With the holidays coming, will you be having any groups of people over? Maybe family? Or people from church or work?
We enjoy opening our home for groups of people to come together and connect. But it does take a little more thought and work to have a group of people over!
As I plan food and prepare our home to welcome them, I imagine our guests. My goal is to create an environment where people can come together in meaningful ways that build relationships. (My CliftonStrengths themes of Connectedness, Positivity, and Discipline are coming through here!)
Here’s a few things I think about to help me prepare for group hospitality:
Food preferences. Enjoying food together creates an opportunity to connect with people. Who is coming, and what food preferences do I need to consider?
This is an important detail that shows love and care. Feeling free to take part in the food and drink options makes people feel noticed and included. For example, I may need to serve vegan or vegetarian options (pasta bars work great for this!). Or in a setting where wine or beer are served, I like to be sure there are some good non-alcoholic drinks available as well.
Serving arrangements. How many people are coming, how they will move about the room, and where they will sit? Do I want to be more formal? Casual? How do I want people to interact?
A sit-down dinner may be lovely. Or a more casual buffet style dinner may be relaxing and homey, with a stack of plates at the beginning of food arranged along the counter.
For open houses, a light dinner and appetizers can work well so guests can easily serve themselves as they chat and move about the room. For this casual option, I also place appetizers and treats at the dining tables and coffee tables around the room.
Make it do-able for yourself! I don’t push myself to make everything homemade. I want to serve quality, appetizing food, but much of this can be bought! For a Christmas party I bought grapes, cheese (served on a cutting board with crackers), cookies, and marinara sauce. But I chose a few special homemade items to make, too: peppermint bark, Alfredo sauce, and cranberry bread.
Making it do-able is important because the purpose is not for me to put on a show, but to provide people with tasty food so they have an opportunity to connect with people while they eat.
Set up and prepare ahead of time. This allows me to interact with and love people while they are in my home. The more people are coming, the more intentional I am to arrange the serving dishes, decorations, plates and napkins and such ahead of time. I choose foods I can prep ahead, with only a few things that need to be prepared just before guests arrive. Once people are there, I want to be present with them, rather than being unnecessarily distracted with too much serving.
Meet people at the door and walk them to the door. Each guest is a joy to welcome, and an important part of the evening. Richard and I try to pay attention so that one of us is free to greet each person as they arrive. Whenever anyone leaves, one of us tries to walk them to the door. You could also partner with a friend or other family to do this.
It requires a little courage, thoughtfulness, and service to open our homes for groups of people. But any of us can do it! And it creates the valuable opportunity to get to know each other and build community. This is truly a gift to the people in our lives!
Beyond your family, which group of people from your work, church, or neighborhood could you open your home to and bring together?