Practicing hospitality in our homes is essential to our work in church planting (see The Why of Hospitality), both for community connections and church connections. As a church planting pastors’ wife in a church without a building or a large budget, my husband and I must primarily use our personal budget to carry out our ministry. Our small budget has forced me to get creative with how I practice hospitality. Here’s what I have learned about hospitality and how to practice it:
Know the goal of hospitality.
I have learned first and foremost that the goal in hospitality is not perfection; it is inviting people into relationships and into our hearts. It’s not about impressing people and giving them some sort of awe-inspiring experience, but rather making people feel welcome, comfortable, and accepted.
Get the Martha Stewart ideas out of your head right now, take a deep breath, and simply focus on building relationships through the stewardship of your home.
Perfect a simple signature meal.
At the beginning of our plant, we invited most church guests and people we were connecting with in our community into our home for a meal. I developed a menu that I used for every guest that I felt confident in making and was easy and inexpensive. When items from my signature meal went on sale, I bought in bulk. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that I use when guests come over. (My Go-To Recipes for Hosting)
Collect tools and resources for hospitality.
I love receiving gifts that make having people in my home easy and fun, and I typically ask for something hospitality-related for Christmas: perhaps a cookbook, an ice bucket, serving dishes, pitchers, or extra silverware. Most of these things aren’t necessary, but they make hospitality easier and more fun for me, leaving me with few excuses not to do it.
Keep staples on hand.
For parties, larger dinners, and weekly small group meetings, I keep paper products (including kids’ cups) on hand, as well as staples such as coffee, sweeteners, lemonade mix, and popcorn.
Make it a group effort.
Anytime I can, I ask people to share the load. Our community group takes turns bringing snacks, we often have potluck dinners, and I always accept a dinner guest’s offer to bring something as a side or dessert.
Think outside of the dinner box.
Sometimes, instead of inviting people for dinner, I will invite them for dessert and coffee, which is much cheaper and less labor-intensive. In the warmer months, we take advantage of the fact that our church meets in an elementary school–we invite a family to stay after church and have a picnic with us at the school’s playground. Perhaps my favorite thing to do is to invite people over for games after my kids have gone to bed, which I’ve found is great for connecting people from different life stages and social circles.
Keep it simple.
Simplicity is the most important thing to remember when practicing hospitality on a budget. Why meet a friend for lunch when you can meet for coffee or, better yet, have her over for coffee at your house? Why buy a cake for a shower when you can make a lovely one yourself? Why freak out about a complex dinner menu when hosting friends?
Simple works, and it enables you to concentrate on guests rather than worry about the presentation of your home or the food you’ve prepared.
Hospitality doesn’t depend on money. It depends on relationship. With a little creativity and a lot of simplicity, we can all practice it well (and enjoy it in the process!). And we must if we hope to make connections in our churches and communities.
Published May 5, 2015