If you are going to have people in your home every week to eat a meal and share life with you, there are some tips we’ve learned along the way that make this a joy and not a burden! Lots of factors conspire against you to make it too hard and have you wishing you could back out, but with some intentional changes to your normal hosting habits, it is possible to look forward to it!
One thing I should mention before we get into practical tips is deciding to change the way you think of yourself as the host. If you only think of yourself as hosting guests, you will feel the need to do it all yourself and you will burn out quickly. Instead imagine yourself as the family gatherer! When you gather family into your home, you are relaxed and you expect everyone to contribute and help. You don’t feel the need to make sure your home is spotless before they come, because it’s family and they know you and love you. When family comes to share a meal together, everyone contributes to the meal and everyone helps clean it up when they’re finished.
To get to this point with people who aren’t yet your family, you will have to be intentional and invite them to participate in the night fully, by asking them to help with the food, the cleaning and the children.
Tip #1 – Lost and Found
Have an easily accessible Lost and Found bin. People will leave stuff at your house every week. Ladles, dishes, water bottles, baby bottles, sweatshirts, socks, toys, books…… the list of stuff that has ended up at my house unclaimed week after week goes on! You don’t want to have to think of it beyond the night you gather. If you find things that don’t belong to you, throw them in the bin and every so often remind people to check it on their way out. Out of sight, out of mind. Burden lifted.
Tip #2 – GroupMe
Make a group text on the GroupMe App and help everyone who walks through your door on missional community night to join! Even if someone doesn’t have a smart phone they can still access the group by good old-fashioned text. You don’t want to feel the weight of all the communication on your shoulders, and if there is a group text then anyone can start a conversation at anytime during the week. That way no one expects you to be in control, because everyone has equal access. If there is a prayer request everyone knows it immediately. If someone needs to move a couch they can just say the word and most likely a few people will be at their door within the hour. If someone has an idea for a meal theme for the next gathering, they are free to say “Hey! Let’s do Mexican food next week. I will bring shredded salsa chicken!” Everyone else will get the picture and chime in with what they are bringing to contribute, like tortillas, beans, cheese, salsa, rice, peppers, dessert… and you will know that dinner is covered and what you need to provide. It’s so freeing and makes everyone’s life easier.
We have tried a few other group communication tools and like GroupMe best but, you know, use whatever works for you – just please don’t rely on group email ;)
Tip #3 – Kid Friendly Set Up
If you are lucky, the family that gathers at your home every week will include some tinies! This will be a blessing and not a burden with a bit of well thought out consideration for their needs. Simplifying your life and home is always a good idea, so use this as a reason to declutter and purge the stuff you don’t need sitting out all the time. If there is nothing of value that can be ruined by curious hands at the level of the tiny humans, then there is no worry or stress for you or their parents. We always had a bin of foam blocks, a case of matchbox cars and a low shelf with children’s books that they would quickly make their way to whenever they entered our home. Kids catch on quick and when they know which items are there for them to use, they will not need to get into your bathroom cabinets instead! Another thing that always makes our nights go smoothly is to encourage the older kids to take responsibility for the younger ones, which gives grateful parents a much-needed break and a chance to sit and eat an entire meal.
Tip # 4 – Intentional Mealtime Set Up
I don’t want to be too prescriptive with this one, because everyone’s home is different. Some of us will have a dining room large enough for a couple of tables and even room for temporary tables and folding chairs, and some of us will have more limited space to work with. But whatever your situation there are some things that you can do to make mealtime run as smoothly as possible. I suggest making some trips to your local thrift stores to gather up extra silverware, serving spoons, cloth napkins, water pitchers and reusable plastic cups, plates and bowls. In light of trying to be good stewards of God’s great earth, we don’t like to add more to the landfills just for ease of clean up. If you have an intentional system for cleaning up and even a bin meant for cloth napkins, your life will not be any harder for refusing to use paper products. We have always found that it makes mealtime easier when there are pitchers of water, cups and silverware on tables so that people can quickly get through the food line with just a plate (or two if they are trying to help a tiny).
With some thought and intentionality, gathering people to commune each week in your home will become a joy and a time that the whole family looks forward to!
What tips and tricks have you found that make gathering people in your home more sustainable?