I am SO excited about this series. The ladies at church recognise that we need fellowship, so they’re trying to organise women’s meetings, bible studies, fellowship teas etc. and I’m convinced we just need to get into each others’ homes. You get to know each other better across a kitchen table than eating biscuits at church! But hospitality, sadly, seems to be a practice of older generations.
We have found it really helpful to set aside a regular and consistent time to have an open-invitation dinner - particularly to welcome internationals, but also open to other members of church. Holding it on the last Saturday night of every month at 6.30 pm @ a regular venue means that the students and workers makes it easy for the internationals to remember. For ourselves as the host, and others on our team, it means we don't always have to rethink the wheel when it comes to the best date and we (and others on our team) can organise our calendar around it, well in advance.
I try to discipline myself to start the day with a cleanish kitchen. One of the things that freaks me out about having people around is wanting to offer them something or cook something and being unable to find stuff beforehand. Having the kitchen completely ready to go no matter who or how many walk through the door removes one significant anxiety about having people around. Having the rest of the house clean is a nice bonus but, as our guests can testify, fairly optional.
The thing I am learning over time is that hospitality is going to look different, at different seasons of our lives. For me, with young children, even though I like to have people to our home the size of our home is not always suitable for having tribes of parents and kids over. Even though some of our intentional hospitality time is spent having people over we also intentionally go to parks etc to suit the occasion. With our youngest child turning three soon we have crossed into the next stage of lots of noisy children who like to have lots of space to run around. The coffee and a biscuit morning teas in lounge rooms or cafes seems to be a thing of the past.
The other thing I am trying to get better at is being flexible. I have to be so flexible in accommodating Rob's working week that I compensate by having a very strict home routine. I need to work at not expecting the house to be tidy, kids to be well behaved and having baked goods on hand when having people in our home.
I have neglected hospitality in the past - mostly because I think I'm not very good at cooking or cleaning or any of the things required to have people in our home comfortably. I also find it difficult to know how to best serve our congregation who don't like western food or do not have much english. On top of this I don't have much energy left in the week to spend on having people over. However, I realised recently that we are doing a lot of hospitality because we are forced (by not having a church building of our own) to have Youth group (which includes dinner) and Bible Study and team meetings and also any whole church events in our home.
We have people for dinner often because we plan to do it often. We have atleast ten for dinner every second Friday night because it's on the calendar. Luke's congregation are mainly single professional types, so we just gather a bunch, have a meal and play a game. We often also have people in before homegroup, or share a meal as part of marriage prep, but our Friday night dinners are on, regardless of other things.
Friday nights in our house are also pizza and movie nights, and we're fortunate that we're still at a stage that our kids are young enough so we can do both. We put the movie on at about 5.30, and they're in bed by 7.30 (although do often come down to say hello as they hear people arriving!)
We use public holidays to have a bunch over for brunch. And I enjoy having the kids around for this. As all of the guests are childless, I think they really enjoy having the kids around too.
We sometimes do Sunday lunches, but having been at the church for about a year, we realised that we really just had to focus on one group of people - even though the children and I attend one of the family services every week, Luke's focus is night church, so that is who we primarily focus on. Early Saturday night dinners are a good time for us to catch up with families with young kids so it's all over red rover by about 8pm. Aahhh.
In terms of easy dinners, we try and make our meals healthy, fuss-free and we don't serve alcohol. The thinking behind this is that if people are struggling with booze or food, we don't want that to be an issue at our place. If people bring wine, we serve it (not sure how to say thanks but no thanks without making them feel silly for bringing it ... hmmmm ... still thinking about that), but generally now people know that Luke doesn't drink anyway and so often don't bring it. We generally cook some meat on the BBQ, do a big salad, something a bit carby, and a fruit based dessert or a pavlova. We don't eat meat except for when we have friends over (that's a whole other discussion on delicacies and having whatever we want when we want ...) so we look forward to a bit of a meat feast to have with friends. This means that the cost of the meat isn't such an issue at these times.
Another thing that I think has made a difference with having people in our home is that we have a cleaner (Is that scandalous? I feel nervous even admitting it!) I don't work in paid work, but would sacrifice lots of other thing if needed to pay to have someone clean our house every fortnight. It means that our house never gets gross. You know, so gross that I think "I can't have anyone over, I'm too embarrassed". I would hate for that to be a reason for me not to open my home and there are other things that I want to do with my time. I guess it's also my experience - my mum always paid someone to clean our house growing up, so it doesn't seem that extravegant for me. I sweep the floor every night, and keep the kitchen tidy, and that's it. We don't even own a vaccuum cleaner!
If you have any ideas to make hospitality revolving around meals work better, please leave a comment! Next week, I'll share your examples of extended hospitality.