Hospitality is not my gift. Inadequate is the best way to describe my feelings. When my husband and I accepted the call to pastor the church we are currently serving, we felt a strong need to invite church members into our home. We wanted to get to know them, and we wanted them to get to know us.
At the time, the easiest way to do this was to invite each Sunday School department into our home. The groups were large, and it was crowded at times, but our church members thoroughly enjoyed coming over. So far, more than 300 people have come through our home over a three-year period of time, with more to come!
At the thought of putting together a centerpiece I break out in a sweat. I’m not a great cook. But inviting people over was important enough that I push past the obstacles – the expense, the lack of time, the pressure to present a perfectly-clean and well-decorated home with a beautiful meal and creative presentation. I learned to focus on what I have, not what I don’t have. I learned to keep it simple, allowing others to help, and relax.
Here are four tips to ease the stress of inviting people over:
- Pick a theme. A couple of my favorite themes are January Chili Supper, February Italian Dinner, Potatoes and Pie Night (baked potato bar), May Cinco de Mayo Mexican Night, Backyard Barbeque, Staff Christmas Party, Pizza Party, and Youth Grinch Christmas Party. Our 80-year-olds joined us on a fall Friday afternoon for cider and pumpkin spice Chex mix. The house was full of wheel chairs and walkers, and only one person fell!
- Accept help. Once you have a theme and people ask how they can help, or what they can bring, have an answer for them. I usually provide the meat or main dish and then have a detailed sign-up sheet and ask everyone to bring the rest.
- Send out simple invitations. This can be a mentioned during the Sunday School class, an email, social media or actual invitations.
- Just breathe and enjoy your guests! Your house will always have corners that need to be cleaner. Like me, you may have a list of things that need to be updated. People are excited to be invited over. The cleanliness of the home, the food and everything else is secondary to building the relationships with people.
Inviting people to spend time with us in our home shows church members that we are just normal people. It gives us an opportunity to have conversations with those we wouldn’t get to speak with on Sundays. It deepens relationships. It shows that we care and that we love our church members. I was amazed at the number of people who said they had never been to their pastor’s home or that it had been 20 years since they were invited.
Hospitality is Biblical servanthood. It’s about loving people and making them feel special. Our mindset should be one of service, not impressing people. Our focus should be on the people, not our home, the food or the presentation. The cost cannot compare with the benefit. You too, can conquer your fears. Come on over!