Summer and community go hand in hand. Whether it’s neighborhood block parties, Fourth of July cookouts, feast day celebrations with other Catholic families, or coffee with friends, some of the most beautiful moments of our lives take place when we gather together. All too often, though, our insecurities and fears keep us from hosting, opting instead to wait for an invitation.
In Hebrews 13:2, St. Paul encourages us: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”
Even if you’re pretty positive that your friends and neighbors aren’t literal angels, that doesn’t let us off the hook for the first part. Yes, there are a thousand reasons why we shouldn’t put ourselves out there and host. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself of a few:
- my house is too small
- I’m not good enough at decorating/cooking/entertaining
- having people over is too expensive
- I’m not extroverted or fun enough
- I don’t have time.
I know I have said, and deeply believed, each of these lies from time to time.
How to Embrace Imperfect Hosting and Invite People IN
Small or insignificant as they may sound at first, these beliefs can hold us back from deep, rich, life-giving moments that Christ desires for us. He created us to be in community, and sometimes, that means being the first one to bravely open the door and say, “Come on in.”
Work with What You Have
Sometimes, there really are constraints that can keep us from hosting, especially space and money. A one-bedroom apartment might not be the most comfortable place to host ten friends, plus their husbands and kids. If your grocery budget is extra-tight, throwing a gourmet dinner party may not be prudent. But, with a little bit of creativity, there’s always a way to host lovingly.
Ask the Holy Spirit for inspiration and pray about how you can best use your gifts, space, resources, and budget to the best of their ability.
Your apartment itself may not be the right place for all of those friends to gather, but the pool and picnic tables at your building might make a fantastic setting for a memorable summer afternoon together.
If the budget is a hurdle, don’t be afraid to ask guests to contribute food. Most people are happy to know exactly what they can bring! Inviting each person to show off their absolute favorite dish at a potluck dinner not only guarantees some seriously delicious food, it also opens the opportunity to trade stories about those recipes and where they came from.
Sometimes, our gatherings won’t look the way we originally envision them. But once we’re in the moment, they’re so, so much better.
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Lean on Your Village
The biggest party I’ve hosted to date (besides my wedding, if you count that) was my son’s Baptism party. My husband and I eagerly began planning a sit-down dinner for 20 people in celebration of this special day, well before our baby was out of my belly and in our arms.
Mamas, I think you know where I’m going with this.
A few days before the party, it hit me. I’m spending 75 percent of my waking hours nursing. My house is a disaster. And if I don’t make some adjustments to the party plans, there’s a very good chance I’m going to present my firstborn son to God with four days worth of dry shampoo in my hair.
A little piece of me was tempted to throw my hands up in defeat and cancel. That certainly would have been the easy route. But did I really want to celebrate my first child’s first Sacrament with microwaved lasagna leftovers when we got home from church? Definitely not.
In this case, the scope of our party mirrored the happiness that both we, and the people who had traveled across the country for the occasion, felt over our tiny new Catholic. We needed to be together and feast in celebration to fully express our joy! That made it worth the effort, even if I needed to adjust my expectations and plans in order to work for our new life with a newborn.
Ask for Help
And so, I turned to the real MVPs: my mom, my mother-in-law, and my husband’s favorite place to get authentic North Carolina barbecue takeout. Everyone was happy, I had time to shower, and as I looked at the people sitting on mismatched chairs around pushed-together tables that night, my house had never felt more like home.
Maybe you’re in a season of life when doing all the heavy lifting—the cleaning, the decorating, the cooking, etc.—is both doable and life-giving to you. But, if you’re not (or even if you are, but the party week takes an unexpectedly busy turn), don’t be afraid to ask for help. That could mean hiring a cleaning service, asking friends to bring wine or their signature dishes, or scrapping your homemade menu in favor of delicious takeout like we did. Do whatever restores your joy in hosting and helps you focus on what matters.
Invite Boldly (and More Than Once)
I’m an introvert, through and through. I almost never ask for an invitation. To be honest, that means I’ve spent a good amount of time in my life feeling kind of lonely. That said, I also really love the excuse to put together a pretty table. I’m also married to an extrovert who is happiest with a house full of people. As a result, we end up hosting relatively often. When we do, I have started trying to identify and invite the people who, like me, would never ask to join otherwise. My heart pounds every time I include an acquaintance I want to get to know better on an e-vite. I get nervous when I walk up to someone after church to invite them to coffee. But, I now know those moments have led to some of my dearest friendships, which makes it worth the risk.
On the flip side, I’m learning to offer a lot of grace when I invite someone to something and the answer is no. Especially in the season of parenting young children that I, and most of my friends, are in right now, even our best-laid plans can go awry. It may take five unfortunate (and super-last-minute) nos before a yes can finally come. But all six of those invitations still mean something. Invitations make people feel included and valued, no matter what the response may have to be. That matters, and the relationship will only be deeper because of it.
Be Not Afraid
A few verses after St. Paul tells us not to neglect hospitality, he reassures us: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid” (Hebrews 13:6).
May we humbly accept His help and the Holy Spirit’s inspiration as we create opportunities for true community to flourish!
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Lisa Kirk is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a wife, mama, and writer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She loves city life, Sunday brunch, and the beauty she uncovers (almost) daily in her vocation. In between snuggling with her toddler and dating her handsome husband, she blogs about family, faith, and feminine style here.