Hospitality with Flair
by Martha Rogers
When asked to host a party either at home or at the church, many will cringe and worry while others will clap and can’t wait to get started. Being a Mary in a Martha situation can bring doubt and reluctance to the one asked to be hostess. In reality, all that is necessary for Christian hospitality is a big smile, a warm heart, and a desire to honor God in it all.
As a former teacher of what we once called Homemaking, I had the opportunity to teach teenage girls how to be good hostesses. Our first rule was to keep the food simple but appealing and the second was to greet the guests with a warm heart and a big smile.
Face it, Christians love to eat and any occasion can be turned into a huge culinary undertaking. Thankfully, potluck suppers are as popular now as they were in times gone by. Church socials still rank high on the list of events to attend where we enjoy good food and good fellowship. Whether it is an ice cream or dessert party, a luncheon for class or department at church or home or a fancy dinner for hundreds at church, loving hearts and hands can make the difference.
The first thing is to decide on a theme. Seasons are great for party themes as are things like birthdays or vacations. After the theme, choose simple decorations for each table. Christmas, fall harvest, or Easter are the easiest because the decorations are so readily available in our own attics or closets. The dollar type stores are a great place to acquire what you need for any occasion and are easy on the budget.
The next thing is to think of how many will attend. If it’s a small group from your church and the entire group is invited, getting a head count is much easier. If you are mailing invitations, make up your guest list remembering only about sixty percent may actually attend. Consider the amount of space you have and go from there.
One hostess I know always moved out extra furniture from her living room and family room, and stored it in a bedroom. That door was then closed and decorated with a nice sign that indicated the room was for storage. She then used folding chairs to replace the seating now stored away.
Next consider the menu. Many class groups like to do pot-luck type salad luncheons, or you can plan a simple menu of your own. This is not the time to try out elaborate new recipes unless you have plenty of time to practice before the event. Consider the ages of the guests and any dietary needs as well as the time of day. A menu for a dinner will be more filling than that of an open house or luncheon.
Now it is time for you schedule your time to get things done before your guests arrive. Think about everything that needs to be done and make a list. Then prioritize the list by what has to be done first and what can be saved to the end. For example, cleaning the bathrooms should be last so that they are at their freshest for the guests. Also, scheduling things far enough in advance will keep you from last minute rushing to be finished.
Even the most laid back personality will benefit from a schedule. Once you have a schedule made, you will find it much easier to do the things that must be done to be ready for your guests without spending all of your time cleaning house and cooking.
A home doesn’t have to elaborate, expensive, or professionally decorated to be warm and inviting for guests. Let the things you enjoy express the warmth of your heart. Leave family photos on display as well as your favorite accessories. Your friends will be relaxed and in good spirits in a home that expresses the personality of its owners.
Decorations can range from the simplest vase of flowers to eye-catching elaborate, professionally done floral arrangements that express a theme or idea. Use your imagination by mixing and matching china or pottery patterns. Find an unusual serving piece and use it on the table. If the dinner is buffet style, the food can become part of the decorative scheme.
Themes for parties can run the gamut from the simple to elegant. The theme can be as simple as carrying out certain colors in all the decorations, dinnerware, linens and glassware used or more complicated seasonal themes such as Easter or Christmas. Patriotism, Western, Harvest are easy to do and again dollar stores can provide much of what you need. Birthday dinners to honor all the birthdays of the year can include a table for each season with the names of those who have a birthday in that season as part of the decorations.
One resource you have at your fingertips is the computer. Google ideas for parties and you will find all kinds of ideas and suggestions from menus to decorations. Start with the basics and add your own imaginative touches.
Hospitality is a gift, but it is also a trait that everyone can exhibit simply by being sincere, and by welcoming people into the home or the event with a warm smile. Let the love of Jesus shine through a smile that beams not only from the mouth and eyes, but straight from the heart.
Martha Rogers is a free-lance writer and the author of the Winds Across the Prairie series as well as the novella, Key to Her Heart in River Walk Christmas. Summer Dream, Autumn Song, and Winter Promise, the first three books in her new series, Seasons of the Heart are now available. She was named Writer of the Year at the Texas Christian Writers Conference in 2009 and is a member of ACFW. Martha and her husband live in Houston. In addition to her works of fiction, Martha has stories in a number of compilations as well as devotional contributions to several anthologies and writes the weekly Verse of the Week for the ACFW Loop. She is a retired teacher and lives in Houston with her husband, Rex where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren and attending football, baseball, and basketball games when one of the grandchildren is playing.