Creating a welcoming home is a worthwhile endeavor as you entertain guests at home and build community. Here is your guide for making a welcoming space!
Complete How-to Guide for Creating a Welcoming Home
I have searched Pinterest many times with the hope of finding the perfect tutorial on how to make my home welcoming and warm. It is easy to scroll through social media and think the solution to making our homes feel warm and inviting comes in the form of modern decor trends and what’s cooking on the stove.
But allow me to let you in on a little secret, there are no hard and fast rules to welcome. It isn’t about whether or not you have the perfect number of throw pillows or the perfect lighting. It really is about the spirit of the place.
A clean space is not always a welcoming space.
Great food doesn’t always lead to great conversations.
And a mess on the living room floor from kids making forts and burned bread with dinner can lead to beautiful moments of community building.
Hospitality and the effort we put forth when building community in welcoming spaces doesn’t happen because we can check off an external list of things we have done.
But sometimes I wish that’s how it worked! It’s easier to be confident in our welcome when we have checked every box someone told us had to be done.
I say this in many areas of my life, but I often wish someone would just tell me exactly what to do because I would definitely do it! But that’s not how life works.
God is more interested in the heart behind Christian hospitality and people are too.
But really, that is good news for all of us. You don’t have to be able to style like Joanna Gaines in order to live a life of hospitable welcome. You don’t have to do a home makeover or become a gourmet chef.
You can live a life that says “welcome” as a minimalist or a collector. It really isn’t about those things.
So, here we are going to touch on the absolute “musts” in my opinion of creating a welcoming home and then on some optional things that add warmth but aren’t totally necessary.
What Really Matters When You are Creating a Welcoming Home
This is, without a doubt, the MOST important aspect of creating a welcoming home. Praying for guests and opportunities to be hospitable is a transformative and beautiful practice!
If you know ahead of time who is coming, you have a great opportunity to pray for the specific person and seek out specific requests. Asking that person about those requests while you are together and letting them know you have been seeking the Lord for them is a beautiful way to start conversation and practically bless your guests.
If you don’t know that someone is coming ahead of time, pray for opportunities to host and pray that God would send you exactly the people you need and who need you.
It Is a privilege to pray for our guests and it is one of the best ways to warm our hearts to them before they arrive on our doorstep.
2. Genuine happiness that people are there
We don’t always want this to be true, but the fact is, people can tell if you want them around or if you don’t. It’s that third wheel syndrome. We all want to be welcomed and included. And when you are really not happy someone is in your presence, everyone can tell.
So, instead we have to cultivate a heart of openness. For me, that is how this journey started. I was given the opportunity to be hospitable a few years ago and I grumbled about it. My heart was not in it because I thought I was “too busy.”
Then the Lord showed me 1 Peter 4:9 which says “offer hospitality to one another WITHOUT grumbling.” and I was undone. I knew that I had failed. And this has become my constant prayer and heart check.
When opportunities for hospitality arise on a moment’s notice, I have an opportunity to grumble OR to view this as a gift from the God Who knows all about my to-do list and still views this person as more important and has allowed them to interrupt my day.
I have often uttered a prayer that God would give me a heart to remember this truth and love the person in front of me well as I have opened my door to an unexpected guest.
And you know what? God always meets me where I am. He gives me the ability to see the need and the person in front of me and to love them (albeit far from perfectly). He softens my heart and I am thankful that God would care enough to interrupt my to-do list with a glimpse of His glory.
Related: 4 Ways to Make Time for Hospitality
This also involves our feelings when we aren’t excited about the people we are hosting – maybe we don’t get along with them well, or we feel like we have nothing to talk about, or we find them annoying. Whatever the case may be, our responsibility is first to honor God with our hospitality.
We must choose to treat every guest as if we are hosting Christ (Matthew 25:40-45). We must love them. And we must be genuinely interested in them and their good. I’m not saying that every person who walks through your door will be your best friend, but I am saying that every person God sets in front of us should be the subject of our genuine care and concern as we seek to grow in creating a welcoming home.
3. Ability to set aside distractions
This is a big one in our digital age and it is harder than we would like to admit!
I have sat across from far too many families in restaurants recently when no one looked up from their devices. They have scrolled through countless newsfeed items all while ignoring the people directly in front of them.
But, if I’m honest, I could do the same thing easily! And I do that plenty in my own home.
I know there are times when we have work to get done and there is nothing we can do about it. BUT I also know I can’t be alone in sometimes hiding behind a device when a real, live person is right in front of me.
Honestly, setting aside these digital distractions is one of the most welcoming things you can do for your guests as you show them hospitality.
When you set your phone down and give eye contact, you communicate to your guest that they are interesting enough without supplementing with a device.
When you are willing to work for conversation, you communicate that the people in front of you have value and you can see it.
You also communicate that God sees them and cares about them in their circumstance.
Setting aside virtual distractions, or any other kind, and loving the people in front of you is one of the most important ways that you can make your home feel more inviting. And people will just love to be around you too!
