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Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome & Wanted

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Can a simple dinner party for the neighbors change the world? Karen Mains says, "Yes!" And in Open Heart, Open Home she shows how. In this classic on Christian hospitality, Karen Mains steps far beyond how-to-entertain hints to explore a biblical and spiritual approach to using your home to care for others. This approach to hospitality can literally transform the fabric of your community and your world. If you labor under the illusion that hospitality requires Martha Stewart-like abilities, then Mains will free you from a load of guilt! Instead, she offers fresh and inspiring ideas for using your own resources to serve rather than to impress with new "opening the door" activities in each chapter. You will discover how the Holy Spirit can work in and through you to make others feel welcome and wanted. Whether you are a business executive or a homemaker, a professional minister or a layperson, a seasoned entertainer or an entertaining klutz, you will find here the encouragement and skills you need to reach out with the gospel through daily acts of acceptance, belonging and love.

208 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 1980

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About the author

Karen Burton Mains

40 books46 followers
I would love to have you receive my email newsletter, Soulish Food. You can subscribe at http://www.hungrysouls.org/newsletter/.

I'm now also in Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/karen.burton...., talk to you there... Thank you!

And I'm actively blogging at http://blog.karenmains.com


For decades, Karen Mains, a prolific writer and gifted communicator, has offered her talents, as well as her joys and sorrows, to the building of God’s Kingdom. Whether as an author, speaker, or radio and television producer and co-host, Karen has addressed the deep spiritual needs and longings that surface in our current society. Karen’s voice is substantive, often humorous, many times lyrical, but always practical.

Many of her creative works have been birthed out of personal experience. Her first best-selling book Open Heart, Open Home, is considered a classic and deals with the theology of Christian hospitality. It has sold over 600,000 copies and captured experiences out of 12 years serving in an inner city pastorate in a church founded by her husband, David R. Mains. The book challenges believers to use hospitality as a means of bringing redemption to a broken society.

In 1977, Mains’ communication gifts expanded when her husband became director of The Chapel of the Air Ministries. This nationally known outreach featured a syndicated radio broadcast, aired on almost 500 outlets each Monday through Saturday across the U.S. and Canada. Karen often served as co-host on the 15-minute program, lending her unique perspective to issues that impact the spiritual vitality of individual Christians and local churches. Her broadcast research generated the widely accepted book, Child Sexual Abuse: A Hope for Healing, co-authored with Maxine Hancock. The Mains’ media ministry continued with the daily half-hour national television show, You Need 2 Know, which won the 1995 Producer of the Year award from The National Religious Broadcasters.

In 1980, Karen traveled through the barrios and refugee camps in Central America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa. As a result of these journeys, she wrote The Fragile Curtain, which won the 1982 Christopher Award given to writers, producers, and directors whose works affirm the highest values of the human spirit and are representative of the best achievements in their fields.

Mains’ three books for children, The Kingdom Tales Trilogy, was awarded the Gold Medallion by the Evangelical Press Association. These stories are frequently used by pastors as sermon material, have been endlessly adapted in dramatic form for churches and Christian schools, and have been regularly employed for the purposes of deep therapy by Christian counselors. You can see these at http://kingdomtales.com

Karen Mains served on the Board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for eight years and was elected its first woman chairperson. She is the co-founder of the Chrysosostom Society, a group of well-known Christian writers committed to excellence in their work. A past member of the Author’s Guild of New York, she works to reconcile, through a variety of means (one of which is the establishment of Artists’ Communities in local churches), the artist to Christianity. As part of her personal interest, Karen now offers informal Wannabee Writers mentoring discussions.

Karen Mains now serves as co-director of Mainstay Ministries where she is responsible for Hungry Souls, a spiritual mentoring outreach that seeks to help people whose appetite for God is greater than what their present environment is meeting. An annual 24-hour Advent Retreat of Silence, 3-day Retreats of Silence to people in the

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5 stars
99 (39%)
4 stars
91 (36%)
3 stars
50 (19%)
2 stars
9 (3%)
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3 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews
Profile Image for Deb.
315 reviews6 followers
July 23, 2012
This modern Christian classic (written originally in 1973) was a treasure trove of wisdom for today. (Anecdotal evidence of its staying power: several friends with whom I talked about it said, "Oh, I think my mom has that book somewhere.")

