What Hospitality Is Not

Two weeks ago, we began a blog series on hospitality and an online conversation to which many of you have already contributed. This week we pivot to what hospitality is not. Amidst current religious hostility and political division, debunking misconceptions around hospitality seems necessary. Continue with us on this contemplative journey, and start thinking about what you might add!

Genuine hospitality has no room for coercion. 

Hospitality ceases to be authentic when it comes with strings attached. It’s not about adhering to a set of prerequisites. It is not about pressuring others to conform to a particular set of beliefs. True hospitality is rooted in the radical freedom to be one’s truest self. It embraces diversity of thought and encourages exploration, free from attempts to coerce. 

When I worked at this hippie Jesus camp in Upstate New York, staff and volunteers committed weekly to not force our beliefs on children but rather to allow them to arrive at their own religious and spiritual conclusions. We vowed to create the most open, safe, welcoming atmosphere for their transformation without using fear, shame, or persuasion. A notable percentage of the campers were Muslim, Catholic, or had no religious background, and we chose to celebrate a kid becoming a better whatever-they-were rather than becoming any narrow idea of a Christian. 

Contemplate a time when you experienced unconditional hospitality compared to a time that demanded conformity. Notice the differences in how you feel remembering the two scenarios.

Extending hospitality does not imply agreement. 

Paradoxical to the first point, hosting others does not equate to endorsing every aspect of their worldview. It doesn’t mean you agree with every value they hold. Hospitality embraces diversity and sometimes even encourages dialogue. It acknowledges that differences can coexist within a community committed to wellbeing and respect. 

This one can be challenging, especially within tribalistic climates that coax us into prioritizing comfort within echo chambers over any interaction with someone whose viewpoint differs from our own. Take social media algorithms, for example. They show you exactly what you want to see. Hospitality scrambles the timeline. It presents us with entirely unfamiliar information and invites us to scroll with equanimity.  

Consider the tapestry of voices that enrich your life. What does it take to extend a genuine welcome to those whose values differ from your own? How do you create a space where diverse beliefs coexist?

Judgment shadows the spirit of welcome. 

Hospitality thrives in an atmosphere of acceptance. It doesn’t come with judgment. It doesn’t scrutinize or condemn. Hospitality generates a judgment-free zone, where individuals are loved and valued for who they are. 

Anyone who’s ever visited Planet Fitness knows about The Lunk Alarm. It is a literal siren on the wall that flashes and sounds if someone is caught intimidating or judging – ultimately drawing attention, disrupting workouts, and alerting gym staff to the intimidating and judgmental person. Can you think of a recent context where you’ve felt intimidated or judged? It may be at a church, within your workplace, or between you and another family member. In any of those contexts, imagine if a loud siren were triggered every time someone judged you (or you judged another). You won’t find a Lunk Alarm at our retreat center, but we hope you’ll encounter an environment free from judgment and open to understanding. We believe our work is to create an open door for you to be transformed in precisely the way you need to be. 

Recognize the warmth of a welcome without intimidation. In what relationship would you like to see the barrier of judgment melted into a generous embrace?

Transactional hospitality misses the mark. 

Genuine hospitality is not a business transaction. It’s not about expecting something in return for the welcome extended. This obviously gets complicated for conference & retreat centers as guests pay to be here, yet our highest hope is always to prioritize the value of connection over any monetary exchange. As a mission-driven, non-profit organization, we rely heavily on donors and volunteers to subsidize the costs of all components of our retreats including facilities, food, amenities, grounds, and staffing. As a result, we charge our guests a fraction of the “total cost” to host them, so to speak. Additionally, later this year we’re launching a scholarship fund to further offset costs specifically for personal retreatants. Stay tuned for ways to contribute to (or benefit from) that fund! 

In your own life, reflect on a transactional relationship guided by some exchange compared to a rich connection that regularly transcends the material. How do they compare? What is the currency of hospitality?


Mount Olivet Conference & Retreat Center strives to be an environment where groups and individuals can find connection and renewal without the burden of coercion, conditions, transactions, or judgment. Compelled by the true spirit of hospitality, we look forward to welcoming all who seek a space of love, understanding, and openness. 

How do you think about what hospitality is and isn’t? We look forward to reading your reflections in the comments below! 



  1. Holly Widen says:

    Good morning Jeremy,
    Thank you so very much for your words of wisdom. Such thoughtful, inspiring, encouraging, helpful, compassionate, meaningful and spiritual comments.
    Well done !
    I am so very grateful for all that you and the entire staff do to make our Retreat Center a place of genuine hospitality.
    I am excited and looking forward to our Women’s Retreat. See you soon ,
    Thanks again,
    Holly Widen

  2. kent busman says:

    As the director of said “funky, hippie, Jesus camp in upstate NY” I would simply like to add that Jesus modeled for us wonderful ways to live into the sort of radical hospitality that Jeremy writes about. It’s a big challenge to welcome “the other” in ways that hold them as dear as your own understandings of the world, etc. There is no ‘right’ way to do this, just a lot of wrong ways. Oh, and I might add, how hospitable we are to the world around us often is a good metric to how hospitable we are going to be to each other.

  3. Jeremy Bork says:

    Precisely! Thanks for this reminder. 🙏

  4. Karen Johnson says:

    I am most inspired in the sharing of Hospitality focus @ MOCRC, learning of its opportunities to experience its gift, as well as what it is not! Hospitality was key in ministry of Jesus, bringing his message to others in his travels. I’ve kept that focus in my forefront- now reflecting on my life experiences-my birth family, raising our family, volunteer work/church/other, employment, travel, etc., with opportunities to meet/greet/know one another with a genuine interest in their very being, to inquire, listen with enjoyment of their lives, all playing a role in values exemplified @ MOCRC!

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