Hospitality by Moms of Young Children?

We host larger groups in our home regularly now (see the picture of piled up shoes in our entryway as proof!), and have for almost a year. But it wasn't always this way. Something I've realized (being a mom with young children) is that this is a wonderful way for moms of young children to be involved in life as part of the body of Christ.

Even though you are intricately tied to the home, you can serve, interact with, influence, and befriend all kinds of people by having a hospitable home. When people know you are happy to host guests, make desserts, or have a get-together in your home, you can become their “go-to” person whenever the need arises. When a guest preacher comes to your church, the pastor may think of you as a family who can provide him with lunch. If the women's Bible study needs someone’s home to host a party, you will become known as someone who enjoys opening up her home.

That may sound scary to you... it would have to me a few years ago. But the fact is that by opening up your home, you can get to know people better in a place that allows you to be the mom of your children. If your kids need a nap, you just excuse yourself, put them down for a nap, and rejoin the conversation moments later. Bedtime can happen and then the get-together can go on. Even during this time of "working at home”, when you aren’t regularly venturing out into the world, you can essentially bring the world to you.

I'd encourage you to begin this week and learn a new dessert recipe, or put together 2-3 possible menus. Think of menus that would taste good, but also be realistic possibilities for you to prepare on an average day in your current stage of life. Think about things that can be made ahead of time and frozen, things that can cook all day in the crock pot but be excellent over rice or pasta. Consider the possibilities, and then craft a few possible menus.

Then, jump in. Invite another family over. Or an older couple. Or a hungry college student. At first, you will probably feel inadequate. You may find that you need to learn how to get several meal items all ready at the same time. Or it may be that you need to do a better job estimating accurate serving portions for groups.

Whatever you learn about your hostess skills, if you find something(s) lacking, focus on one thing that most needs improvement… and then do that one thing better the next time. The more you have people in your home, the more natural it will become. And by focusing on your one area for improvement each time, it will also become easier each time you do it.

In general, you can relax about the daily mess of life. Your home doesn’t need to look as pristine as the White House for guests to enjoy a visit in your home. Make things presentable and tidy, and then dive in. Do take the time to tidy up the room or rooms that you’ll be spending your time in, but don’t worry about it if you have a full hamper or haven’t mopped. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and in fact, the fact that you live in a “real” house will probably be an encouragement to the people you’re hosting.

As far as meals go, it can range from the simple and inexpensive (a baked potato buffet-style meal) to the basic and every-day (simple pasta, simple sauce, and baked/grilled chicken) to as creative and special as you want to make it. It’s really up to you. But simple meals like waffles with syrup or a grilled chicken salad can be every bit as good as the extravagantly-made meals that a chef could dream up. The point is NOT to become some world-class chef (although by having groups over, your cooking skills WILL greatly improve)… the point is to use your home to serve others.

And what a wonderful way to begin really getting to know your brothers and sisters in Christ! Invite the widows, college students or the single mom and her kids in your church over to your home.

Young moms, hospitality is an excellent way that we can extend our reach during this “home-bound” season of our lives and impact even those outside of our homes for God’s glory. We will find loads of ministry opportunities if we will graciously hold out our homes as a tool for God’s use.

Click here to read more articles about hospitality.


Domestikate said...

Great post Jess. The Lord has also taught me that hospitality is not a spotless perfect house... it is an atmosphere of love and genuine care for people. When we moved into our current home my prayer was that people would not only feel free to laugh in our home, but also cry... I actually prayed over my kitchen table (as corny as that sounds) that it would be a place of ministry and women would feel free to shed some tears on it. And praise the Lord , he answered!

Just yesterday I threw a "shower of blessings" for a friend who is going to have her third baby soon. It wasn't a big fancy shower with games and decorations, but a intimate gathering of seven sisters in Christ who prayed over my friend and her baby. They ladies brought encouraging notes, scripture passages, and small gifts. It turned out to be a tremendous blessing to my friend who was having some major fears about her upcoming birth... I was so glad that I could be used as an instrument to pour out God's love on someone else.

My point to all that is; my house is small and decorated with garage sale finds and hand-me-downs, I didn't make a fancy meal (just some finger foods and beverages), I didn't give into major anxiety (which in the past I would have), and yet God still showed up and poured out His love... And I think that is the heart behind this post... thanks :)

Johanna said...

God put hospitality on my heart a few years ago. I had to learn to give up trying to have my house perfect. One thing I have noticed is that when I stress and clean, clean, clean versus when I just relax and let people see my house a bit picked up but more as is, people react the same to my home. I have never had anyone notice the few things that I didn't get done when I don't stress about having it perfect. And since we host a small group from our church every week, I get plenty of opportunities to not have time to stress about it all being perfect!

E.W.E said...

