Hospitality doesn’t have to overwhelming. Here are some tricks and tips to make easy entertaining a reality.
Why Almost EveryHosting Opportunity I Have is “Easy Entertaining”
I started reading a party planning blog post tonight. It bore the title “10 tricks for easy entertaining”. By trick #5 I was tired.
Essentially this post was mislabelled. It probably should have been called “10 things to remember to make party planning a breeze”. That was more accurate. This was party planning not typical entertaining and certainly not hospitality (find out why I distinguish those here).
The tips had to do with when to send invitations and whether or not there would be music or entertainment. All valid points for a party. Not so valid for a Tuesday evening in the Deckert house.
I do love to host parties. I love to plan decor and themed food and matching party favors because there is a special charm in a well thought through party that makes people feel special when they’re included.
However, if you ask me about tips for “Easy Entertaining” my list will look much different.
So, here are my 10 Tricks for Genuinely Easy Hospitality (since I like that term more anyway).
Easy Entertaining – It Can be Done
1. Have a Few Recipes You Know Well and Keep the Ingredients on Hand
Sometimes my husband calls on his way home and says he’s picking a college student or two up for dinner at our house.
Other times he asks if we have dinner plans and starts sending text messages.
Sometimes I tell the neighbor kids that they can stay for dinner.
We do occasionally plan things ahead but usually 24 hours is quite a bit of notice in our house for guests.
Because of this, I need to have a few recipes on hand that I know well and generally keep the ingredients for.
I’m gluten free and I have several friends who are dairy free. I try to make sure I have a few recipes that will accommodate the most common food allergies because I know how nice it is to go to someone’s home and be able to eat what you’re served.
Even if you’re not a cook you can ask guests before they arrive about food allergies and sensitivities (assuming you have a little advance notice) and make sure there is something for them.
If you have a few recipes that you’re confident with and ready to whip together at any time, you’re more likely to welcome a last minute opportunity to host.
2. Don’t Worry About Having the Perfect Space
I love to be surrounded by beautiful things. I love it when my house is clean and organized and a few projects are done. I love it when I finally feel like I’ve got the feel of our house the way that I want it.
However, I can’t wait until my home is perfect before I welcome because the reality is, it probably never will be and that’s ok.
Our homes may never be exactly what we want them to be but that doesn’t have to stand in our way. We don’t have to believe that lie. A house feels much more beautiful when it is filled with loving people and a welcoming spirit. Focus on that.
Dream about ways you can make your space more beautiful but don’t spend time when you could be focusing on your guests worrying about what their opinion is about the details.
3. Don’t Worry About Your Table Decor
Since I read Sally Clarkson’s The Lifegiving Table I’ve bought fresh flowers a lot more often. I do love to put out a fresh vase of flowers on the table and light a candle. It does make the space feel warm and planned and beautiful.
As I’ve done this more often though I’ve been tempted to rely on it. I’ve been tempted to have a harder time inviting when I haven’t had a chance to refresh the flowers or grab a few candles.
Adding beauty to our lives is a gift God gave us. This is one of the ways that we can image our creator. God has made so many things exceptionally beautiful just because he wanted to and he gave us this ability too. We each come with different opinions and tastes but with that we each have an opportunity to show off the creative nature of God.
With that said though, we can’t allow our pursuit of beauty in the simple things to stop us from welcoming when it all feels ugly and messy.
Easy entertaining welcomes even without fresh flowers and lit candles – that’s part of what makes it easy!
4. Plan Simple Meals
I mentioned earlier that its good to have a few things that you feel confident making (or ordering) for guests.
However, it’s worth stressing here also that your food should be simple. Easy hospitality isn’t about impressing your guests with your culinary skills. It’s about welcoming into our daily lives the way Jesus did (Romans 15:7).
With that said, the meal you would be serving your family can be served to guests.
Mac and cheese? Soup and sandwiches? Hotdogs and chips? It literally doesn’t matter. Unless you’re dealing with someone who has a food allergy or sensitivity, just make what you were going to make for your family and serve it to guests.
We were invited for dinner this week at a friend’s house and they served leftovers. It was great!
That is simple, easy entertaining as it’s finest and just being a part of your family is all the welcome your guests really need.
5. Don’t Stress About Cleaning
Yes, our homes should generally be clean. Most people feel at least somewhat more at ease when their homes are picked up and in order.