My biggest takeaway was that pride stands in the way of true hospitality--we fail to invite, to welcome because our home may not be perfectly decorated or tidy, we fear what others may think of us, we must work hard to impress before we can open our doors. Mains makes the astute observation that hospitality is the opposite of "entertaining"--with entertaining, the focus is me (love me! compliment me! look at the lovely house I have!); with hospitality, the focus is on the other, extending welcome, making them feel at home. So far is this from the magazine-home ideal that Mains suggests you leave your dishes unwashed when guests are due.

My own experience bears this out. The homes I love to be in are the ones where the standard is warmth and comfort, not all pristine starchiness. And though I feel that way myself, I have been reluctant to trust others to have the same feelings. So I have gone on, hiding away piles of paper and asking my children to stop being children for awhile until guests arrive to see that our house is apparently not lived in on a regular basis.

The book goes so far beyond this, though, to include the hospitality we must extend to those we live with and the welcoming spirit that we offer to others with whom we casually cross paths in our daily comings and goings. It has reminded me that I can cultivate this spirit of hospitality and that the rewards are richer, deeper connections.
Profile Image for Lesley Webster.
53 reviews1 follower
July 27, 2011
love, love, love this book. it is such a beautifully written call to genuine hospitality. none of this "make sure your house is clean" crap. instead it talks about what you do when someone stops by and the house is a wreck. (throw open the door, invite them in, do not make them self-concious by apologizing, and take that opportunity for genuine loving ministry.) it talks about the difference between entertaining guests (which is focused on you and your posessions and how good you look) and serving people (which is focused on others and their needs). i love this book so much that i buy it anytime i see it at used book sales, yardsales, etc. and then give it away to others who will enjoy the life-giving message that hospitality is not about having the finest home or the fanciest serving dishes or even matching tableware. instead, it is about sharing your heart and your life with another person. get this book. read it. practice it.
Profile Image for Carol.
132 reviews
May 21, 2009
I read this book a long time ago, but it has stayed with me.
There was a period in my life when I was given the opportunity to practice what was radical hospitality for me. One night my boss called me up a bit frantically. That evening she had treated a mutual friend and coworker to an opera. But it was very late, too late for our friend to make the two hour drive back to her home. However my boss, fraught with strange insecurities, did not feel her own home was a suitable place to entertain her friend. Would I please, please allow her to spend the night at my place?

Unbeknownst to either of them, my roommate had just moved out a few weeks earlier and had taken all her furniture with her. The only furnished room in my apartment was my bedroom, and it was sparse. There was nothing in the living room and nothing in the spare bedroom; just carpet.

But Karen's principles of Christian hospitality must have made a impression, because I said, "Of course she can stay with me." When my friend arrived, I settled her in my twin bed, then took a comforter and slept on the floor in the other room. In the morning I got up, gave her lotion for her hair, and made her pancakes for breakfast. I didn't worry about whether my pancakes were good enough; I just did the best I could with a heart of love. Then we went to work.

My friend enjoyed her stay with me, and it was a real privilege for me to be able to host her under those circumstances. My boss heard about it later, and I think it changed the way she felt about her own hospitality. A few years later she hosted me at her own home.

Because I decided to extend hospitality in my relative extremity without pride, I think it made all of us closer to each other.

