When we became Christians, we were not social people – I was deathly afraid of being a hostess, of organizing, cooking, and entertaining. Since then, we’ve grown in ways that may be helpful to share, especially for those who wouldn’t have a problem just keeping to themselves. But please know that I still have such a need to grow in this area as well.
Now, this is not an article on the Why’s of Hospitality; that’s not the purpose today so forgive me for assuming hospitality is a necessity.
- Put it on the Radar The first step is acknowledging that this is an area needing growth. Life is busy, our own families and friendships already require maintenance and time. If we haven’t considered undiscovered, undernourished friendships in the church, neighborhoods, or workplaces, the best we can do at this moment is decide to make a change. Jot down a name or two of someone and commit to pursuing them. Baby steps.
- Delegate Cooking Thanksgiving-esque meals weekly for different families will be 1) exhausting, 2) budget-killing, and 3) temporary, because we won’t keep it up. Asking people to bring additional food, drink, or dessert relieves pressure, saves money, considers those with food restrictions, and allows those without a larger budget to still be hospitable. Also, three words: go-to recipe.
- Team UpDo you have a talkative friend or one who knows more people than you? Are you too scared to go alone? Team up. Then, as you learn more about others, you might think “Oh, they would get along with so-and-so” and you can facilitate. Bringing people together purposefully relieves awkwardness. If you’re the life of the party, easy peasy. If not, notice those who are and buddy up. Also, gravitating towards those in similar circumstances is natural but don’t neglect those older or younger, who have different family situations or beliefs. If that’s even more intimidating, again, buddy systems.
- Get CreativeWhen I hear “hospitality”, I think “dinner.” Pioneer Woman. Grocery bill. And that’s not always financially feasible. So, here are alternatives: play-dates, parks, afternoon coffee, evening dessert, game/movie night with snacks, pitch-in, a left-over party (heard of a group of families sharing leftovers after Thanksgiving). Hang out sans food. Establish traditions. Several from our congregation flock to McDonald’s after evening services. Offer a craft lesson, exercise together. Go to the Farmer’s Market, the fair, volunteer at a local shelter. Host studies for students. Consider singles, retirees, widows. Ladies’ nights, men’s groups. Nursing home singings, caroling around neighborhoods. Is it a nice day and you’re doing xyz? Spontaneously invite someone along.The goal is to progress from being acquaintances to becoming family. More often than not, we already know how; we do it with our best friends and our families.
- Clean, or Don’tA hindrance can be self-consciousness about our homes. On the one hand, you know we’re close if I don’t care when you show up or in which state you see me or my house. It’s an indication of success if an acquaintance for whom you began deep-cleaning every corner and cushion, becomes a friend who can barge in on your bedhead. That said, I personally schedule people over so that I have a reason to clean the house. I’ve been occasionally purposeful about accepting company even when our house is not ready though. That’s life and it’s good to 1) as the host, be okay with it and 2) as the guest, to see it. Being in various homes helped my self-consciousness: some were pristine, others not. Hospitality isn’t reserved for one subset of completely put-together people in one price-range of homes, decorated accordingly. Stepping out of comfort zones is scary. But trust the introvert in me: that scariness subsides. It becomes about people. The friendships, good conversation, sharing in suffering and burdens, the intimacy. The food and the gathering place become the afterthought.
- Know Your Limits and Cut Yourself Some Slack There are always those first-responders. Someone sick at your house today? By two-o-clock, they’re delivering food, cards, or babysitting your kids.
Others are known for their open-door policy and thrive off of taking everyone in at any given moment.That’s not me; not right now. Maybe, hopefully, with more time and more experience. But spending my time dwelling on the people I haven’t befriended yet or even spoken to, or comparing myself to those who are further along on the neighborliness ladder, would only overwhelm me.The times I’ve went all out – scheduling multiple weekly events – have been exciting while they lasted, but the problem was that they didn’t last. I burned out and we’d withdraw hardly seeing anyone for months. To make up for all the guilt and self-loathing, I’d over-commit again, repeating the cycle.
I’m idealistic, seeing the best form of what should be done and downplaying any good if it doesn’t meet the standard. How debilitating! Yet when I say “no” because I’m reaching my limits, the ultimate result is the ability to say “yes” more consistently than when I overextended myself, resulting in a breakdown. Observe your energy levels, the needs of your marriage and kids, notice how much is too much, and set those boundaries, guilt-free.Are you trying? Have you made baby steps? Can you see positive changes over the years? Are you progressing? Is this need on your radar and are you doing something about it? Then cut yourself some slack. If each Christian did at least that much, imagine the growth of vulnerability between members, the influence among the community, imagine how the needs of those who don’t have family and friends would be met. We need each Christian doing *something* within their ability.Have a story or tips to share? Leave a comment with your experiences and wisdom!