Q & A’s for Mission-Minded Families: LOCAL OUTREACH

by monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

Before we close this month’s HOSPITALITY discussion about sharing the love of JESUS from our homes, Lindsay asked if I would share a quick post with a few recent examples of easy real-life local family outreach (in the midst of raising our 7 children and being passionately involved in world missions).

“REACH OUT!”

Reaching out into our local area with the love of Jesus doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little focused effort, a couple hours of designated time, and a few family friends, we can make a BIG impact for God’s Kingdom, right in our own neighborhoods and in our local cities.

Let me just share what our family’s been doing. Recently, our newlywed son and his bride (Josh & Anna) have been leading a brand-new local outreach. Their heart is to do random-acts-of-kindness in our community, in Jesus’ Name, and to share God’s love in creative ways. It’s called REACH OUT!

We’ve been doing REACH OUT as a local church-outreach, but it’s mostly been a few key families. And as Alex & Brett Harris wrote in DO HARD THINGS, about not forgetting the “Home Team Advantage,” younger brothers and sisters make great consistent volunteers!

Nearly every Saturday morning, we meet in our church parking lot at 9:00 AM. Josh & Anna open up the back of their car, which is equipped with very important REACH OUT supplies: coffee, hot cocoa, and donuts (now I realize that many of you Passionate Homemakers are health conscious, but we’ve found this “ingredient” quite helpful for fellowship and keeping our volunteers happy). Josh welcomes everyone (that’s him in the black jacket, above). He and Anna present a simple plan for the next few hours (sometimes with a local map to show different teams where we’ll be going), there’s a brief Bible word of encouragement; then, we gather hands and PRAY for God’s GRACE!!!

Other than this short time together, there are NO planning meetings, and everyone (of all ages and all levels of Christian maturity) are welcome. By 9:20 to 9:30 AM, we’re done with our donuts, and we’re out into our community — on the streets or door-to-door.

Here’s a few examples of what we’ve done…

Continue Reading →

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Hospitality: The Demonstration of the Gospel

Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

I received the following comment this week on one of our posts on this topic of hospitality, and it really struck a cord in my heart. I felt I could not let it pass without addressing a key issue here.

Ugh…hospitality. I am THE WORST at it. I really detest it. Just being honest. I’m a stressed-out wreck, blowing up at my husband and kids. It’s just a giant culmination of everything that I’m horrible at – keeping our house clean, prepping meals, conversation, everything. It’s my number one surefire way to have a panic attack….

My heart really goes out to this sister. I know firsthand the struggles and challenges that come our way when faced with the uncomfortable situation of stepping outside our comfort zone to extend a spirit of hospitality. I know how easily it is to focus on the details rather than the heart of the matter. But, let us focus first of all on God’s amazing grace is which is totally accessible to us all. He commissions and equips us for the task and gives us the grace to step forth in faith to respond in action. It cannot be done on our own strength, but only through His sustaining grace.

But the truth is…cultivating a lifestyle of hospitality is what we were made for. We miss the point when we view hospitality simply as a culmination of cleaning our house, making a meal, leading in conversation, etc. What really is the giant culmination of hospitality?

Continue Reading →

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Simple Hospitality Meals

I have found simple meals as one of the key methods for allowing our hospitality to be practical and doable. Remember, you don’t have to serve a six course meal in order to extend hospitality! One pot meals can be just as warm and inviting to those who come into your home! And you don’t have to have a full scale set up on the table either. Spread out your food on the counter with a pile of plates, utensils, and such and allow your guests to serve themselves. There is certainly freedom to use paper plates and napkins as well! This makes for easy clean up. Whatever it takes to make it doable for you…use those ideas and go for it! God will richly bless your heart to serve and you will be storing up treasure in heaven through the process.

1. Make the Same Meal.

One of the best ideas I have discovered is to chose one or two of your favorite meals and rotate them for your hospitality guests. Stick with only one recipe/meal plan if necessary. Here are some of our favorite meals:

Pasta Presto – this recipe gets rave reviews wherever we serve it, and trust me, we have served it dozens of times for guests. It takes only 15-20 minutes to prepare, and is well received by adults and children with its pasta base. It is easy to use brown rice pasta for the gluten intolerant and it is simple to serve the feta cheese on the side for the dairy free or substitute with goat cheese. With a simple green salad, this is our favorite go-to recipe for hospitality.

Chicken Cordon Bleu – Another easy favorite that is creamy and rich!

