Do You Believe These Common Lies About Hospitality?

By contributing writer, Lisa

Not long after my husband and I were married, we had the opportunity to live in an apartment directly beneath some friends. Our apartment was not anything nice. The dining room was tiny. The kitchen was awkward and the counter-tops were stained from the time I failed to follow the directions on a certain cleaning agent.

But, the few months that we lived in that apartment is special simply because of the easy proximity we shared with our friends. Hardly a day went by when we were not in their apartment or they were not in ours. We shared many meals together, plenty more cups of coffee, and even more idle hours just enjoying each other’s company.

Practicing hospitality then was easy

Maybe you had a similar experience pre-kids or before whatever circumstance that now keeps you from enjoying the same ease of hospitality.

If you have a hard time remembering the last time you invited a friend or family over to share a meal with you, perhaps it is because you are believing a lie that you first must measure up in a certain way. Or that chatting over dinner is something you did in the past, but isn’t for your busy life today.

While there are seasons in our lives in which practicing hospitality needs to take a backseat, often the things that are keeping us from enjoying a deeper level of friendship with others are pressures that need to be let go of.

Don’t rob yourself or your family of the joy and blessing of inviting in others because you believe one of these lies …

Do you believe these 5 common lies about hospitality?

5 Common Lies that Keep Us From Practicing Hospitality: 

Lie #1: You have to be a good cook.

I will start here, because most of the time, when we think about hospitality, we think about inviting people over to share a meal together. This is fine if you are comfortable cooking, but what if you aren’t? Is it true that you can’t invite people over for a meal unless you are excited about spending an hour in the kitchen beforehand and have a gourmet dish to serve to your guests? 

Definitely not!

Unlike dinner at a restaurant, the main attraction is not the food, but the company. Too often, we can put expectations on ourselves that no one else has for us. It is better by far to serve a simple meal that everyone can enjoy, than to be frazzled and exhausted by the time your company arrives because you’ve spent too much time and energy preparing an elaborate meal out of your comfort zone.

Some of my favorite meals to serve guests are simple meals which are familiar to everyone, kids included. A taco bar, spaghetti and meat sauce, sliders, or a simple roasted chicken are all easy to prepare ahead of time and easy to eat.

If, however, you still find yourself lacking the time to make a meal to share with friends, don’t be afraid to just order in! Have a pizza night together or share a big order of Chinese food.

Take the focus off of what is on the table and turn your attention to enjoying who is around the table. 

Lie #2: Your house must be stylish and spotless. 

If this lie was true, then I would be doomed.

Of course, your home should be clean and tidy enough to make your guests feel comfortable. But a home that looks a little “lived-in” is more inviting than one that is pristine and cut out of magazine.

Don’t apologize for your home. Don’t be ashamed of that unfinished project or the handful of stains on your carpet. Set your guests at ease by letting go of the pressure to impress and make it clear that you are just glad they are there.

Welcome people into your real life. Let them see in your home what matters most to you. Doing so will set the tone for authentic conversations and pave the way for true friendship.

Do you believe these 5 common lies about hospitality?

Lie #3: Dinners must be planned in advance and on the schedule for at least two weeks.

I have friends whose lives are so full that I know planning (waaayyy) in advance is going to be a must. If this is you, then know that the effort is worth it— I’m just happy when we can make something work.

But, this doesn’t have to be the rule. Remembering that your food doesn’t have to be gourmet (lie #1), and that your house doesn’t have to be spotless (lie #2), frees you up to be a little spontaneous.

Run into a friend you haven’t seen in a while at the park? Take the opportunity to invite them over soon. Have a wave of cooking inspiration? Call someone up and see if they’d like to take the night off cooking and join you.

We all eat dinner every night. Keep expectations simple and enjoy it with friends more often. 

Lie #4: Dinner guests must be close friends. 

True story: we’ve sold things on Craig’s List before and invited the buyers to dinner. Our families ended up having a lot in common and the guys planned a subsequent fishing outing too.

On other occasions, when we have just moved to an area one of the first things I do is try to find families to have over to dinner. Because, like I tell my kids, if you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.

Sharing a meal together is a really effective first step to starting a friendship with another person or family.

Is there someone you’ve wanted to get to know better? Are you new to a group of people and don’t want to wait for someone else to break the ice? Want to be a blessing to someone you know who could use the company or time away?

View opening your home as a way to build relationships and minister to others— regardless of whether or not you’re best friends. 

Lie #5: My kids are too young to practice hospitality. 

If you have young children at home, you know that mealtimes can sometimes be less than enjoyable. Spills happen. Foods that were acceptable yesterday are now deemed “yucky”. And between fetching refills, cutting up bites, and reminding kids to focus on eating, it can seem like just finishing your own food before it goes bad is a goal worth celebrating.

However, as with many things, if you start teaching and training your children while they are still young, you will reap the benefits in just a few short years.

Practically speaking, think of ways you can set your kids up for success. Serve food that they enjoy. Relax the dinnertime rules— this isn’t the time to teach table manners. And give them a job to do to make them feel useful and keep them busy. (Model how to greet guests, let them help you in the kitchen, involve them in setting the table, talk about ways to serve and love your guests while they are in your home).

Make it a family goal to practice hospitality once a month. They will catch on to your enthusiasm and attitude. 

dessert
Overcoming these common misconceptions about practicing hospitality is the first step to enjoying more time with friends and cultivating deeper relationships with others.

