November 7, 2012

Tips for Hospitality

As a church planting pastors’ 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. For babies, I use Gymboree reward bucks to buy clothes when they’re on sale or buy diapers in bulk.

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 tablec;othes 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.

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.