Coconut Brownies – this recipe takes only 5 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to bake, and is an all-time favorite for hospitality. It is unique enough with the coconut additions that it is a special change from standard brownies. Serve with coconut or vanilla ice cream for a delicious dessert. I always keep the ingredients on hand for these brownies as it is easy to throw together for last minute guests.

Popcorn - whether it be simple stove top popcorn buttered and salted or caramel popcorn, you can’t go wrong with this simple after dinner snack/dessert! I honestly serve this all the time to guests and we love it!

2. Utilize your Crockpot.

Anything in the crockpot makes a simple dinner. We like to try to serve something on the nicer scale for company. Many times I will make a chuck roast and cook it on low all day. This makes for easy dinner preparation. The last thing you want is to be hustling around the kitchen extensively while your guests arrive. The crockpot is a real favorite because all your preparation takes place in the morning. On other occasions, we like to barbecue something for our guests. This balances the task and helps include my husband as well in our preparations.

Favorite Crockpot Meals:

Chicken/Beef Enchiladas
Shredded Beef/Pork Sandwiches

3. Potluck It!

Distributing the weight of food preparations among your guests makes an easier load for you as well as helps include your guests in the preparation, which helps make them feel more comfortable as well. You can provide the main dish, and have a guest bring a salad and another guest bring a dessert. You could also choose a theme: mexican, italian, etc. and have your guests bring their favorite dish that fits the theme. Other ideas that we have done include:

- Waffle Night - breakfast for dinner is so much fun! In this case, I provide the batter, and my guests provide various toppings: whipped cream, syrup, berry sauce, etc.

- Taco Feast - Another popular idea that is easy and always well received is a taco night. I usually good up a big pot of refried beans, and guests can bring corn tortillas, cheese, lettuce, olives, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, etc.

- Spaghetti Feed – Can you go wrong with spaghetti? Cook up some spaghetti noodles and have three types of sauces: marinara, alfredo, and pesto. Serve alongside a salad and french bread, and you have a yummy meal.

What are your favorite simple meals for hospitality? Please share your links in the comments below.

Photo Credit

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Reaching Out to the World from Your Doorstep

Often times we all fall into the thought process that there isn’t many ways for us to serve when we are busy homemakers, wives and mothers. Our first thought is that extending hospitality requires us to host a dinner party or to go help out with this or that church ministry. Cultivating a hospitable heart does not have to be difficult or complicated, nor does it need to take me far from home, nor does it need to separate me from my family. It simply takes seeing eyes and open ears to observe the needs around you. It takes thoughtful prayer in evaluating who and what might be your own family mission field. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Adopt a nursing home or elderly person in your neighborhood

There are many lonesome elderly people in our time who have been shipped off to the care of some nursing home or facility. They long for friendship, and especially enjoy the presence of children. Consider adopting a nursing home and visit it regularly as a family. Pray for them and love on them. Often times the best way to love on the elderly is being willing to listen to them and hear their story. Do you have elderly folks in your neighborhood? Is there someone in your street, elderly or not, that would appreciate a visit or needs help with shopping? Look for ways to serve them through lawn care, reading to them, etc. The elderly are some of the easiest people to reach out to because they are not intimidating, easy going, and the majority love children.

Sponsor a child

Sponsoring a child through a ministry such as Compassion International, is a simple and practical way you can reach out to a needy child around the world without even leaving your home. It is simple way to show your children that we can care for children in their distress which is very near to the heart of God. Through writing letters, seeing a picture, and praying for the child, your family can labor on behalf of others in a tangible way.

Pray for the world

Prayer is a powerful weapon. A gift of free access to the presence of God. One way that we have cultivated this with our children is adopting a prayer focus for each week. Since we are learning our letters, we think of countries, friends, and neighbors that names begin with that letter. Each day or evening we seek to pray for those names. Utilizing tools such as Windows on the World (for children) and Operation World help to provide insight and specific prayer requests for people around the world. We chose a country that begins with the letter we are studying and read the select chapter. My next goal is to post a large world map (following the inspiration of the photo to the left) in our dining room from which we can teach geography as we pray around the dinner table.

Participate in various outreaches

There are many simple giving opportunities that provide hands hospitality for people around the world. Collect crocs to send to needy children in Africa through Project Viatu, combine shoe box Christmas gifts for children through Operation Christmas Child, collect blankets for Voice of the Martyrs Blankets for Sudan drive, or collect coats and soup mixes to distribute to the homeless in your city. If you have sewing skills, check out the opportunities to sew blankets and clothes for people in other nations. The list is endless, but the needs are practical.