It’s easier to welcome others into a space that you aren’t embarrassed about.
However, life happens. Hospitality is about welcoming others into your real life. It isn’t about showing off or making others think more highly of us. It isn’t about setting up the perfect shot for Instagram or showing off our Pinterest skills.
Because that’s true, we shouldn’t stress about cleaning. We should show others how we really live, with the mess and the imperfections.
Most people honestly appreciate that. They have dishes in their sink too and they don’t always have time to make their beds and it’s nice to know they’re not alone in these things.
This is especially true for last-minute hospitality but it should be true every time.
Vanity says, “Only welcome when the house is perfect so others will think this is normal.”
Hospitality says, “Come on in. The house isn’t perfect but we’re glad you’re here.”
6. Don’t Plan Entertainment
We love to host game nights or sporting events but generally speaking, on an average night in our house, there won’t be any entertainment other than the kids and the conversation. We may put on a little background music if we remember but usually we don’t worry about this element of the evening.
Our entertainment is the people we are with.
You don’t need to stress about how to entertain your guests. If you’re nervous about the conversation, grab these free printable conversation starters and use them as a way to get started but otherwise don’t worry about it.
7, Embrace Leftovers
If you embrace leftovers, you can make extra food without worrying about waste.
I have a dear friend who hates leftovers so she aims to make exactly the amount her family will eat. If she has extra, she knows it will go to waste.
I take a different approach. Generally, I make way too much food for the crowd size. I do this for a few reasons:
- People can eat until they are genuinely full rather than just be polite.
- We can always add an extra seat or two to the table without worrying about having enough.
Hospitality should be a way of life for the believer. We should be willing to include others in our lives quickly.
Because I believe this is true and I also want to be responsible and use our resources well, our family has learned to embrace leftovers. Often these leftovers become lunch throughout the week. Once in a while, we have enough to eat an exclusively leftover meal. Whatever the case, embracing leftovers allows me to welcome without the worry of wasting.
8. Invite Often
Hospitality is like a muscle, the more you use it, the easier it will be.
Just like training any muscle in your body or spiritual discipline, consistent practice with hospitality allows you to gain confidence in how you pull it together.
This really will make practicing hospitality easier over time because you’ll learn what matters and what doesn’t. You’ll be able to discern how long different things take to cook. You’ll get a routine going that will make hospitality feel natural and necessary (as it should!).
9. Ask Guests to Contribute (they will probably offer anyway)
According to Rosaria Butterfield, this is one of the things that makes Biblical hospitality so unique. As opposed to entertaining guests, Biblical hospitality makes room for the host and hostess to blend together.
You aren’t trying to simply show your guests a good time. You’re trying to live life with them. Your goal is a real relationship and honoring God as you journey together.
So your guest can bring the side dish and help set the table for the dinner. They can grab a hamper and help you fold laundry. They can do the dishes while you take care of the kids.
Most guests will ask how they can help anyway so give them ideas. Ask them to take the cake out of the oven or cut up the veggies. This allows them to feel useful and more comfortable.
Many guests will also ask what they can bring to a meal. Allow them to bring something. This gives them the opportunity to bless you and other guests and frees you up to have one less thing to think about.
10. Team Up
You don’t have to practice hospitality alone. One of my favorite ways to make hospitality easier is to do it with friends.
If you’re a great cook but don’t have a great space, ask a friend who has room to host and let her know that you’ll bring the food.
If you’re introverted and are nervous about keeping a conversation going, ask an extroverted friend to join you so that they can be in charge of making sure everyone is comfortable and talking.
Teaming up is a great way to make hospitality easier and it allows you to use your strengths for the glory of God and the good of others while allowing others to do the same.
In a world model, we want everything to revolve around how good we are at all of the elements of entertaining guests. But, with Biblical hospitality the focus is on Christ, his glory and the good of our guests. This frees us up to act in accordance with our gifts and to celebrate the unique gifts our guests have too.
Easy Entertaining – Just Start!
Hospitality doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. There are a lot of ways that we can practice easy entertaining so that we feel more confident to practice it regularly.
Truthfully though, we won’t ever feel completely confident. Instead, we need to reach out and welcome in our imperfections and spend our time thinking about how we can point others to the perfection of Jesus.
In doing that, we will have practiced Biblical hospitality and it will be beautiful.