Two years ago, a family I have never met gave my family a precious gift, thanks to a home-sharing and short-term rental website called LutheranBnB.
In May 2020, my husband, our children and I welcomed our sixth child. While the birth went well, technically speaking, the last three months of that pregnancy were fraught with the effects of worldwide panic.
Lockdowns forced me to suddenly homeschool five children while being very pregnant, caring for a toddler and working full-time from home. My schoolteacher husband also worked overtime to try to compensate for being forcibly separated from his students, some of whom had special needs and especially needed consistent, in-person instruction.
I struggled to find anyone to watch my five other kids for my remaining prenatal appointments, from which they were banned as a “health risk.” We were told I would have to go through birth alone, a scenario that filled me with almost unbearable anxiety.
My husband was eventually allowed to attend that birth, thank God. Still, after that traumatic three months, I was desperate for a rest. But how can a family of eight vacation right after depleting their health deductible and while their daddy’s job might be erased?
The mercy and kindness of God showed up for us in the form of fellow Christians, who offered their beautiful home to us via LutheranBnB that summer. It was a prayer answered with joy amid a difficult time, not just for us, but for everyone. I still can close my eyes and remember being very tired but also very happy nursing the newborn as my other children played on our hosts’ back patio equipped with boxes of delightful toys, lovingly opened to us by strangers who treated us as beloved family in Christ.
A new kind of BnB
That was my first experience with Lutheran BnB, a Lutheran site similar to AirBnB. AirBnB, however, requires participants to support anti-Christian sexual practices. This may not only trouble Christian consciences but also make them unwilling to risk their family’s safety and innocence by hosting on the site.
LutheranBnB requires no such thing. Lutherans’ shared confession of faith creates an atmosphere of trust and protection between guests and hosts. Most hosts charge a fee, like AirBnB hosts do. Many of the hosts on LutheranBnB also offer discounted or free lodging in their guest rooms, homes, cabins and in-law suites for pastors, teachers or other church workers, to especially bless those who serve the church full-time.
Beyond opportunities to offer hospitality to fellow Christians, LutheranBnB offers opportunities for fellowship and encouragement between members of the Body of Christ. It’s a venue for heeding St. Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6:9–10, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Founded by Lutherans for Lutherans
Website cofounder Aaron Nielsen started LutheranBnB with a friend in 2016. They went in together to pay for hosting and a website developer, he told me in a phone interview. After his cofounder’s life became busy with a growing family, Nielsen bought out his share and now runs it himself. Donations help cover his ongoing website costs.
Nielsen told me many Lutherans have been blessed by their family in Christ through the website. One woman used LutheranBnB to attend the Issues, Etc. conference in Chicago, Ill., he said. She noticed her hosts displayed banners commemorating their children’s Baptism days in their home, but one was missing. The family explained they hadn’t found time to make their youngest child’s baptismal banner yet. Before she left for home, the visitor went to a craft store and bought the supplies to make the missing banner, Nielsen related.
Missionaries especially benefit from the site, Nielsen said, because it allows them to connect with Lutherans they wouldn’t otherwise have met, and at a low cost. This assists them in their mission while in the United States of sharing their work with as many congregations as possible.
Nielsen said he hopes every Lutheran who has a couch — or more — to offer their family in Christ will do so via the site, which is free to all users and entirely donation-supported. He said top-desired destinations for Lutherans are of course the seminary cities of Saint Louis, Mo., and Fort Wayne, Ind., as well as where the Concordia universities reside, especially Chicago, Ill.; Mequon, Wis.; and Seward, Neb. Nielsen said he’d love to have enough donations to market to potential hosts to help meet the higher need Lutherans express for safe, friendly lodging in these cities.