Giving as you learn the alphabet

Through the inspiration of Learn Your Letters, Learn to Serve preschool curriculum, we are having a blast reaching out to others through service and baked goods that correspond with their name. We choose a neighbor and/or friend whose name begins with the letter of the week, and then we bake something yummy or serve in some way that also begins with that letter. We baked applesauce bread for our neighbor Ann, and we baked banana bread for our elderly neighbor Bob, for example. Of course you do not have to have the curriculum to do this as a family, and you could easily just work down a list of co-workers, neighbors, and others in your community to serve on a weekly basis. Baking something is a simple way to love on people and share Christ’s love and hardly is intimidating. And who would refuse a gift when delivered in the hands of a child? And as you deliver your goodies, consider asking them how your family can be praying for them. Include a simple note sharing the purpose of your gift.

Neighbor Gift baskets

Welcome to the neighborhood gift baskets, or seasonal gifts (pumpkin bread for Christmas, focused halloween treats) are a fun way to reach out to others.

You don’t have to do everything listed here, as there is certainly grace for every season, and I am sure you have many more ideas to share…but start with one thing today. Pray together as a family. Get everyone on board. And begin to cultivate a lifestyle of generosity from your doorstep.

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Hospitality Ideas for Holy Week

by Passionate Homemaking’s monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan.

The week before Resurrection Sunday (which is also known as “Holy Week” or the week of “Passover”) is one of the best times of the year to share the Good News of Jesus. Many families, especially those with children, are looking for special springtime holiday or Easter-fun ideas, and some mothers, especially those with school-age children, will consider bringing their family to church or to a special Passion play (even if they usually never attend).

The Jewish celebration of Passover is to remember how God delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and how the death angel “passed over” their homes. A special dinner called “Seder” includes unleavened bread (Matzah), lamb, and bitter herbs.

Jesus celebrated the Passover every year, and through His death on the cross, He fulfilled it. God has provided freedom from the bitterness of sin and eternal death, for “. . . Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7 NLT).

Passover IDEA: Perhaps your family could have a special “Seder” dinner (or even communion) this Thursday night with another family. Or, you could invite a few families to watch The Ten Commandments, and you could talk about how Jesus (Y’shua) came as the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover Messiah.

Years ago, as our family was on a mission trip during Holy Week to Costa Rica and Guatemala, our family felt so burdened as we witnessed to people on the streets. Although the cultural traditions were beautiful and deeply religious (below are a few examples of the elaborate Holy Week flower-carpets from Antigua, Guatemala), many people we met had no personal relationship with the Lord, or an understanding that JESUS is ALIVE today. We saw huge processions with statues of Jesus and other religious relics carried through the streets, yet in many places, even on Sunday morning, there was little (no mention) of the Resurrection.

Just last week, our family took pretty flower-seed packets and handed them out on the streets in our city, and at a local Blossom Festival parade, along with “A FRESH START!” Gospel witness, and an invitation to our church. We were able to share with hundreds of people, and had some great conversations!

Mission-Minded Family Ideas for HOLY WEEK:

1. Pray for families you know who are thinking about Easter eggs and baskets for their kids, but who have no thought about the real meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection. Brainstorm a few specific ways that your family make an impact, this week, for Jesus. Perhaps you could go to a local public Easter egg hunt, specifically for your children to share about Jesus, or to invite people to your church.

2. Think of the families in your neighborhood, and pray about who you could invite to church. Walk through your neighborhood, and pray for these families specifically. Make a simple effort (perhaps with a phone call, a stop at their house with a plate of cookies or a simple basket with Easter treats and a church bulletin or handwritten card) and INVITE them to come.

3. Have your kids make simple hand-drawn pictures about the cross of Jesus Christ and the resurrection, with an invitation to your church’s Sunday Easter Service; bring the drawings with you the next time you are in the vicinity of your home church, and have your kids look for someone specific they can invite to church.

4. Read the Biblical account of the Passion Week.

5. Read aloud from Christian children’s books which focus on the true meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ, such as any Bible storybook. Two of our family favorites are The Tale of the Three Trees, or The Little Rose of Sharon.

