Practicing Hospitality When Not Everyone in the Family Enjoys It

After my post on common excuses for not practicing hospitality, K commented,

I so enjoy having people over, & the pleasure of their company is almost always worth whatever planning & expense is involved. Question: how to help my husband into the joy of hospitality? He loves orderliness and quiet, and that is, well, not usually what happens when we have company over :-) Our compromise so far has been to have smaller groups of people over at a time (just one other family, for example), but I would love to have several families over at a time. Any ideas for how to motivate the value of hospitality?

I have been thinking about this question over the summer, and we plan to revisit this topic again in the fall.  While I’m by no means an expert hostess, here are a few more thoughts I have about practicing hospitality when not everyone in the family enjoys it.

  • I think K is on to something with starting small if you’re not used to it.  If you grew up in a home where people were not invited over, just having another family over for dinner might be a big deal.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing that for a while, finding what works for you and your husband.  As a new homemaker, I needed a lot of practice in pulling together company meals that were ready to eat at the right time!  I don’t cringe now when we have a dozen of my husband’s students over for dinner because I practiced an Italian company meal several times with a smaller group of guests.
  • For those of us who live in small spaces, it’s going to be impossible to keep the house orderly when you add five or ten or fifteen more people.  Our family’s solution is actually to carry our kitchen table onto our back patio and serve from our small patio table.  The mess, noise, and chaos is all outside, and the house stays relatively put together.  If you don’t have a back yard, can you host a picnic dinner at the park?

Practicing Hospitality |

  • A recent bout of cooking with one of my girlfriends got me thinking about practicing joint hospitality.  If one of you has a better set-up for hosting (or a family who enjoys it), can you host a joint dinner party?  I’m envisioning spending a Saturday afternoon cooking with a friend while our husbands take the kids down to the neighborhood playground and bring them back when the other guests arrive.  We’d get to hang out while cooking, the husbands would get to hang out and have quality time with the kids, and we could actually make the house presentable for company.  This is now on my to-do list for the fall!
  • Another thing to consider is the dynamics of the guests you invite.  My friend Hannah is one of the best hostesses I know, largely because she puts together dinner parties of people who will enjoy spending an evening together, even if they haven’t previously met.  I’ve been to some awkward meals where the hostess thought, “We’ll get along!  We’re all Christians!”  Or “we’re all lawyers!”  Or “we all have kids!”  But with nothing else in common, that’s where we stop.  I’ve been to great get-togethers where we’re all Christians who enjoy discussing classical music and philosophy, or where we’re all young families who enjoy Euro-style games, or where we’re all academic families who like to cook.  Good conversation certainly motivates me to want to do it again.
  • Nancy Wilson recently posted helpful advice on being a good guest.  We need to make sure that our family is contributing positively to the culture of hospitality by being good guests.  I’d add that a good guest or a good hostess will work hard to draw the other guests out and find common ground.  If your husband doesn’t enjoy or feel comfortable doing this, you need to make sure that you are.  Oftentimes I know so much more about the families we get together with because I’ve spent a lot of time talking to the wife at Bible study, playdates, or the park.  I try to give my husband a run-down of possible conversation topics and things he might have in common with the other husband(s).  I try to remind the kids of things they might enjoying discussing or playing with the other kids.  If we go to someone’s house (or have them into ours) with a plan, it often helps us get to know them better.  Getting to know people better usually makes all of us want to spend more time with them.

In closing, I do want to acknowledge that not everyone is going to just love practicing hospitality.  Each of us have different gifts and personalities, and an introvert who likes quiet might never enjoy it the same way as an extrovert who doesn’t mind chaos.  But hopefully we can encourage ourselves, our husbands, and our children to value this particular Biblical command.  What do you think?

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