A couple of weeks ago, we ran an article about the importance of inviting and how inviting others into our homes reflects how God invites us into his arms. We received a lot of feedback, including lots of questions about how to start inviting others when it’s not already a part of your home’s culture. Here are just a handful of ideas of how to practically approach inviting so that you can use the safety of your home to pursue hearts and engage.
1. Don’t make it about you… The hardest but most important thing to remember about hosting is that it’s not about you. It’s about the guests—it’s always about the guests. This is difficult to remember when we feel nervous about how people will view our homes or making ourselves vulnerable to others, but the reason for inviting is to love others and create a safe place for their hearts to receive that love. When we can remember that we aren’t the focus, we are freed to focus on how to love our guests and how we can effectively engage them.
2. But stay true to you! I love the current trend of encouraging mamas not to compare themselves to each other; I’ve read a lot of articles with that flavor, and I hope to read more. And I would apply it to hosting! A huge temptation is to look at someone else’s home or hosting style and make comparisons. I think it’s a mistake to compare ourselves and our situations to others, and it’s even a bigger mistake to try to mimic someone else’s hosting style. Stay true to who God created you to be and the gifts he has given you!
For example, if you don’t like groups, don’t invite groups—invite one or two people over. If you don’t like to cook, don’t invite people for meals—just serve coffee. If you don’t have a child-friendly space, ask friends with kids to meet you at Chick-fil-A or the park. Look at your space and look at your gifting—what do you have to offer others? How can your home be a blessing to someone? In what ways are you good at engaging people through conversation?
3. Keep it simple and easy. The number one comment I hear from friends about why they are hesitant to invite others into their home is that they feel like their homes aren’t nice enough to make people feel welcome. In this age of Pinterest and Instagram, we have new ideas about what our homes could look like, which can easily translate into what our homes should look like. Some of us have the talent and resources to create a home that looks like it came from a magazine, but most of us don’t. And while it can be a great blessing to be invited into a beautiful home, what really impacts our hearts is how well we were loved (or not loved) in that home.
When we are considering inviting others into our homes, the more we focus on their hearts and how to engage them, the less overwhelmed we will be by how our homes are seemingly lacking. So let’s forget Pinterest and painting tiny chalkboards on all our mason jars to make personalized drinks for everyone and start at the beginning: what do I already have in my cupboard, what is something I can buy at the grocery store on my way home from work, what can I do to make my living room an inviting space using things I already have? For example, how about dragging out that chip-and-dip set you got as a wedding gift but never use, grabbing chips and guac at the store, and clipping a sprig of lilacs from your yard to put on the coffee table? Add some lemonade and voila, you have a tiny party!
4. Start small. I know that just the thought of inviting others into your home can feel quite daunting, especially if you haven’t hosted much or haven’t had it modeled in your life. So as you being to pray and envision what it looks like for you to start inviting, I would encourage you to dream small! Meaning, don’t overwhelm yourself with plans of grandeur and bite off more than you can chew. Take it one step at a time—invite one or two people over for coffee. Or invite friends over for a simple taco bar. Again, think about what you enjoy, what you have to offer. Do you have a porch? How about inviting a couple of friends over for cold sweet tea and watching the sunset? Do you play the piano or guitar? What about hosting a small hymn sing on a Friday night? How about making a big pot of chili and asking neighbors to bring bread and drinks? And who could turn down a cold beer around the fire pit at night?
5. Pray for your time and plan conversation points ahead of time. When I tell people I am a shy introvert, sometimes people don’t believe me. They don’t know how hard social situations are for me or how terribly awkward I feel when someone talks to me at church. They don’t know about the hours I spend in prayer before attending anything that involves other people, whether it’s Bible study with my beloved friends, going to church with my beloved church family, going to a party at a safe friend’s house, or hosting a party in my own home! One of the things I think and pray about is the conversation. For one thing, I’m not quick on my feet, so I am not good at winging it. But for another thing, I want to make sure that conversation and interaction is meaningful. So as I pray, I ask God to help me think of things to talk about with others.
When we invite others into our homes, we are communicating that we see them, we want to know them, we want to love them, and we want them to feel safe. It helps me greatly to pray for each guest and think about meaningful topics or questions to ask. I think about past conversations and questions I can ask to follow up. I think about what they are dealing with and how I can engage hard topics. I think about their hobbies and how I can pursue them by showing interest.
6. Partner with a friend. If the thought of inviting others is just too much for you, or you are just too embarrassed by the lawn chairs in your living room, ask a friend to partner with you. Nothing gives us courage like a good friend at our side! If you don’t have space to host, find a friend who does and offer to provide the food and drinks if she simply opens her home. Maybe you can co-host a small gathering—you could each invite two friends and play cards and drink sweet tea, or you could bring your wedding albums to share. I recently hosted a baby shower for a close friend. She is an artist, and I wanted everything to be perfect; however, I am not good with decorations, so I invited another friend to do the decorations, and she did a phenomenal job. She is gifted where I am sorely lacking, so together, we were better equipped to love our friend and her guests.
Don’t be afraid to ask friends for help. Every spring, I host a recital in my home for my piano students. We average around 30 people a year…in my tiny bungalow! It’s a huge undertaking, but it’s important to me that my students are in a familiar environment. So I ask the mamas to bring treats so feeding 30 people doesn’t fall squarely on me. And one grandma always offers folding chairs so everyone has a place to sit! I could never, in a million years, do this without help. And the help is not only practical, but emotional and spiritual—I am encouraged knowing I am not alone. I have friends who love me and who are cheering me on as I pursue their littles on my piano bench each week.
Tell us about your home—in what ways is it welcoming? What does your home offer guests? Think about your unique personality. In what ways, based on your own interests and gifting, could you engage people? What is something specific you need to pray about as you move toward inviting others? Is there someone you could partner with to invite and pursue others?