Profile Image for Karen L..
408 reviews1 follower
January 28, 2008
This book changed my view of hospitality and changed my life. Since reading it we have welcomed more people into our humble home than many with large homes! We have shown others our real lives and not shown a perfectly neat home continuously. We show them we LIVE in our home! It has been quite humbling, but hopefully fruitful.
Profile Image for Rebecca Lewitt.
117 reviews2 followers
May 11, 2013
This was surprisingly very good. I had expected sort of a nice little christian "table-setting" book. Instead it was basically a really good exposition of what it means to live the Christian life! In talking about hospitality she gives the best description I've ever read of what it means to walk in the Spirit; she makes a very good case for the home being the real place that evangelism and local church body building should take place. She adresses how to live out the Christian life of love with your family, with your church, with your neighbors and with your God. Truly, I really loved this book and will definitely re-read it again and again.
Profile Image for Kayla.
38 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2021
A practical and refreshing perspective on biblical hospitality.
Profile Image for Poiema.
455 reviews65 followers
August 31, 2014
This book is the gold standard on the subject of Christian hospitality. I first read it in 1982 when I was just learning to exercise the gift of hospitality, and Karen Mains stimulated me to go beyond the basic dinner invitation. I learned to take risks, to welcome strangers to the table, to provide bed and breakfast for all kinds of interesting people. This thoroughly Biblical and beautifully written book will stimulate the desire to throw open the door of your heart and home to others, to get beyond good intentions and to see the act of hospitality as the backdrop for deep ministry to others. I love the emphasis on connecting with people rather than on the peripherals such as how to set a beautiful table or what to serve. I consider this book a Christian classic and am so happy my pastor's wife placed it in my hands when I was a young bride. Honing the gift of hospitality has been a great pleasure in my life and this book planted the seeds of desire for that to happen.
Profile Image for Judy.
964 reviews
October 8, 2012
This book was written in 1976 - and still is fresh, speaking to the heart of Christian hospitality. "nothing is lovelier to me than filling our lives with people we love: with our children and families, with neighbors, with Christian friends. Upon making new acquaintances my first instinct is to bring them home; to flood our home and lives with humanity--its voices, its forms, its ideas, its beauty, its brokenness." Her best advice: invite freely, ask people to bring whatever they want, and don't clean house until after the party is over.
Profile Image for Leslie.
6 reviews
Currently reading
September 25, 2008
I'm convicted to allow others to see Christ thought me, even if it means seeing my untidy home. It reminds us that pride hinders the Spirit, even when it comes to homemaking. I'll rate it when I'm done.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
93 reviews1 follower
May 14, 2017
I like to reread this book to remind myself that I need to share what the Lord has given me. Friends, health, shelter, and all the little things that make a home. To share is to bless others and I know God likes that.
5 reviews
October 24, 2020
This is an excellent book. I stumbled across it in the bibliography of Rosaria Butterfield's The Gospel Comes with a House Key . It is evident that Mains' ideas impacted Butterfield's, as there are many similar themes throughout both books. Still, I enjoyed reading Open Heart, Open Home, as Mains has a different perspective and writing style, and included many ideas (along with practicalities) that Butterfield did not reiterate in her book.

The first two thirds of the book is focused primarily on hospitality within the church. She outlines the philosophy behind her approach to hospitality in the church and describes the practicalities of it for her and her church, while also guiding the reader toward seeing how they can foster a culture of hospitality in their own churches.

The last third of the book focuses on hospitality to those outside the church. This was where I thought both Mains' ideas and her writing shone the brightest. She calls out the church for abdicating its responsibility to care for the downtrodden and disadvantaged of the world, lamenting that we have gladly passed off our obligation to various institutions. These chapters were convicting, but they were also helpful. She offers much encouragement and practical advice to take steps toward using your home as a tool for ministry.