6. If you decorate Easter eggs, include pictures of the cross and the empty tomb, and words such as “JESUS IS ALIVE!” (You can write these with crayon, before you put the eggs in the dye.)

7. Celebrate communion together as a family or even all by yourself during a quiet time – perhaps on Thursday (to remember the Last Supper) or on Good Friday. Play a CD, or sing together a simple song you know about the cross or the blood of Jesus, read aloud I Cor. 11:23 – “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread…”

8. Watch the classic film, The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston, and especially focus on the scene of the Passover and the blood of the Lamb.

9. Watch a film about the Cross and the Resurrection – The JESUS Film by Campus Crusade for Christ (from the Gospel of Luke, translated into about 1000 languages and is utilized in missions and evangelism throughout the world), The Gospel of John, or The Passion of the Christ, are all excellent selections.

10. Look on-line to get a glimpse of Holy Week celebrations throughout the world – to focus your prayers on nations and people who need to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

11. Have your kids use sidewalk chalk to draw pictures of Jesus, and the Cross, and the Empty Tomb. Write, “JESUS IS ALIVE!!!” and “GOD LOVES YOU!!!” outside your house on the sidewalk in front of your house.

12. If you have a daughter, a few little girls to join you for a fun & fancy (but simple) dress-up Easter Tea Party. Eat little sandwiches and strawberries; drink tea in teacups, and read aloud a picture storybook about Jesus (this is a good time to read The Little Rose of Sharon).

13.Take a few Children’s books with the story of Jesus and the Cross & Resurrection (such as The Three Trees), and invite local neighborhood kids to your front yard to listen to you read aloud.

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Defining Hospitality: Strangers Welcoming Strangers

Written by monthly contributing writer, Natalie.

What on earth is hospitality? Is it fancy dips and great decorating? Is it great cooking, or inviting people over frequently and hosting lots of events?

Who can we look to as hospitality role models, to help us define and refine our hospitality? Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray, and Southern Living Magazine? Our grandma?

Hospitality vs. Entertaining

We are often told that when we do “Martha Stewart-ish” types of things, we’re practicing hospitality. In reality, we are entertaining. These two words are often interchanged and confused, and we should be clear on which one is which.

The dictionary defines entertaining as “amusing” or “diverting”, and we all know how much great food and a beautiful setting can amuse and divert! It is completely possible to excel at entertaining, without ever practicing true hospitality.  So it becomes really important to define hospitality, and to start with what God has told us in his Word.

Defining Hospitality from the Bible

Jesus makes it clear for us that hospitality is meant primarily for those who are most estranged, and least welcomed:

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus was simply reiterating what God told his people in the Old Testament about how they should treat people on the fringes. I love this scripture from Leviticus:

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

God has been instructing his people for a long time to be welcoming to those in need, but we can see from Leviticus that the ultimate model of hospitality is God himself, in the welcome he extends to us through His Son.

The essence of biblical hospitality is welcoming “strangers” and meeting their varied needs, since God welcomed and provided for us in Christ, when we were estranged from him!

Who is a Stranger, and What Do They Need?

A Physical Stranger. Neighbors just moving in from across the country. International students (especially if you live in a college town). People in rest homes. A homeless person. A new mother with no nearby friends or family to help her keep house, run errands, and get an occasional break. Military wives. There are tons more possibilities. Basically, a person who lacks a community to assist with basic needs.

This person may need very practical help, such as:
A ride.
A meal, or help preparing meals.
Help running errands.
Help in the process of purchasing a car, or finding living quarters.
Unpacking from a move.
Babysitting children.

An Emotional Stranger. A newly divorced young mom. A newlywed struggling alone to figure her spouse out. Adult single ladies who do not get many invitations. A college student without trustworthy parents or mentors, trying to make decisions about her future. A woman whose engagement was recently broken off. Basically, a person whose physical needs may be already met, perhaps even a wealthy person, but who is relationally estranged.

This person may need relational help, such as:
A listening ear.
Lots of time.
An open invitation to your home, when needed (within reasonable boundaries, of course!)
Stabilizing normalcy. Like being invited to play board games with you and the kids, or some other very average activity.
Gentle encouragement.
The sharing of helpful scriptures.

A Spiritual Stranger. A store clerk. Your brother. Your babysitter. Your mail carrier! This could be anyone who does not confess Jesus as their Lord.

It goes without saying…this person needs spiritual help!