Related: How to be Real in Our Virtual World
4. Willing to be Inconvenienced
I was 16 and a new driver. I was heading home from church when I hit a patch of black ice, spun around, and landed in someone’s front yard.
I had no idea what to do. I just knew that I was in heels, in the snowbank, and I wasn’t sure who to call. Everyone I could think of was still at church and not answering the phone or too far away to get to me quickly.
Within minutes I was surrounded. The person who owned the house came out and two other people who were just driving by stopped to help. One had a tow-truck and within minutes I was back on the road, a little shaken, but fine.
Before I stepped out of my car that day, I was nervous. I had no idea what to do. No one I knew was available to take my call or they were just too far away to do anything for me. I was stuck.
But then some strangers, who were probably plenty busy themselves, stopped. They were willing to be inconvenienced for my good. I don’t know who they were and I’ll never have the chance to thank most of them again but now, more than 12 years later, it still stands out as a blessing.
This means that we are willing to see our priorities, to-do lists, and routine as flexible and we are willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of other people.
This sounds like a simple thing but it is genuinely hard to do sometimes.
How many times have I, to my shame, considered myself too busy to help someone? How often have I lamented over a good opportunity to be a blessing simply because I was too consumed with my own priorities?
This is something I genuinely want to improve on, so I literally have a note on my refrigerator that reads, “be willing to be inconvenienced!” I read it every day as children pull me in a million directions and my list sits untouched, or as unexpected guests knock on the door, or as the phone rings with an opportunity to be an unplanned blessing.
I want my life to be marked by genuine love for people. And I want to pass along to my children genuine love of service and joy in honoring Christ in these moments. But I know that won’t happen unless I put in the effort now to set aside my own desires and choose to live the life God lays out before me on a daily basis.
Being willing to be inconvenienced has meant MANY late night conversations, early morning opportunities to babysit, and quick chances to add more seats to the dinner table and all of it has been a blessing.
5. A Relaxed Host
I’ve hosted plenty of times when I felt anything but relaxed and it can be done, but I do think this is something our guests can smell a mile away. If we are stressed, for whatever reason, they will be too.
Now, there are legitimate stressors in life that we cannot avoid and I do not think we should hide these things from our guests. We don’t only host when things are going well and everything in our lives seems to be working. We host with the intention of building real community and real community sees real life.
That being said, if you are anything like me, sometimes you find yourself stressing over things that aren’t of any real consequence.
If we are very concerned with the way our house looks, guests will notice that we keep apologizing and they will feel stressed for us in the moment with a problem they can’t solve, and then they will feel equally stressed about their own house if they ever try to invite us.
If we are constantly on high alert about the way our children are acting, everyone who has young children will think that they their kids cannot relax and those without young children will be nervous watching us and much more distracted.
If we are constantly worried that the food we made is not good enough, our guests will sense our stress and be concerned about their own cooking ability or lack thereof in the future.
The moral of the story is…. Just relax.
Enjoy the people who come to your house. Enjoy the opportunities you have to welcome. Create a welcoming space by relaxing and letting people see a glimpse of your real life.
Everyone will enjoy your relaxation far more than they will enjoy your perfect home with all of the following optional items checked off your list.
Optional Ideas that Can Make Creating a Welcoming Home Easier
Clear the Clutter
This may eventually be a post all its own but this is literally my #1 tip for making hospitality easier!
My husband and I are not minimalists BUT we have been consciously working to clear the clutter from our home for over a year now. And you know, the amazing thing is, we haven’t missed a single item we have gotten rid of. Not one! From clothes to furniture, we have only enjoyed the space and room to breathe getting rid of them has provided.
And this is my favorite tip for prepping a house for hospitality!
Let me be clear, you can have every surface filled with items you love (and I’ve been in homes like this!) and still be very welcoming. Being a collector can actually be a decor style and it can be beautiful!
You can also have more people than you have house and have clutter simply because that is real life. That is also fine and you can be very welcoming.
Or maybe this whole clutter thing doesn’t really bother you. That’s cool. I have friends like this and you know what? They can still welcome just fine!
This is my own personal experience. When I have less clutter, my house is easier to clean. When my house is easier to clean, I have an easier time opening the door and welcoming people without being stressed.
We should not only offer hospitality when our homes are perfectly groomed but we should eliminate those things which obviously make it hard for us to relax when guests are over.
Some of this is just getting over the fact that our homes will never be perfect and we need to welcome in spite of that. But there can be real help in clearing clutter and I know decluttering has helped me be able to focus on the people I am hosting more than the space around us.
If you are looking for a great decluttering resource, check out this article – it really is ridiculously thorough!
2. Make It Smell Good
Again, this is not completely necessary. I can’t tell you the number of times I have opened the door to guests with the smell of something that was burnt because I didn’t notice something on the burner when I turned it on.
However, good smells can often be a way to trigger good memories. Growing up, whenever we were going to sell our house (which happened quite a bit), my mom would bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies just before we left for a showing to start. She said that would make people want to buy it. And you know what? We almost always sold our house to the first person who walked through.
Good smells automatically make us feel like a place is lived in and well-loved. We can smell the life there and we want to be a part of it.
