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?