Hospitality as a family always feels like a bit of a risk. Even more so when those guests don’t currently have pint-sized people in their homes. In our family of 6, we make extra messes, we live extra loud and there are many days when it feels like we barely have this thing under control. We can be flying at optimum speed when turbulence hits hard and fast – things get broken, someone starts puking, or one bad mood threatens to poison us all.
And this is precisely why entertaining can feel risky at this stage of life. We can plan all we want, but who knows what will happen.
Even so, we are encouraged in scripture to practice hospitality (Romans 12:13) and this doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to a certain stage of life. Here are 5 tips that have served me well:
We show our kids what we value.
How we choose to do family life speaks of a greater belief. What we value, how we spend our resources, shapes what our children know to be true. Sure it might seem like just a simple dinner invite, but every invitation speaks of the theology of hospitality we are embracing as a family. Our humble offerings provide our children with a tangible understanding of what it means to love God and love others, what it means to serve and give. They might not understand or even notice that now, but we are etching memories of hospitality that will serve them well in years to come.
We remember that what we do is trumped by how we do it.
This one takes time friend, and I will admit I still haven’t mastered it.
Several years ago I was hosting a birthday dinner party. I tried to prep and plan everything just right. I minced the garlic and set it aside, all ready to throw in the pan at just the last minute. The table was set and the meal was going to be just perfect. And just as the doorbell rang my 4-year-old emerged from the kitchen with my minced garlic all over his head.
How? Why? I still don’t know the answers to those questions but the point is, there are 900 ways things can go wrong when entertaining. You might burn the bread, someone might spill their drink, or your kid might put your minced garlic on his head and you will end up bathing him instead of serving up appetizers, but how you respond is everything. Your kids and your guests need to see your gracious heart more than your perfection. Breathe deeply, and pray for grace to do this with a heart and words and actions, that brings glory to God.
We get them involved.
My kids love having guests in our homes. I think most children do. So why not involve them in the whole process? Have them help you plan the menu. Let each child prepare one dish with you (my favorite strategy as a mom of multiple children). Give them all a cleaning and preparing chore. Entertaining is about so much more than a meal. Let your kids anticipate, plan and prep with you as well.
This one tip has been so helpful in our home. On nights when we don’t have guests, we often practice.
If you tend to dine casually, try to set the table fully on occasion and practice table manners. To grow conversation skills, we play the “question” game where we take turns asking one member of the family a specific question. After answering, that person gets to ask a question to someone else. It’s so simple, but it has worked brilliantly for us. Our kids have become better at engaging conversation through questions and we have all learned fun facts about one another. The best part is we are practicing, training our kids in table manners and conversation skills, and they just think we’re having fun.
We remember this is real life.
We need to remember this and our guests do too.
A couple of weeks ago, when our bi-weekly Life Group was here, we couldn’t find the remote control for the DVD video series we planned to watch together. (Evidence of life with kids, right here.) So everyone started looking under couches and between cushions…and finding random socks and whatnot. I kind of wanted to die in that moment, until someone said, “Wow, this makes me feel so much better about my house!”
That’s a little profound, isn’t it? I always rush about cleaning right before this group enters my home, trying to get everything neat and tidy and just so, and yet it’s my kids missing socks, my mess, that makes them feel comfortable.
It is not our perfection that makes others feel better about themselves, it’s our beautiful imperfections, the stuff that’s real. I’m glad those stray socks could serve a purpose. And as an added bonus, now I know where all of the missing socks have been hiding out!
Take a deep breath and extend that invite, friend. Entertaining with kids is both challenging and fun, but even more, you are raising the next generation of hosts and hostesses. Let’s teach them how to do this well.
Katie, I Choose Brave
Katie Westenberg is a wife, mother and writer who is passionate about living life bravely for the glory of our Creator and encouraging others to do the same. She enjoys country living in a small town, time spent with friends and family, and saying YES to adventure. She writes at ichoosebrave.com.