As I said before, hospitality didn’t come easily to me. I thought of all kinds of reasons I shouldn’t invite others in my home. Have you ever had these fears jump into your mind?
1. My House Isn’t Big Enough– As our family continued to grow, unfortunately, our house did not. I was tempted to think, guests won’t be real comfortable at our house. We have to squeeze around the table without a lot of elbow room. We don’t really have adequate seating in the living room, etc. All those factors were true, but I found that guests didn’t seem to mind. It might not have been what they were used to, but often they seemed kind of fascinated by how a large family worked together. The benefits of building relationships was worth it to us.
2. My House Isn’t Nice Enough– We often invited people into our home who had much nicer homes than we had. It was a temptation to not have people over, but you know, that really was just a matter of pride. I finally came to realize that if my house was good enough for my own family, it was good enough for company too. We had bought our house fire-damaged and repaired it. I remember when the new pastor came to town, we were the first people to invite him to dinner. At the time, our ceilings were still black from soot and we were using the small downstairs kitchen as we were working on the larger upstairs one. We now laugh with that pastor about how he must have thought we were crazy- maybe he did! Oh well……..
3. What Will We Talk About? Learn how to ask questions! Teach your kids how to ask good questions. It goes a long way. Teach them by example to show interest in the other person’s life. Most people will respond and are very comfortable talking about what interests them.
4. What if My Kids Misbehave? Or maybe I should say, when they misbehave! Our policy was to prepare our kids in advance for situations they would be in. Tell them what to expect and how you expect them to behave. Teach them to focus on the guests and look for ways to serve. Often kids will misbehave just for attention when they are bored. We assigned our kids responsibilities while the guests were there. For instance: “Laura, your job is to sit next to and talk with Mr.______ ” ; “Carrie, your job is to set and clear the table”; “Christa, you will refill drink glasses”; “Grace, your job is to wash the dishes”; “Matt, you will wipe the table”. All the kids who were old enough, were prepared in advance what their job/jobs were to be. If they were kept busy and prepared in advance, they misbehaved much less. If they did misbehave, I would pull them aside and re-instruct them so as not to embarrass them.
5. My house isn’t perfectly clean- It wasn’t long into parenting that I realized I couldn’t and shouldn’t do it all. I made a list of everything that needed to be cleaned in my house. Each year, I would decide who was best able to do which job. I would assign chores, teach them how to do it and they would keep their job for the year. Therefore, if dusting were scheduled to be done on Tuesday and we had company over for supper on Friday night, so be it. If the house is clean enough for my family, it’s clean enough for company. As a kid I remember whenever we did have anyone over we had to clean and scrub and we all hated having company because of all the work required before having them come over.
6. It’s too crazy adding more kids to the mix of my own! With my home already full of my own children, things could really get crazy when I added another family with kids. The parents would be talking together and the kids would be off playing and I never really knew what was going on. So, I started assigning a “guest child” to each one of my kids. I would tell each child they were responsible for making sure “Little Sam or Susie” was not excluded from playing with the others, that my child would defer to them as to what game to play or activity to do, that they would let us know if someone was unkind to the child they were responsible for, etc. Also, part of their job description included making sure that child didn’t do things that weren’t allowed- like going through others drawers or opening the file cabinet, etc. It worked so much more smoothly with a division of labor and each child being responsible for managing instead of “just playing”.