kids would go from door-to-door, knocking until someone opened and invited them in.  And with our trampoline and large adventure play set in the back yard, I really didn’t want to worry about an accident happening on my watch.

The neighborhood kids now know that it is impolite to stare into windows (a lesson kindly explained).  They are not allowed to play in our home unless they call first and I speak to their parent.  We discuss what video games are appropriate and how long they can stay.  Snacks must also be preapproved.  My kids put their fragile toys out of reach.

If  kids stop by unannounced, they are welcomed but its explained that we will be playing outside.  Our backyard is off-limits unless their parent is with them.  I practice unplanned hospitality by taking breaks from my chores to watch a bike rodeo in our driveway or play basketball with the kids.  Our garage holds an arsenal of water guns for front yard water fights and sidewalk chalk for ‘pictionary’ on the driveway.  And sometimes it’s ok to say that it is not a good time to play.

Our home is still the neighborhood hang-out but I am not hung-up with stress.  Now that’s my kind of hospitality!

What tips do you have to make your home welcoming and “the place” all the kids want to gather?

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  1. Thank you for a post full of ideas for someone who shares the same problem!

  2. Neighborhood Mom says:

    I have to say that this article sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Especially after reading such a wonderful article just the other day about this same issue.
    I’m sure the kids in the neighborhood will pick up on your unwelcoming spirit if you value your snacks and your toys more than who they are as little people. We should love with reckless abandon if we are to represent Christ. I too have a large set of children who daily peer through the side glass of my front door and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    1. Ann Onymous says:

      That is a beautiful article- thanks for sharing. Hospitality is not a gift everyone has been blessed with so hopefully these tips will help those of us who are not, so we too can show Christ’s love to our neighbor kids.

  3. Awesome ideas!! Our house is surrounded with older couples and families with older kids, so we don’t typically have this problem. But I love the suggestions you shared!

  4. Melissa Hutsell says:

    We also have neighbors who peek in the windows and knock at odd times of day and never seem to be called home for a meal. These are boys who have no two-parent homes, who have lived with their grandma, who have had a drug-addicted mom. And while it breaks my heart to consider all they live with, it still presses in on me when they show up. Or at least it used to. Like you, I have had to set ground rules. I speak to them nearly the same I speak to my own. I let them know that certain behaviors and certain words will get them excused back to their house. Sometimes I feed them and sometimes I send them home when I am ready to feed my own. Mostly I try to practice compassion. But WOW…it can be so hard! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  5. I agree with Neighborhood Mom that the article is a little grating, but Christians are imperfect people with quirks, hang-ups, and a host of other issues that may not always match well with the hospitality we’re supposed to display.

  6. I thought this article was very practical and reminded us how to be gracious even when we don’t “feel like it”! It didn’t sound at all to me like you have an “unwelcoming spirit”, but rather that you are both providing a place for them to play and gently teaching them about being respectful of others, which it seems they may not be learning much about elsewhere. This was a reminder to me that even though it’s okay to set ground rules, we are still expected to be hospitable even if it isn’t always convenient.

  7. Mothering4Him says:

    As soon as I read the title of this article, I knew it was for me. We have a neighbor boy who is so disrespectful and distructive. I dreaded having him over. However, I know what God wants of me, so it wasn’t a choice. So even though I would speak and he would not listen (or even acknowledged that I spoke), we set out to be hospitable. I whole heartedly agree with you that rules NEED to be in place. Otherwise, all my hard work and training with my own would be down the drain, not to mention it would be quite dangerous as he throws objects, hits, takes Lord’s name in vain, etc. I’m learning that he will obey my rules if the consequence is that he can’t play here. (The first rule was he needs to come to the front door and knock to play.) He is allowed to get away with ANYTHING at his house…now he knows it’s not that way here. It’s very biblical, but with the thoughts floating around to be kind with no consequences, it’s hard to feel good about it. Thanks for your message. Good to know I’m not the only one.