Hosting a Long-Term Guest

Over the last 15 years of marriage my husband and I have been blessed to live with a host family and have hosted 4 individuals of our own (2 men and 2 women). Each time tremendous blessings and “opportunities for growth” have marked the times together. Three things we did that helped:
1. We talked about a budget ahead of time – How much would they contribute to the grocery bill (if we are sharing food) and utilities for rent? One goal in hosting was to relieve the financial burden as much as possible. But even an extra $100-$200 a month in our budget was a blessing to us. Depending on how much they eat we would charge accordingly. In one case we decreased the amount because the woman ended up eating at her work so much.
2. We talked about a time-frame. How long did they expect to stay? This varied from person to person and the reason they were staying. Our EDGE guy planned to stay a full school year, but when I became pregnant with our third son, we felt everyone would be more comfortable (and he might get more sleep!) if he moved out a little early before the baby came. In that case we found housing for him. I remember my husband telling him simply “babies eat a lot” and he was confused at the time but as a father of 3 he now gets it! J
Another time we had a former disciple from our ministry move in. We wanted to provide a safe place for her in a new state and new job right out of college. Her 1st year proved to be very challenging and so we gave her the option of staying a 2nd year. By the time she moved out, life was going much more smoothly for her and she was ready to launch into a better job, a new relationship, a better church fit and her own place.
It was interesting to navigate from being her discipler to being her host family. She saw the good side of our family on campus – and at home she saw it all! The good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. Our relationship had shifted with our close quarters and how I interacted with her needed to change as well. I did my best to go deep with her when the situation was ripe for talking, but kept things more normal living interactions the rest of the time.
3. Over the years we became bolder in our requests for help in the home – in particular with childcare. One woman we hosted had already done a lot of babysitting for us. Before she moved in we agreed that she would watch our children one night a week (usually Sunday night – we didn’t want to take up her weekend).  She also stayed with them one overnight a semester. This was a tremendous blessing for our marriage and our boys looked forward to their special times with her. 
With each experience we knew the individual fairly well and that it would be a good fit for our family to have them live with us.  It also really helped if they could have their own space to hang out apart from our family if they just needed down time.

If God ever calls you to host someone I pray it will be a tremendous blessing to you and the person you welcome into your family. We have enjoyed each experience and look forward to seeing who God will send us next!

Other important expectations to talk about: 

  1. How often you will spend time together? One dinner a week? One evening together? Are they free to go be in their room and relax whenever they want?
  2. Will they help with making dinner? How often? Will they help clean up? Who gets the leftovers?
  3. What are your expectations for cleaning? Do they have assigned chores for common areas? How often do you want that bathroom cleaned?
  4. Will they have a certain laundry day? Does it bother you if they leave laundry in the wash and then leave?
  5. You are going to have little irritations with each other, this is normal. It will be easier to talk about them if you have a night already set aside to do this monthly.  

Sherry has been on staff since 1997. She and Jeff have been married for 15 years and have served in WI, SD and now in CO.  They have 3 boys ages 6-11 and there is never a dull moment in their house. Sherry enjoys writing and encouraging mommy missionaries when she isn’t busy shuttling boys around town. She is also re-entering the world of homeschooling after a year off. 

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