Obviously, these categories are artificial, and each individual will probably be a unique, overlapping blend. Many of us reading would even feel we fit into one or more ourselves. This breakdown is merely a starting point for thinking deeply about people and learning to discern how we can best reach out.

God can and will give many opportunities for us to explain, in detail, his work of redemption (a.k.a. share the gospel) as we practice hospitality and look for opportunities to love people the way they need most. Hopefully we can begin to see that hospitality may include a dinner invitation and appetizers, but is by no means limited to just that! Any act of kindness that communicates a welcome to a “stranger” is an act of hospitality!

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Encouraging Edifying Conversations During Hospitality

Unique lives sit face to face across a table. Each possessing a heart that naturally yearns for love, friendship, and acceptance. Part of the beauty of hospitality is the conversation that is shared. The lives that open up and glean wisdom from one another. The hope imparted as we share a bit of our lives with others. Our conversation can easily focus on the lasted news, gossip, or film, but with a little preparation, they can be edifying and inspiring. Pray that the Lord would direct your conversation. The prayer is that our guests would leave the doors of our homes being encouraged and built up in their faith or with seeds of God’s love planted in their hearts.

Here are some helpful questions to guide you in your conversations during hospitality. Often times, I simply pick two to three questions from this list, depending upon the audience. You only need a few to get you started and then conversation will flow more naturally. Great ice breakers in a sense. If we simply ask questions of our guests and inquire about their stories, the Lord can open up awesome opportunities to minister to their needs.

People love sharing their stories, so it doesn’t really take much actual talking on your part. Just offer a listening ear and a heart sensitive to the Spirit, and see what God can do.

Thanks to GirlTalk for these helpful starters.

Hospitality Questions (Downloadable PDF)

Questions to Get to Know People Better

1. Where did you grow up?
2. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
3. How did you meet your spouse and how long have you been married?
4. What dreams do you have for the future?
5. What is one thing you have never done that you wish you could do?
6. What is the most important thing you have accomplished in your life?
7. What do you enjoy doing with your spare time?
8. If you could do anything other than what you are doing now, what would you do?
9. Ask questions about their work, their kids, where they like to vacation or their favorite foods.
10. What books are they currently reading?

Questions for Biblical Fellowship

1. What is one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year and what are you doing to this end?
3. Who is one person you would like to spend time with asking questions about their relationship with the Lord?
4. What is one new way you could help strengthen the church?
5. What is one thing you could do to improve your prayer life?
6. What habit would you most like to establish this year?
7. Who do you most want to encourage this year?
8. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?
9. In what area of your life do you most need growth and what will you do about it?
10. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year?

Questions to Get to Know Internationals Better

1. What country are you from?
2. Can you describe your daily life and family traditions in your home country?
3. What was your education like and what are your interests?
4. What are your impressions of our country?
5. Were you brought up in a religious home?
6. What foods are unique to your country?/ what food from our country do you enjoy?
7. Would you teach me a few words in your native language?
8. Are there any questions you would like to ask me?
9. What are your special holidays and how do you celebrate them?
10. Is there any way I can serve you?

Photo Credit

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Hospitality: To Bless or Impress?

Guest post by Trina Holden

I looked around our screen porch in dismay. This space we loved to use as an out-door dining area had become a pigsty.  “I need someone I care to impress to come over so I am motivated to clean the porch!” I thought. Then I laughed as I realized, thanks to the redeeming work God had been doing in my heart, the number of people I stressed out about impressing had dwindled to almost nil. I was no longer a slave to other’s expectations, but was learning to live in the freedom of simply pleasing my Lord. The porch would just have to be cleaned without the strong motivator of fear!

Later that week we invited a couple over for dinner on very short notice. I was so thankful for a clean porch! But why? Not because I was worried about impressing these close friends – they had already seen me and my house on plenty of bad days. I was glad I had a clean porch because I loved them, and hoped to bless them while they were in my home. That’s when I realized how my motivation had changed – from the pressure to impress, with the fear of not measuring up, to the desire to bless, with the freedom to be who I was in whatever season of homemaking God had me in.

This change in perspective has transformed the way I approach hospitality, allowing me more opportunities to open our home, despite being in the messy, busy season of raising 3 little ones.

Whether you’re a busy mom of little ones, you’re stretching the budget just to feed your own family, or you never seem to be able to get the house clean enough for company, I want to encourage you: You can exercise hospitality in this season.  When you focus on blessing, instead of impressing, you can find the freedom in Christ-centered hospitality, whatever your limits or challenges are.

