Toward a Culture of Hospitality: Preparation

hospitality requires preparation | everythingtosomeone.com

I’ve talked about hospitality on the blog before, but some recent discussions and experiences have gotten me thinking more about the need to cultivate a culture of hospitality in our neighborhoods and churches.  I’m going to spend a few more posts talking about different aspects of hospitality.  Let’s start by thinking about how we can prepare to host people in our homes.

  • Plan it into your schedule.  If you’re like me, hospitality isn’t going to happen if you’re not actively planning on it.  There are times (like when I’m throwing up for the first 20+ weeks of pregnancy or when my husband has a bunch of back-to-back work trips) that aren’t conducive to having people over.  But when life is fairly normal, I try to sit down with my husband and plan out a few nights that we’d like to have dinner guests and compile a list of people we’ve been meaning to have over.
  • Put it into the budget.  Even if you are making all the food from scratch, extra mouths to feed (particularly when you’re hosting a large family like mine) can really put a dent into the food budget.  Plan accordingly.
  • Ask about food limitations when you have people over, and have appropriate food on hand.  One of the little boys we get together with most frequently here is allergic to dairy and wheat.  So I always make sure I have rice milk and safe snacks in my pantry for whenever they’re over.  Likewise, I always planned a gluten-free dessert for small group nights when we had a member with Celiac disease.
  • Along the same lines, it’s thoughtful to stock up on what your houseguests like.  My parents drink a lot of coffee, so we always pick up a couple extra pounds before they come.  My husband loves that his mom usually bakes his favorite banana chocolate chip muffins when we come home.  Do your friends like a special kind of tea?  A particular breakfast cereal?  A brand of chips?
  • Have some quick and easy ingredients on hand for impromptu guests.  We try to keep spaghetti sauce in the freezer and pasta in the pantry for a quick company meal.  If whipping up homemade desserts isn’t your thing, maybe an “emergency” carton of ice cream or box of brownie mix is a good idea.  Last time we stayed with Bethany, she pulled out some frozen cookie dough balls and had fresh baked cookies for us in no time.  (Brilliant!  Why did I never think of doing that before?!)
  • Have a quick pre-company cleaning routine that the kids can help do.  I’m actually a big believer in my friends seeing my house as it is, with the stray crayons under the table and burp rags stashed in random places.  I try not to stress about overcleaning before girlfriends come over for play dates.  With that said, though, I always do a quick swipe down of the bathroom, change out the hand towel, and get the kids to clear off the living room floor so that we have a “clean slate” for company play.  My goal is to be welcoming but not intimidating.  When we have dinner guests or house guests, I do a more thorough job.  (If you stay at my house, I do promise a clean bathtub and fresh sheets!)  Because we try to host on a pretty regular basis, my goal is to be never more than an hour’s worth of cleaning away from company-ready.

Ultimately, hospitality is always going to be a bit inconvenient.  I choose to embrace the sacrifice of cleaning up my house (which I should do, anyway), cooking a nicer meal (which is a blessing to my family, as well), and booking up my “free time” (which would otherwise get filled with something else) because I find that I get to know people best when we’re in each other’s homes.  But honestly, when I have a prepared mindset, the inconvenience is usually hardly noticeable to me.  And the more I’ve practiced, the smoother it has become.  Creating a culture of hospitality starts with being prepared.

What is the most intimidating thing to you about hospitality?  How do you consciously prepare to have people over?

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7 Responses to Toward a Culture of Hospitality: Preparation

  1. ESD says:

    We have a teeny, tiny kitchen, so the logistics of serving a full meal are daunting. We’ve had more success with serving desserts-only (6:30 p.m.) or an after-school/after-work “happy hour” (4:30 p.m.) with pretzels, snack mix, etc. Even though we won’t be known for our amazing meals, it gives us an hour or so of peaceful, friendly visiting and keeps the tone pretty mellow.

  2. Emily says:

    I love those ideas!

  3. Becky says:

    I love having people over. I’m not very good about planning ahead of time, so I mostly do things last minute (for example, calling a friend earlier this afternoon to come eat dinner with us tonight). We’ll just be having a bunch of left-overs and my apartment won’t be overly clean, but it should be fun! 🙂

    • Emily says:

      I am a big fan of last-minute hospitality, too. I’m thinking of doing a whole post on that, eventually. It’s great for me when my friends see my house as it really is, and I’d always rather be invited over last minute (and see some scattered toys or cheerios) than not get to hang out at all!

  4. Missy says:

    Great thoughts! We plan for Thursdays to be our hospitality night each week. With it planned into the schedule I stay on top of the clutter in the house better. One of the things that has helped me the most is starting a hospitality notebook with full meal plans, including main course, veggies, side dish and dessert. Hospitality has surely been a blessing in our family.

  5. Julie S says:

    Hi Emily! I’ve been enjoying reading through your blog. Hospitality is a bit of a sore point for me because my husband is the social one with lots of bachelor Guy Friends who tend to drop by without notice to chat or work on cars with him for a while… often over mealtimes. He likes the casual drop ins and doesn’t expect me to feed them, but I sure feel awkward and uninviting when Jeff comes in for dinner and they go home or wait for him to finish. Not my problem? What do you think?

    • Emily says:

      Julie, great to hear from you! Good question. I do think that it’s considerate for both spouses to agree on some ground rules in situations like that. One of my girlfriends has agreed with her husband that they have a couple Dude Nights a month–every other Thursday, or something like that. She is happy to practice hospitality, stock the fridge, make snacks, etc–as long as she knows ahead of time that he’ll be asking people over! Having several bachelors in my family, I do have a soft spot in my heart for them and enjoy feeding them home-cooked meals. Could you agree on a set night when he could invite his friends in to eat, then ask if they could come after the dinner hour on other nights? Bachelor guys are often quite clueless about things like predictable mealtimes.

      Anyone else have any ideas?

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