In the day and age of cell phones, busy schedules and so much on-the-go, old fashioned visiting and having company over has really fallen by the wayside. It wasn’t that long ago that days “out” consisted of spending afternoons at the neighbors’ or visiting on porches in the summer: now everyone is cocooned in their own little houses and share pictures of their life on Instagram.
Visiting over leisurely dinners is a precious gift. Inviting people to your home is a way of showing them an intimate piece of yourself. Whenever we get invited out, it is a very BIG deal to us. The kids talk about it for days in anticipation, I relish the outing and the visit with ADULTS, and it just adds a little bit of nourishment to our souls. When you have a bigger family, or maybe your “circle” just doesn’t do that type of thing, you may have to start a trend yourself. Here are some easy tips for having people over, when you feel a bit overwhelmed.
- Invite two groups. I always invite people in multiples. Either two single people, or two couples, two families, etc. That way, if handsome hubby and I are both busy with a child (they outnumber us, so it WILL happen at some point in the visit) the conversation can be carried on without us. It may sound harder to have more people, but I find that things flow easier.
- Keep it simple. Right now is the perfect season for outdoor barbecues! The house will require limited cleaning before and after, the menu can be easy, and it’s just more relaxing all around. Spilled juice is no big deal outside.
- Research. Do they have allergies or intolerances? Make sure to know that before you start cooking. Sending someone to the hospital is never a great ending to an evening. Also, try to think of a couple things going on in your guests’ lives that you can ask about, and even tell your children so that they might participate in the conversation. Usually, our kids are assigned one question each (at least) to ask of the guests. With our oldest, I have been teaching him to ask follow up questions. For example: “Where do you work at?” “What do you like about it?” It helps them become conversationalists, too.
- Menu. Make something easy, affordable and in bulk. I ran out of food at one big get together (there were three surprise guests, in my defense, but I’ll never live it down!) I like to serve things that will go far- soup, spaghetti, turkey with the sides, etc. Anything you can add lots of sides to goes over well with different allergies and tastes. Think salads, finger foods, breads, chopped vegetables.
- Prep. The more you can do ahead of time, the better. My favourite evenings are the ones where I made all the food up the day before, so that during the day I could clean up and spend time with the children, and keep my focus where it should be. This way the kids could be more involved- they’ve collected leaves from outside for the table, made name cards for the guests, pictures to gift them when they leave- but there needs to be a sense of peace and time in order to have fun in this way.
- Drop it. If you start to get stressed by the condition of your home, the food, anything- check your heart. Romans 12:10-13 says:”Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” In opening your home to others, you are showing God’s love. Don’t lose focus on that and try to “get it all done.” He doesn’t care about the state of our homes nearly so much as the state of our heart. He doesn’t care that dinner is burnt, but that you made it in love. He is our only Audience- do all you do for His glory.
- Pray. Pray over your home before they arrive; involve your children. It is so important that our homes are shelters in the storms, and places where people feel safe. Pray for your guests, pray for your children. Pray for your meatloaf, if you think it needs it.
- Relax. Have fun! If people made time out of their busy schedules to come to your home, they obviously value time spent with you. That is the highest honour, when time is so dear and treasured. So don’t worry if the kids start fighting at the table, or ask a super embarrassing question, or forget to shut the door when they use the bathroom. It’s part of your charm!
- Start small. Dinner sound like too much? Have guests over for coffee on a Sunday night. They probably won’t stay as long, some baking or a quick snack is plenty, and it’s a great way to ease into the process.
- Activity. If you can incorporate a game or activity into it, all the better! One of our family’s favourite times was spent at a couple’s house who helped the kids make all their own individual pizzas. It was a time to be treasured!
Hospitality is something that I don’t practice as much as I’d like. There is something about breaking bread with friends and people you don’t know that well that adds a specialness to your week, and your relationship. This summer, I am going to make it a goal to have three different occasions before the end of August to encourage our children on how to be good hosts, and to give some friends and acquaintances a night out. Who’s with me? I’d love to hear your best stories- good times, crazy times, and embarrassing times- when you have tried to be a good host!