Try some of these tips for simplifying hospitality in the season you are in….

1. Plan Simple Meals.

This is not the time for a gourmet, multiple course meal. Simplify so you can focus on your guests, not the food. I like to do a casserole, made in advance and heated to serve, along with a few simple sides. Avoid unfamiliar recipes or anything that requires hours of preparation or all your attention directly before serving.
Keep the children in mind, with familiar flavors and at least one really kid-friendly side like applesauce or muffins so a picky eater can still find something to fill up on.

2. Divide and Conquer.

Having dinner guests is extra work – don’t try to fit it in along with all the rest of your day’s tasks! Make a plan and divide the preparation over several days. Do your shopping earlier in the week and make that casserole in advance. This allows you to focus on cleaning and last minute details on the actual day.
Don’t neglect to involve your children in the opportunity to serve! Anticipation of fun with their guests can help motivate them and make hospitality a fun team effort.

3. Set the Stage.

I mean, the Table. I know this sounds rudimentary, but we’ve quit setting the table in advance since the arrival of toddlers. Our strategy is to get them buckled in their booster seats first, and then place things well out of reach of little grabby hands. That’s OK for family meals, but if you want a relaxing dinner with multiple guests, a well set table is essential. One trip to the kitchen for a forgotten item is no big deal, but forgetting drinks for a table of 8 and spending the first half of your meal taking orders and filling glasses will not make you or your guests feel relaxed.

The focus of the evening is, after all, to share a meal together. Even if it means you don’t get the living room vacuumed or the laundry put away before guests arrive, I recommend you put your effort into preparing the table. Remember…

  • Drinks
  • Napkins
  • Serving Utensils
  • Wet washcloth or dry towel if children and spills are expected

When all is in place I have been known to block off the dining room with furniture to keep the children out until the mealtime!

4. Clean the Essentials.

Trying to clean the entire house in advance of company is impossible in this season! Prioritize your cleaning around the areas that welcome the guests. For me, this is:

  • The bathroom the guest will be using
  • The entryway, so there’s room for their shoes and outerwear
  • My kitchen island

The kitchen is the first room my guests enter, and, kind of like making the bed, a clean island makes the whole room more peaceful. Having this clean  is only possible if I have done most of my cooking in advance – see #2!

5. Relax about the rest.

Is it really that big a deal if you didn’t get the shower cleaned, the bookshelves straitened, or the desk cleared off? If your goal is to bless your guests, then, no – these areas are not essential. Relax about the stuff you didn’t get done and your guests will be able to relax, too. If there is room for you all to sit on the couch, and clean dishes to eat off of, then you have everything you need to enjoy an evening of fellowship. Remember, your guests came to see you, not your house!

Reach out! A pregnant mommy needs a break from cooking dinner. A single gal or childless couple would love to hang out with your kids. A new family in the area would be blessed with your fellowship. Don’t let the fact that your house isn’t immaculate, or you don’t have time for a gourmet meal keep you from blessing others through hospitality. Your goal of blessing, rather than impressing, will inspire and enable you to give hospitality generously.

Trina Holden enjoys offering hospitality from their 1800’s farm house in Upstate New York. She shares transitional whole food recipes, sewing tutorials, and snapshots of her life as wife, artist, and mother on her blog, All That Is Good.

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The Best (and Most Overlooked) Way to Prepare Our Home for Guests

Guest Parking 2Written by monthly contributing writer, Kat.

We run around the house frantically cleaning, tidying, organizing and decorating. We hide things in closets, stuff them under beds and mask all our imperfections so our guests will feel comfortable in our austere house.

And we miss the point.

Perfection Is Not The Point

The goal of hospitality is to make people feel at “home.” Unless you’re having Martha Stewart over for the weekend, you’re house does not need to be perfect.

Let me say that again, your house does not need to be perfect.

Now, let’s all say that together: “My house does not have to be perfect.”

So then what do we need to do to prepare for guests?

Pray for them.

“Wow, Kat, you’re quick with the super spiritual answers today.”

Um, thanks.

I’m not trying to be cheesy or super spiritual. It’s just a fact.

A Great Attitude Is Better Than A Great Atmosphere

When you pray for your guests, you are investing in their lives and in their visit. You will have worthwhile things to talk about and ask them about because you’ve been praying for them. And as you pray God will more than likely show you ways you can bless them, encourage them and make them feel fully at home.

