November 6, 2012

Practicals on Practicing Hospitality

Let's get practical, practical! I wanna get practical, practical! A variation on the old-school Olivia Newton John song is buzzing in my head. And now probably in yours, too. You're welcome.

I want to get practical today because, in our series on hospitality, we've talked about what a great impact hospitality makes in the kingdom, we've debunked myths that keep us from practicing hospitality, and we've discovered that there is an art to hospitality that has little to do with centerpieces or menus, but we haven't talked nuts and bolts. So let's do that today.
As a church planting wife, I have countless opportunities to invite people over for dinner, host parties and showers, and give gifts. Unfortunately, because we are a church plant without a building or a large budget, my husband and I must primarily use our personal budget to carry out our ministry. I have learned, first and foremost, that the goal in hospitality is not perfection or complexity; it is inviting people into relationships and into our heart. Our small budget has also forced me to get creative with how I practice hospitality. Here’s what I do:

Perfect a Signature Dish
At the beginning our plant, we invited most church guests into our home for a meal. I developed a menu that I used for every guest that I felt confident in making and was easy and inexpensive. When items from my signature dishes went on sale, I bought in bulk. Sometimes, instead of inviting people for dinner, I will invite them for dessert and coffee, which is much cheaper and less labor-intensive.

Create a Bridal Gift and a Baby Gift
Because I get invited to most showers, I made a cookbook of all my favorite recipes on my computer that I can give to brides. After printing off the recipes, I put them into protective sleeves in a notebook that I make personal with scrapbook paper. (Stay tuned for our link-up tomorrow because I'm going to give you the template to my cookbook along with my favorite go-to recipes!) For babies, I often give practical gifts like diapers, which I can buy in bulk. Because there is a baby born every 3 seconds in our church, I'm still figuring this one out. Any suggestions?

Keep Staples on Hand
For parties or larger dinners, I bought glasses, placemats, pitchers, and white serving dishes at the dollar store. I also keep paper products (including kids’ cups) on hand, as well as staples such as coffee, sweeteners, lemonade mix, and popcorn.

Decorate on a Dime
When hosting showers or Christmas parties, I decorate tables with things in my yard (pinecones, berries) or d├ęcor in my house (candles, wreaths, trays). I also bought inexpensive fabric and sewed tablecloths that I use over and over again.

Maintain a Gift Closet
Anytime I see cute gifts or cards in the $1 bins or on clearance at Target or Michael’s that could be given as birthday gifts, I snatch them up and put them in my gift closet. Then, when I need something, I can shop my own closet. I also use these as small appreciation gifts for leaders.

Make it a Group Effort
Anytime I can, I ask people to share the load. Our community group folks take turn bringing snacks, we often have potluck dinners, or we accept a dinner guest’s offer to bring something as a side or dessert.

Keep it Simple
Simplicity is the most important thing to remember when practicing hospitality on a budget. Why meet a friend for lunch when you can meet for coffee or, better yet, have her over for coffee at your house? Why buy a cake for a shower when you can make a lovely one yourself? Why freak out about a complex dinner menu when hosting friends? Simple works, and it enables you to concentrate on guests rather than worry about your home or the food.

Hospitality doesn’t depend on money. It depends on relationship. With a little creativity and a lot of simplicity, we can all practice it well.

How do you celebrate people? How do you appreciate leaders? How do you host dinners or showers on a small budget? What are your favorite go-to recipes? What have you learned about practicing hospitality? I know you have plenty of ideas to share, so get your blog post ready to post on your own blog and prepare to link up with us tomorrow.