Do you feel like practicing hospitality is easy or hard for you? What keeps you from inviting people into your home? 

Other Intentional by Grace posts you might enjoy:

Hospitality

Lisa also write a post on her blog about Tips for Low-Stress Hospitality. Check it out!

A Book Worth Reading to Inspire Hospitality:

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist – If you have a heart for community around the table, then do yourself a favor and read this book.

This post contains Intentional By Grace affiliate links. See our full disclosure policy here.

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19 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this. My husband and I have just recently talked about having people over. Before we were married, I would have him (my husband) and other friends over quite often. It was casual and easy. But now, for some reason, I feel intimidated by the idea. We did have a couple over a couple of weeks ago. And it seemed to go fine. We have a 5 year-old boy. We are trying to figure out whether to “only” invite couples that have little boys his age. Or what about girls his age? Or what if the kids are older? Or what if there are no kids? lol I think the thing that holds me back the most is how our house looks. I notice the spots on the carpet (not many, but they are there.) I can’t miss the dings in the vinyl (is that vinyl?) kitchen floor. I see marks on the walls. I see baseboards that need cleaning. To just glance around, I don’t notice such things. But then I think about someone else looking around, and I suddenly see all of the “imperfections.” I have been working on organization and that has helped. Guess I need to walk room to room making a list of things to take care of. Not just for guests, but for us. Thanks for the article.

    1. People care so much more about just being invited over – I don’t think they’re looking at the dings in the vinyl or spots on the carpet. I know what you mean, though! We live in a tiny rental apartment and I’m often self-conscious of what people might think of it. But the more we have people over, the more we realize they’re just glad we invited them!!

      1. You’re right.
        The couple we had over recently was the man that helped my husband get us signed up for new insurance policies. He helped my husband get himself signed up on some plans just in time since his current plan was being cancelled. (Right before his kidney transplant!) My husband mentioned a couple of times just how nice the man seemed. So, a few weeks ago when we were trying to decide who we should invite over, my husband suggested the insurance man and his wife. lol I was almost surprised that they accepted the invitation. I think they were surprised at the invitation. It was a nice time conversing over dinner.

    2. Thank you for the comment Charlene! I know what you mean about being self-conscious over our homes. I have three small children and more than our share of stains on the carpet and neglected baseboards. But I would really encourage you that, on the whole, it’s not what people notice when they come over. And if they do, it likely sets them at ease since they likely have their own stains and things they would like to change about their own homes. I also agree with Julie that I really think people are just happy to be invited over, especially since the practice isn’t as common today.

      As far your son goes and choosing who to invite over, I think that our children can greatly benefit from interacting with people of all ages. You may be surprised to see a different side of your son come out when he is playing with children older or younger than he is. We have also invited older couples over before and our five-year-old became quite the chatterbox talking about a shared interest. So by all means, invite his friends and kids his age over, but don’t let that limit you either!

      1. After leaving my comment, I took a little time to look around at my house. My son asked me what I was doing. lol I told him that I was appreciating our home. I could rattle off a list of all of things that are “wrong” or need cleaning or fixing. I decided to shift my focus for a moment on the good things. I am thankful for the home we have and have been working at getting it in order. Mostly meaning that if someone came to my door (which never happens) I would feel fine inviting them in. Which also means that I can look around daily and feel content. (But, I ‘should’ get a to-do list going of things to clean like wall marks, baseboards, etc.)

        Now to just start inviting people and getting into a “new normal.” I would think that the more often we had people over, the more comfortable I’d be with it.

  2. I agree completely! I worry that my house has to be perfectly clean to have people over, and that sounds like too much work! So, I don’t invite people over as often as I would like. Thanks for the encouragement to shift my focus to relationships instead of a pristine house!

    1. It does sound like too much work if our homes have to be pristine! Really though, I think that a welcoming attitude, friendly smiles, and the attention put on your guests will make them remember your home as a very warm and inviting place to be!

  3. These are all very good. My husband and I have the gift of hospitality. We love preparing food and hosting. We specifically bought our house because it was well designed for company. Brunch is our favorite meal. What I find the hardest to overcome is that people are often so casual to not respond when an invitation is given. Is so hard to say polite and prompt no?

    1. I heard someone complain about this recently too, that people can be bad at RSVPing. I think we’re losing our manners. Maybe they feel more comfortable saying “no” by text or email than by phone? We often invite by text.

    2. That is difficult Janna. Good job to you for inviting people and using your home to be a blessing! Perhaps a friendly reminder a day or two later would help. If they are like me, they may suffer from chronic forgetfulness. Maybe your good manners could spur good manners on in their lives too! 😉

  4. My only issue is my house is in no condition for company. The second step to the front porch isn’t stable. There’s exposed wires in certain places. Plus holes (there’s a large one in our kitchen by the fridge) or weak spots in the floors. I would hate if anyone visiting got injured. I myself broke my right toes falling along with the second step on our back porch. When we move to a a safer place I’d welcome company again.

    1. I agree that sometimes we just need to take a break from having people over. Sounds like you’re in that kind of season now! When the weather is nice, we have often had our dinners outside on our picnic table or even met with friends for a picnic at a park. That might give you a chance to still enjoy dinners with friends during this season!