When we try to make everything perfect and impress our guests, their visit becomes all about us.

When we lay down our pride, pray for them and serve them in the ways that THEY need, their visit is about them and THAT’s what makes people feel loved and at home.

And the best part is, as you spend more time with the Lord, in prayer, the more He’ll help you order your days and you’ll find that keeping your home tidy gets easier. Soon enough you’ll be one of those lovely older ladies who has a home you always want to return to because it is so bathed in excellence and prayer.

**(Please note that I’m not saying that it’s useless to make any effort to tidy our home, I’m saying it should be an ever present process rather than the focus of our occasional preparations for visitors. I have felt more comfortable in an old shack inhabited by a godly woman than in a mansion perfected by a woman with less interest in me than in her clean carpets.)

How To Pray For Your Guests

Safe travel – Pray for comfort and joy as they travel.
Encouragement – Pray for wisdom on ways you can specifically encourage them.
Refreshment – Travel can be exhausting. Pray that they would feel more refreshed when they leave than when they arrived.
Connection – Pray for good conversations and meaningful memories.
Blessing – Pray for God’s grace in their lives and an ever deepening relationship with Him.

My Prayer For You

May you feel free from perfection, filled with Peace and overflowing with love for the people who make your house a home.

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Practicing Hospitality with Kids

I have been blessed to observe my little girl lately and the delight she finds in showing hospitality to others! She loves offering popcorn or water to those who come through our day. She is catching the vision. Even at such a young age, we can encourage a heart of love and service towards others by practically including them in demonstrations of hospitality. They are a blessed addition to our hospitality. But it can often be challenging to prepare for guests when we have little ones demanding our attention. How can we practically include them? How can we make hospitality preparations simple with little ones in tow?

1. Include them in the inviting process. Who are they interested in inviting over? Could they hand out the invitations? Incorporating children in this way really helps to strengthen their social skills. Adopt a “grandpa” or “grandma” from your church or neighborhood and discuss how you could do something special with or for that person.

2. Include them in praying for your guests. In preparation for your guests, try to spend a few moments together praying the Lord’s blessing over your home and guests. Let them pray their own special prayer on your guests behalf.

3. Include them in your preparations. Prepare simple dishes that the kiddos can help assemble. Whether it be simple dicing of vegetables, stirring together a batter, or setting the table. This gives them a sense of ownership over the serving and heightens their anticipation of the evening.

I heard a story of a a godly older woman who shared that as she got ready for guests to arrive, her little ones would be working hard alongside her in the kitchen doing their own project: 1) making place cards w/ a Bible verse on it, 2) drawing pictures for the ones that would be coming, and 3) practicing a song or play for the guests. Together they participated in building the excitement for the evening.

4. Let them serve. Be willing to practice training them how to carry plates, cups, and other utensils to set the table at home in every day life in preparation for also serving your guests. Children as young as three can carefully serve dessert on plates, or offer beverages to a guest.

5. Keep the kids food simple. Remember that little ones are often pretty picky. Why not keep it less stressful by preparing something easy that they will be sure to enjoy – macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs, etc. This way neither you nor your guests isn’t stressing out half of the evening trying to get the kids to eat their food.

6. Keep the menu simple. While we will be sharing some easy menu ideas later, I wanted to mention that keeping our hospitality menus simple has been essential! I stick to one pot meals, or a main dish and salad, or crockpot dinners. No five course dinners in this season of life. Any meal will be a blessing to your guest (remember they just appreciate the break from their own dinner preparations!), even if it is a simple pot of chili and cornbread. It’s hearty and delicious! Or simply, stick to dessert. This keeps your stress levels down, makes clean up easy, and hospitality doable with kids.

7. Consider feeding your kids in advance. I know when we host our weekly Community Group dinner, it doesn’t start till 6pm. By this time the kids are starving and cranky and constantly under my feet. If I can give them something easy and simple in advance, they will stay occupied while I put the final preparations together.

8. Remove breakables ahead of time, in addition to any loud toys you might have. Before we have company, any push or riding toys are moved to the garage. It just gets too loud with hard wood floors to be able to enjoy our company. The best easy toys for company seem to be a big pile of blocks or legos and a selection of dress-ups. They seem to meet the needs of both boys and girls. To keep the mess down, I specifically put half the toys up and out of the way, thus protecting against a big mess.

What inspiring ideas can you pass along for practicing hospitality with kiddos?

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