It makes me chuckle out loud every time someone thanks me for my hospitality.
Who me? Hospitable? Nah, you’re talking to the wrong person.
I can’t help but laugh because what they don’t realize is that hospitality is not my gift.
If it was up to me, I’m sure I wouldn’t open my home so easily or throw a party when the guest list size knows no limits. But see, God gave me this quiet, reserved, humble man as a husband, who happens to delight in seeing people gather together. He may not be comfortable with small talk, but he loves setting the stage for others to connect. He can serve without running out of reserves, especially when he see a practical need that can be easily met.
I’m not at all like him, which is probably why we are a good match. However, when it comes to hospitality, it’s a problem. I recharge alone, have a high standard for how my space ought to link, and like to be prepared for everything. Sure,I may be able to set a Pinterest-worthy table and arrange a guest room in a pinch, but that does not mean I have a heart for hospitality — rather it’s my creative and practical side kicking into gear as I compliment my husband’s gifts.
After nearly 18 years of being married to a hospitality guru, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to open my home without stressing out.
I’ve discovered that being hospitable doesn’t have to be overwhelming nor done perfectly Pinterestable. It doesn’t have to be planned well in advance nor embraced without boundaries.
Hospitality can be learned.
I’m living proof of that reality!
While the gift of hospitality is most certainly given to some, it can certainly be cultivated in the rest of us.
I’ve experienced the blessing of watching God work through my less-than-hospitable nature, stretching me to serve beyond what I thought were my limits. And I’ve witnessed how God will use our family, resources, and time, to bless those hungry for connection, fellowship, and honest-to-goodness fun. If the Lord has done that in our family, I’m sure He’s eager to do that in your family, too. So here are three key steps I’ve discovered on cultivating a heart for hospitality.
3 Steps to Cultivating a Heart for Hospitality
1. Determine Your Expectations
When we think of being hospitable, usually we have some sort of expectation in mind about how it should look and what we should be able to accomplish. So what are your expectations? Consider things like:
My home needs to look like this ___________.
My family needs to be able to do this ___________.
My decorations need to be like this ____________.
My budget needs to be this amount _____________.
My time needs to be more like this _______________.
My life needs to be like this overall _____________.
Now, let me ask you the toughest question: Are those expectations reasonable? Or are you comparing yourself to someone else? Do you have unrealistic expectations for what it would me for you to embrace your own kind of hospitality based on the season of life your in today?
While our twins were still infants, my husband and I had to work through some conflict in terms of our expectations when it came to opening our home. I wanted to keep the invitations and parties to a bare minimum — like none — while He was ready to get back into the swing of things much sooner than I felt I could do so. I kept promising that this season would be over soon enough, and I could be a hostess again, but because hospitality was not my gift, He was afraid I’d always have a “season” reason.
As we sought to pinpoint the reason behind my resistances, we could see that I had a pretty set standard for how our home should look if we were going to have guests — a too high standard that I was having trouble keeping up with at the time in light of nursing babies and sleep deprivation, which were certainly reasonable issues. We compromised by meeting each other half-way: I’d entertain the idea of hosting a small gathering every once in a while, if there was enough time in his schedule to help me get the house ready at a standard only slightly lower than my usual. After trial and error, we learned to trust one another, depend on each other, and serve together seeing that our guests were more focused on enjoying the people more than their surroundings.
2. Ditch the Excuses
What are the excuses that keep you from opening your home for a party, small gathering, or overnight guest? Do you have a reason that is truly valid for saying no to opportunities rather than stepping out in faith to serve imperfectly, but with grace? Which of these excuses derail your hospitality hopes?
- My home isn’t clean enough.
- My home isn’t pretty enough.
- My home isn’t big enough.
- My home is too much of a mess while we’re in the middle of this project.
- My home isn’t in the “right” neighborhood.
- I don’t want to invite too many people, but I don’t want to leave anyone out.
- I don’t have enough money to get the food or decorations people would expect.
- I don’t want to inconvenience my family.
- I don’t want my children to have to share a room to accommodate a guest.
- I don’t think I can do it like ______.
- I’m afraid someone might think ______.
As you consider these excuses, consider whether they are truly valid or if you’re using the excuse to hide behind a fear or insecurity. Pray about what you feel, asking the Lord to give you insight and an answer for all your excuses. And talk to your friends or family to see if they can help you see your situation from another perspective.
During a time when we lived in a rather small home, I struggled with the excuse that our space wasn’t big enough to have a gathering. But that excuse changed dramatically after talking to my mom’s life-long friend about our space being too small. She shared a story with me about how everyone would pack into my grandma’s “city” house and have a blast together. Although I was too little to remember, the thought of it caused me to reframe my “too small space” excuse with “if they could do it, then so can I.” I began to ask God to give me vision for how to use my small home for His purposes, even thanking Him for our little space rather than grumbling about it all the time. Let’s just say God got a hold of my heart, showing me how to be a flexible and creative hostess, regardless of the sized of our home.
3. Decide on the Details
As you think about cultivating a heart for hospitality, whether it comes in the form of hosting a party, planning a small gathering, or opening your home to guest, take time to decide on the details. Also consider the ways you can solicit help and scale back, so that the preparations don’t turn you into an exhausted and cranky hostess. Use these questions to jump start your decision-making process:
- What date is ideal for this particular gathering? What’s happening the week before? The week after?
- What time will it start? End? How does that affect set-up and clean-up?
- What do we have to do to get the place ready? Can we just close doors on certain spaces, so they don’t need to be cleaned up?
- What needs to be cleaned? Organized? Decluttered? And what should wait until after the party?
- What needs to be purchased? Food, drinks, tableware? Should we use paper, plastic, china?
- When it comes to budget, what’s the least amount of money that can be spent on this? What is worth the extra expense to save in the preparation or clean up time?
- Who should be invited? If the desired guest list is too large for the budget, be creative and go pot-luck style, encouraging guests to bring one item. Trust me, people love to pitch in!
- When should the invitations go out by? Can it be done digitally? Who needs a printed version? Will there be an RSVP? Who is keeping track?
- Who is going to help get the space ready?
- Who is going to do the shopping?
- Who is going to help on the set up? Clean up?
- How long should you expect an overnight guest to stay? How will you communicate that it’s time to leave?
- Who is being bunked in another room? How long will that work for your family?
- What does your guest need in their room to be comfortable? How will you handle meals with your guest?
Hospitality is contagious — and it is something that can be caught early on by our children and collaborated on with friends.
Each time we get ready to throw a party, whether it’s planned a month in advance or days ahead of time, we have a pow-wow meeting to decide on what’s reasonable in light of our time and resources.
Since we’ve approached hospitality with an all-hands on deck mentality from the time our kids hit elementary school, it’s pretty much natural for them to pitch in now. The oldest are teens and they help with the whole process, from making sure that the house is picked up and cleaned in the common areas, to being willing to have their siblings bunk in their rooms when we have overnight guest. Our kids love having people enjoy being in our home, and so their contribution makes hosting all the more enjoyable as well as possible.
Determine to Do It Again
Would you like to know the real secret about cultivating a heart for hospitality? Determine right now to do it more than once! Give yourself the opportunity to learn what works for you and your family by opening your home again and again, at a pace and for a purpose that makes sense in light of your season and circumstances. With each opportunity, you’ll discover techniques and pick up on tools that make hosting easier and more enjoyable . . . and maybe that will become part 2, where I share what I’ve learned!
What are your suggestions for cultivating a heart for hospitality?
If you’d like help in cultivating a heart for hospitality, I’d love to become your biggest cheerleader. For more information about how I can serve you as a life coach, use the contact form below to request a free consultation.