Dear Jess,

I followed the link from Janel's blog, and really enjoyed reading your meme from yesterday (or whenever that went up!). I have two questions about your post for today, but first I would like to say that I would LOVE to practice hospitality more. The mess doesn't bother me that much; I usually just try to get the house to the point where I can say "Please pardon our mess." And I'm ok with that. I'm also the queen of simple meals, and I'm ok with that too. My issues with hospitality are these: 1) even though my three children are all under 4, my house is NOT childproof. I've trained my children to stay out of things, but my house is too small to tuck everything out of sight when friends bring their little ones over. Also, it's really hard when company comes and stays...and stays...and stays. Is there any polite way to say "It's been a lovely evening, thank-you." when you are the host? I haven't thought of one, and I struggle with needing more sleep than is possible when guests don't leave 'til ten or eleven. I know many people stay up later than that routinely, but we don't, and it's hard for us. I'd really appreciate hearing others' thoughts on this, because I DO desire to open my home to others. This is something my mother did all the time, and I feel it is important. Many thanks for any input you can offer.

flyinjuju said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I just started praying about this today. We do have people over but it is usually stressful and I tend to hesitate. God has been showing me the importance of hospitality and this is just one more way. I think you had a link in another post about hospitality (that was one of the first categories I searched through on your blog) about not having an entertaining mentality but a hosting. This is what I want for my heat.
Joy in Jesus,

Anonymous said...

I have too much clutter and piles of paper in my house to entertain guests for dinner (unless I know the people very well).

But I do have friends and their kids over for play dates regularly. It's easy to serve healthy snacks in the afternoon.

Laurie B

Simple Family Supper lady said...

Thanks for this post!! We love having others over! In fact I have found great joy in hosting a "mom's group" Bible study in our home once a week. It is great motivation to clean the house, LOL, but having a perfect home is FAR from reality! We get together, study the word and ENJOY our time together!!!!!

Jess said...

Our house really isn't "childproof" either. We just try to "houseproof" our children. ;-)

That said, if you're going to invite over children that are 3 and under, the responsibility is yours to be sure that nothing is out that you'd be heartbroken if it broke or was messed up by those children. Save yourself the heartache and just put up those few things that would be troublesome. Or put them away in a glass-doored case of some kind. Another option is to invite over older families... the benefit of that is that you can glean wisdom from them, and gain some "Titus 2" type relationships-- AND get to know people outside of your peer group (a wonderful thing!).

On the other issue (not being a night owl), I can see at least two solutions. One: you could invite people over earlier in the day and blame yourself (i.e., "I'm SO not a night owl... why don't you all come at 3:30, and we'll hang out before dinner, and then be able to visit for a bit afterwards and I can still..."-- get the kids in bed by 8 or get in bed by 9 or whatever.). The other option would be (if there was a larger group with someone you trust to leave "in charge") to say, "well, I'm off to bed- sorry to be this way, I've just learned that I'm no good when I don't get sleep. Feel free to stay and hang out as long as you want to, and Bill & Carrie will lock up when everyone's done playing games and visiting. Goodnight!"

Another option that just came to me would be to say, "why don't you guys bring your family over about 10:30 on Saturday morning and we'll hang out and have lunch about 12 or 1, and then we'll let the kids play until naptime... we could take a walk to the neighborhood park (or the lake down the street, or whatever), and get a chance to hang out for a good long while."

It may require some creativity (and you may have to find some friends who aren't completely wrapped up in little league sports from dawn to dusk every Saturday), but you can do it!

Hope this helps give you a few more ideas!

:..Rebekah..: said...

What a great post....and challenging! I have a book on hospitality that I haven't read yet called Radical Hospitality and I'm really looking forward to it.

Pepperpot said...

The big problem I have with your blog is that there are simply too many links to other things that intrigue me and before I know it, I have bunny trailed myself into sixteen other tabs on Internet Explorer, reading endless other blogs and articles that interest me, whilst my wet laundry sits patiently in the machine.

Thanks for the Alcorn stuff, I'm a lover of his books and enjoyed his tete-a-tete with Joel Stein very much. :) Now I'm off to hunt for a breakfast puff recipe as your pioneer gal link refuses to work for me and I NEED to make those scrumptious looking little things.

Claire said...

Jess, can I just say that I LOVE the way you approach issues like this! No excuses or complaining, just straight into positive, God-honouring suggestions! I LOVE it, thank you!

CappuccinoLife said...

lol. Pepperpot and I have the same problem. :)

That was a great post! People so often think that being home with our kids is a *hinderance* to ministry, and I really disagree! Hospitality is a huge ministry and an opportunity to present the Gospel and show the love of Christ to others, through our lives. We love to have people over, and we have found that they don't care one whit that I'm not serving gourmet food and that my house is small and sometimes untidy. It's the togetherness that is what matters.

I left an award for you on my blog, btw! :)

Kerimae said...

Hi there

We've hosted families many, many times to our home, the next time being this Saturday, which will extra adults and......(1, 2, 3...) about 28 extra children. The biggest blessing I see is that these families are rarely invited to other homes bc "there aren't enough chairs" or whatever. Some things that have helped us:


paper plates and goods, and big garbage cans

bringing inside a multitude of white plastic outdoor chairs (we put kiddie socks on the legs to keep the rubber from getting onto the hardwood floor).

and....we haven't done this yet, but will on Saturday, paper throw-away handtowels for the guest bathroom.