This can’t happen all the time, I get it! I have a dog and kids and I can only imagine what struggle that would be if you lived in a rural area! The point is, this is an optional way to help when you are creating a welcoming home.
For me, I don’t have chocolate chip cookies constantly in the oven so instead, I do my best by lighting a candle or putting some essential oil in my diffuser.
That works just fine and it takes about 2 seconds. I do this regularly as a nice thing for myself and my family anyway so I don’t usually have to think about it when guests come over.
3. Reflect the Lives Lived there
Creating a welcoming home is all about presenting our lives to our guests and saying that we would like them to be a part of that ongoing story without actually using words.
Therefore, it is my belief that the home we welcome to should reflect those who call it home.
A guest in our home will know what my husband’s dad looked like even though he died more than 10 years ago. They will also know how old my nieces and nephews are, who our best friends are, and how many children we have.
They will see a few pieces of furniture and various dishes that mean a lot to us. They will notice my decor style has changed more quickly than my budget allows for and they will recognize the Biblical truths we want to be reminded of.
This is true, not because I’m great at decor (I’m not!), but because we live here and the home we have created reflects our stage of life, who we are, and what we value.
I think this is one of the best ways to work at creating a welcoming home because people are invited into a story that has already started and they feel like they know you just a little bit more without ever saying a word.
Some of my favorite ways to personalize our space include:
- Hanging photos of family (even extended family)
- Displaying my children’s artwork
- Keeping photo Christmas cards up all year
- Displaying heirlooms and special furniture or paintings in prominent places
- Hanging calligraphy Scripture references throughout our home
4. Consider Moving the TV
This is easy for me because our home has a living room and a finished basement. So, our TV is in the finished basement. I know this isn’t an option for everyone but, at the very least, it really adds a welcoming touch when the furniture in a room is not set up with the television as the focal point.
This is just a simple way to make a room more conversational. We have had so many guests comment on how nice it is to look at each other in our living room and not be distracted by a television.
We sometimes host sporting events or watch movies with friends at our house, and our basement is suited for that, but the main living space does not have a television.
When we only had one living space we accomplished this by hiding our television inside an armoire in the corner and still positioning our furniture with a focus on aiding conversation. There are a lot of ways you can do this and, as with everything in this optional list, it is not completely necessary but it is a nice way to add a bit of welcome and show your guests, even with how you position your furniture, that conversation is your priority.
5. Keep Snacks on Hand
It is completely possible to host without food and I do that quite often. But, for my own peace of mind, and the fact that food often aids conversation, I do try to keep a few snacks on hand.
This doesn’t need to be anything fancy, unless you want it be. It can be as simple as keeping some chocolates or nuts in the cupboard ready to pull out if and when the opportunity arises.
For me, it usually means I try to have a few different things on hand. Here are some of my favorites:
- Apples and peanut butter
- Cheese and crackers
- Store bought cookies or some other baked good
- Cookie dough in the freezer
- Chocolate candies
- Coffee (regular and decaf)
- Hot Chocolate
Ultimately it isn’t so much about the specific items you have on hand, it is more about the fact that everyone feels more welcome when they are eating so this is a great way to start creating a welcoming home. Gathering around the table is just a natural way for us to begin relationships.
6. Light a candle
I LOVE a lighted candle. I feel like it instantly changes any room. It’s probably even better if you have a fireplace but since I haven’t had one of those since I was a little girl, I just love the simple appeal of a lighted candle.
I’ll be honest, probably 90% of the time guests in my home are not greeted by a lighted candle. I just forget to do this. But I really do love it.
Remember these are just suggestions and not completely necessary. But they are nice ways to start creating a welcoming home for yourself, your family, and your guests.
7. Turn on music
Music can totally change our perspective. Think about it – a dreary, cold day becomes glorious when the song in our hearts is “walking in a winter wonderland.”
Music can do the same thing for our homes! Creating a welcoming haven for guests becomes so much easier with some faint music in the background.
As an added bonus, if you plan to have someone over that you don’t know well or that you struggle to converse with, music in the background helps dramatically reduce the challenge of “awkward silence.”
A little music lifts our attitudes and that of our guests and can really do a lot toward creating a welcoming home.
Creating a Welcoming Home will be Different for You than Anyone Else – And That’s Ok!
So, there you have it. There are a lot of things you can do when you are creating a welcoming home for guests! You can probably think of several others that you enjoy doing as well! I know many people who keep conversation starters on hand, or fresh flowers throughout the house, or who make something special for each guest when they know ahead of time who is coming.
The options for creating a welcoming space are only limited by our creativity and what is welcoming in your home won’t be a perfect fit for mine and vice versus.
Ultimately, there are a few things that are really necessary to welcome guests in a way that they feel loved and respected. Everything else is nice ideas that can be applied should we feel they fit us well. That is part of the beauty of hospitality – it is never the same twice!
As people and environments change, so does hospitality. Creating a welcoming home is creating welcome in your specific home. How you do that will be different than anyone else and it will result in something uniquely yours and uniquely God-honoring if you give it all up for His glory.