The holidays bring lots of things for lots of people, but they most definitely bring us more opportunities to practice Christian hospitality. After all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year to share with other people. So, I think it’s about time I wrote a post about how to be the “hostess with the mostest” or… at least how to try our best at hosting people in a godly way.
Having other people in your home for a meal is one of THE best ways to practice the “one anothers” spelled out in the Bible and it’s an easy way to share life together with other believers.
In this post I’m sharing my top tips for hosting people for a meal at your house. It does not have to be complicated or overwhelming, it can be as simple as a bowl of chili and slice of bread. But the meal is the vessel that carries the gospel-centered conversation and encouragement. And, I’m not claiming to be the best hostess in the world, but this post will have all the things that I’ve found helpful in my own hospitality ventures.
Food for Gospel Fellowship
First off, yes, all these tips are specifically for when you have someone over for a meal or food. But that is intentional… fellowshipping over food is very biblical.
Because Jesus has taken our place on the cross, we can have fellowship with God. Jesus demonstrated this fellowship by fellowshipping with people on earth before He died for them.
One of the main accusations that the Pharisees had against Jesus was that He ate with sinners, outcasts, and rebels (Mark 2:13-17). But when Jesus eats with these people, the outcasts of society, they are eternally changed (e.g. Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10). The food that they ate together provided an opportunity for the gospel to go forth and change people’s lives.
Jesus’ example of fellowshipping together around food was followed in the early church (Acts 2:42) and the disciples’ further ministry following Jesus’ ascension. Peter’s conversion to include Gentiles in the church comes through a dream regarding food (Acts 10). Because all the food is declared clean, Gentiles and Jews could eat together, unifying the church as one in Christ. Later in Acts 16:34, the Philippian jailer eats with Paul and Silas and his whole family is converted and baptized–talk about gospel fellowship!
When we eat together with fellow believers, we are celebrating the unity we have in Christ through the salvation He has provided. Christians eating together is truly a taste of heaven on earth.
So, here are my slightly random tips to help you bring heaven to earth as you host people in your home.
1. Pray over your dinner.
This first tip is easily missed and overlooked. But prayer is important any time you are preparing or working towards an event. And, no, I don’t mean just pray over your dinner before eating it (although that it a good idea too!). Whether it’s a intimate dinner party or a huge Thanksgiving dinner, prayer at each step will help.
Pray before you invite friends over… who should you invite? What should we serve? What time of day should it be? Ask the Lord for guidance.
Then pray while you are preparing. Personally, I usually have a “do-it-all” attitude. I don’t need anyone’s help, I’m very capable, and I can do it all. But that is just not reality. I do need help… each and every day I need help! And even if I can do everything for an event by myself, I still need help from the Lord.
So, I have learned to stop myself from what I’m doing and pray. I take a few minutes and pray over my to-do list. Then I think of the guests that are coming, asking the Lord to meet their needs, to encourage them, to show them the gospel through interactions. Then I ask the Lord to keep me humble as I get things done for the event, that I would give Him the glory with a thankful heart.
Praying before company comes over is the best way to humble yourself and remind yourself that it’s not about you, or your nice dishes, or the fact that you can throw a great party… It’s about God and honoring Him with your preparation and event.
2. Do work ahead of time.
Okay, so you know that your friends are coming for dinner on Thursday night. Get out your pen and paper and start making a list of what you need to do. Then try to get as much as you can done before Thursday. Sure, you will have some time on Thursday, but if there are jobs that you can do ahead of time, do them ahead of time.
Maybe you need something specific from the grocery store, pick it up on Tuesday. Maybe you need to mop the floor, do it on Wednesday. Want to cook a complicated meal? Choose a dessert that can be made on Wednesday and chilled in the fridge.
I’ve found that on the day your guests arrive, you will be busy with making the food and last-minute jobs, so you want to knock out whatever you can before the day of the event arrives.
Now, this tip only works if you have made plans in advance. Want to be prepared for last-minute guests? Check out my tips for last-minute guests here.
3. Keep the table simple.
Setting the table is actually a good job to do ahead of time (and with the kids if applicable). Keeping the table setting simple will help you have time to get everything done. And, if you plan on serving the food family style, you will need as much room on the table as you can get.
For the center of the table, a simple runner or a few doilies under a short candle with a green wreath is perfect. Or use something seasonal… pumpkins, pinecones, a heart-shaped box. Whatever you decide to put in the middle, make sure it’s not too tall, your guests should be able to see over it.
If you have cloth napkins, set them out with the plates and silverware (ahead of time!). Then your table is complete and ready for your guests’ arrival. You should also consider having a pitcher of water and cups already on the table, ready to go.
4. Use your nice dishes.
Having friends over is a special occasion, so use your nice dishes! While you keep the table setting simple, be sure to pull out your nice dishes. We’re meant to use the nice things that God has given us, so don’t keep your china hidden away, out of use. Pull it out and use it! If you don’t have nice serving dishes or dishes in general, try to find a few good things while you are out thrift-store shopping… There are always treasures to find and use with guests.
As I mentioned above, fellowshipping with other believers is a way to celebrate Jesus, so use the nice things you have. We want to make our guests feel loved and encouraged and having the meal on nice dishes is one way to do that.
**Obviously, every meal does not have to be on nice dishes. There will be plenty of meals that are wonderful, encouraging occasions and you use paper plates. The thoughtfulness is really what counts and using nice dishes is one way to be thoughtful about your guests.
5. Include your kids.
If you have children, including them in a hosting event is really fun (and actually helpful!). They want to be involved and there’s always a job for them to do if you are patient enough. And by including them in serving other people, they will also learn to serve others.
It could be as simple as having them set the table or carry a plate of sweets out to serve. If they are older, have them ask what people would like to drink. Maybe they could prepare one of the dishes of food with you. I’m sure you can think of a way to include your children in preparing to host guests for dinner. Make it a team effort and way to work together as a family.
Don’t be afraid to host people.
Finally, I want to just say that with the last two years we’ve had, hosting people may seem overwhelming, but don’t be afraid. Having someone for dinner is a wonderful opportunity to get to know them and encourage one another. Don’t let your fear of doing things wrong or not knowing what to cook or not knowing the people very well or not having enough space in your home keep you from opening your home to others. Keep it simple at first so that you don’t get overwhelmed and ask for help when needed. Growing our hospitality muscles will honor the Lord and he can use those times around your table to bless others (and you!).
Have these tips been helpful to you? I’d love to know how you used them in the comments below!
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