Once again, this was overall an excellent book. Honestly, if I weren't comparing it to The Gospel Comes with a Housekey, I probably would have given it five stars. Rosaria Butterfield's writing style and personality simply resonated with me on a deeper level, making this book seem weaker in comparison.
415 reviews2 followers
March 8, 2019
Despite the fact that this book was written in 1976, there are still some valuable reminders about what Christian hospitality looks like in this book. In particular, Karen Mains urges readers to open up to opportunities for hospitality despite all the reasons that there are not too (a messy house, children running around, limited resources, feelings of inadequacy, etc.). She tackles each of these issues both by addressing why Christians should more fully embrace hospitality as a Christian discipline as well as a ministry tool. She also provides some very practical reminders about the importance of simplicity, making guests feel welcome despite the circumstances of one's home, and suggestions for how to open one's own heart to the possibilities of hospitality. There are some aspects of the book that do feel dated and the configuration of the family unit that she describes will not work for everyone. Many people are still searching for community and this book helps to encourage the development of community through hospitality.
Profile Image for Jenny.
1,283 reviews21 followers
November 28, 2019
I'm not entirely sure how this book ended up on my bookshelf. But it was in my pile of books on hospitality, so I pulled it out with the others this month. Almost from the beginning, it felt a little off, in ways I can't quite describe (and have neither the time nor the energy to go digging to pull them out point by point)... so I checked out the author, and discovered she has some shall we say questionable theology in her other works, so I feel happy to toss this one on the did-not-finish-and-will-not-finish pile and move on to something else.
193 reviews2 followers
January 22, 2019
Despite pretty big differences in theology, and having to ignore gender-non-inclusive language, I still found this book inspiring and well worth re-visiting. It's all about both individuals and communities of faith learning how to be open and radically welcoming. Ms. Mains shares wisdom from her own experience, and practical as well as spiritual suggestions for building community and truly serving others. I'll probably return to it again.
Profile Image for Sharolyn.
187 reviews18 followers
June 25, 2017
A book from my mum's collection that's full of gems and I've finally come back to finish. Lots of great points about the importance of transformative hospitality which is so essential to Christianity, and the sharing of our (real, complicated, messy...) lives, rather than just trying to impress guests with a dinner party.
Profile Image for Sarah.
91 reviews
August 5, 2021
Less practical advice than I was expecting, more encouragement to spend time in prayer and meditation. Some of the language and concepts were appropriately sensitive and discerning when the book was written but are a bit iffy now.
Profile Image for Julie.
340 reviews10 followers
March 8, 2019
Everything she writes is worth reading. She makes you think more deeply - dive in and experience life at a deeper level.
1 review
April 30, 2020
Quite an inspiring and challenging book on the christian virtue of hospitality. I would read it again and again.
695 reviews11 followers
October 16, 2022
This book can change your life! Being willing to open your home to others can change the lives of others!
October 12, 2014
The author and I have some pretty big theological differences, but there is still so much wisdom to be gleaned here. She really changed my view of what "hospitality" even means. She does encourage throwing dinners and teas and all that, but she also reminds us that just showing kindness and being welcoming to your neighbors' children, or allowing a friend's child to leave muddy footprints in your new van while you gift them with transportation, is being hospitable. There are so many ways we can demonstrate hospitality, even if we need to start small and don't have an ounce of Martha Stewart-ness in us!
Profile Image for Larisha.
615 reviews4 followers
December 19, 2014
Delightful book filled with stories, tips, and hope that we too can learn to think adventurously, discover that hospitality is not what we have, but what we are!

Jesus set a beautiful example in hospitality. Bread for thousands from a few loaves, wine from water, disabilities turned into opportunities. To All who came, Jesus gave Himself, rest for the weary, food for the hungry, water for the thirsty.
Profile Image for Heila.
Author 1 book5 followers
February 12, 2012
Excellent, excellent book. Am getting ready to re-read. So simple and yet not. It says in a nutshell, "have people over, enjoy them, enjoy each other. Let God's love flow." Talks well about balance doing this. Recommended by a friend, and read through with another friend (both of us greatly positively impacted)!
Profile Image for Gerald Thomson.
Author 1 book9 followers
January 21, 2014
A wonderful reminder that all we are given is to be used to advance God’s kingdom. Though mostly about hospitality, the book goes deeper into utilizing your spiritual gifts and resources. The hospitality sections are useful for everyone, encouraging all to show God’s love through acts of kindness and sensitivity.
4 reviews
January 1, 2017
This book was surprisingly sharp and convicting in all the right ways. Based on the cover I thought it would be super cheesy but it is not at all. Instead it is full of gracious and beautiful stories spoken with conviction. It really helped me in growing towards being a better steward of my home and showing better hospitality.
Profile Image for Mystie Winckler.
Author 7 books396 followers
August 23, 2011

From principles such as beginning and continuing in the Spirit, to being hospitable to your own immediate family first, to opening your door to strangers and the needy, to practical ideas and encouragement, this book covers a lot of ground in a short space.
Profile Image for Kara.
70 reviews1 follower
August 17, 2013
I really enjoyed this book on hospitality. Karen does a great job showcasing how hospitality can look in different settings, it's not just about having fancy dinner parties. It has really helped me change my perspective from day to day, and find more opportunities to have a hospitable spirit.
Profile Image for Mckinley.
9,559 reviews82 followers
March 23, 2015
Martha Stewart meets entertaining at home with Christian flair. Much more focus on the religious attitude than on the entertaining side though. Takes away some of the concerns about hosting poorly too.
Profile Image for Tracee Easterlin.
3 reviews3 followers
March 16, 2009
Very encouraging if you desire true hospitality! There is a marked difference between that and entertainment. I desire hospitality!
Profile Image for Karen.
70 reviews
May 27, 2009
This book was a staple for me when I was a young wife and craved knowledge about entertaining and welcoming people into our home. It inspires the reader to love and cherish others, not impress them.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 37 reviews

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