It's not about the food or even the space. It's about forming relationships with people and enjoying what God has done and is doing with all sorts of people.

I would say, "don't stress!" Just jump in and invite!


annie said...

Thanks for this! I love people but I have a horrible time making friends. I am horrid (horrid!) at small talk and get so intimidated. I don't mind my house slightly out of sorts and enjoy planning and making meals, but I can never think of anything to say or discuss and so I usually stay quiet rather than feel stupid. And then it feels awkward....I really don't like it and it prevents me from opening up to other people. That, and we live more than 10 miles from our church and most people aren't willing to drive out here and my husband's nights off are Wednesdays (everyone is at church for youth group/choir/committee meetings/small groups) and Fridays (when my parents come over for dinner). We want to open our home! Our heart is there! :)

By the way I LOVE the green (i think) shirt you're wearing in the picture of you and Silas in th ememe post. Maybe not the most theologically interesting comment, but I wanted to share.

thecurryseven said...

Great post, Jess. I love entertaining and we have often been blessed by hosting people in our home.

Kerri, you're right. Very few large families are invited to other's homes for dinner, unless it's by another as large or larger family.

We make a lot of use of potlucks. There are three or four families whom we regularly have over for dinner. One solution I have found to the 'having enough chairs problem' for the 18+ children is to have an indoor picnic. I spread easily washable blankets or sheets on the floor and the children eat on those. Usually they are all so excited to continue playing that they eat fairly quickly. The adults can then linger (at a table) over their food in a calmer atmosphere.

Another take on the pot-luck theme is for the host family to make something like chalupa (pork roast and pinto beans cooked in a crock pot)and for the invited families to each bring a topping or two (lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, etc.) This could work for many things...tacos, curry, sundaes if you wanted to do dessert.

I also have a couple of suggestions for Annie. I also really don't like making small talk and am fairly uncomfortable talking with people until I get to know them a bit. One solution I have found is to invite people over to DO something. For instance, one time we had someone come and teach a group of us how to make Ukrainian Easter eggs. By having something to do, it both provides a subject to talk about and avoids people sitting around just staring at each other. One other solution I use is that I know several people who are excellent at small talk. I will often invite them along with someone I don't know as well because I can count on the talkers to keep the conversation going.

Catherine R. said...

I hope to learn hospitality one day. Nothing replaces interacting with people in real life (as opposed to via technology).

Linda said...

Hi, Jess. This was a good post. We use to be more hospitable than we are now. I have 5 kids now and sometimes I guess I think the house should be totally organized to have a planned dinner. We've been meaning to have some friends over lately, and this is just what I needed to encourage me to set a date. Thanks.

Christine said...

This was such an encouraging post; thank you so much! Sometimes, it can be challenging just to get all manner of things done around the house, and I often put off hospitality. I thank you for your challenge. So many times, I only invite others when I think I can make everything perfect. Thank you for a glimpse into the blessing of hospitality.

Lindsy said...

Jess and E.W.E,

Those time suggestions have an additional benefit. I never know when to leave. I've left places quickly before only to think I probably, in an attempt to not hang around too long, seemed uninterested in people or preoccupied. I honestly get anxiety about staying or leaving. Having somebody say, "why don't we eat at 1, then go to the park a good long while," would let somebody know it's an invitation to stay around for a good while. And other time comments could help people with problems like mine know when to leave. "Come over for an hour or two" (well, then, I better not stay too long)! "I'll have to quit hanging out at 3 because ___, but until then" - that gives somebody an end time as well. (And incidentally, by giving the time line in advance, there's less chance somebody will later misinterpret you saying you have to go as meaning you don't like the thought of spending more time with your guest. It could also help the person prepare more in knowing how many bottles to pack or not pack for a baby, etc.) The comment about others locking up would be freeing, as people know both that they can stay while Bill and Carrie and others are there, and also that it might be a good time to leave if only Bill and Carrie are left.... So, anyhow, there are a few more thoughts on Jess' great suggestions.


I have this problem as well. Unfortunately, I don't have nearly as good of a grasp on how to handle it as I'd like. But I would like to go ahead and inform you that the newer Open Heart, Open Home books that I know of contain some ideas about how to make conversation go.

As for having a space to host people, would your church let you use its kitchen after the service? Or what about just inviting somebody out for coffee halfway between church and home, or driving further towards church or the people? (I wish I could be of more help!)

Adrienne said...

Thanks for those helpful suggestions. I will definitely get some of those resources for my children!

MacCárthaigh Family said...

Excellent post!

annie said...

Wow, I had no idea people would offer such helpful suggestions! Thanks so much. And a couple are so duh I'm embarrassed I didn't think of them myself. :)

The Magnificent Seven said...

But I don't have a bathroom for guests to use?

CG, E3 & Sons said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jess. I am really passionate about hospitality and having my home filled with guests (when I have a home, that is - still living with my parents at the moment)... and have recently wondered what will happen if I have children. I imagined maybe having to deny or "put off" the dream, but this advice is really helpful and encouraging.

- CG