Thanks to Kim and Life in a Shoe (click here) for the ideas on showing hospitality in a small space!! Since I grew up in a very hospitable home, (and so did my husband)–we called our house a “big” house at the time, but now I think of it as small :)–and as the Bible commands us to “practice hospitality,” there was never any question whether I would show hospitality, only how.
I started out with a tiny amount of space, but even as our space has expanded, the size of the groups we have hosted has grown with it, so that it still takes creativity and organization. So, here are a few thoughts on hospitality. My goal is to show you that anyone can do it, and pass on some ideas that have helped me!
Hosting Large Groups
For larger groups, I frequently set up an additional table in the living room, (it helped when I only had two chairs in there and no sofa) and also downstairs, and in summer we spread outside to the deck. We were blessed to add a large deck and sliding glass door to the house a few years ago. Before we had even a table, my husband made one out of the scaffolding he had used to paint the house:), and put a board over it–I threw a tablecloth over it and we used it for quite awhile actually–it was very sturdy!
When we host larger groups (35-50), we serve the food on the wider part of the counter, or on the table, and route a path around that takes you from one side of the kitchen, getting your food, past the desserts on the other side of the sink, and getting your drinks from a large 5-gallon container for water on the other side of the stove, with plastic cups, and a marker to put your name on the cup. There’s a space to set your plate while you write.
We put a large coffee pot full of hot water on the counter and a large basket with assorted teas next to it and cups for hot drinks. People help themselves.
Our Annual Christmas Gathering
At Christmas, when we have our Skating Party and Christmas Carol Sing, I will put additional water and cups downstairs, and hot chocolate so that the skaters who come in from the lake, through the back door downstairs, don’t have to come up to get something to drink. That’s also where we end our evening sharing testimonies of God’s goodness, and singing Christmas hymns, so it’s nice to have the drinks nearby.
Avoiding Spills by Young Eaters
Normally, I keep the youngest eaters sitting at a table in the kitchen (on a tiled floor) or in the tiled area downstairs, or I have put a sheet down to protect the carpet, when necessary. It’s not the end of the world if someone spills on the carpet, but a little precaution goes a long ways.
Home Church Once-A-Month Logistics
When we have a church service in our home, which is about once a month, (we have about 30-35 people here) and need to set up a lot of chairs downstairs, we move the sofas to the outside wall, move all extra furniture to the bedroom, pile it on top of the bed, etc., and set up rows of folding chairs. We face the people away from the stairs, so that those who have to take a young one out to use the bathroom upstairs do not distract everyone. We close up our pingpong table and pin over it an afghan with a grand piano and a Bible verse on it. This gives a focus, and it’s a very effective wall which hides anything that I need to get out of the way to make room for people.
Organization Ahead of Time Makes It Easy
Dealing with the extra traffic in the bathrooms, we set out two or three absorbent handtowels in each bathroom, and put extra toilet paper in a basket in the corner, and set a small stool by the sink for the little ones.
When food is served to a larger group, extra garbage containers with plastic bags are positioned up and downstairs, and even outside, if the group is very large, and it is summer. In the bottom of the garbage containers, keep an extra garbage bag or two, so that any generous soul who decides to empty the garbage for you, doesn’t have to come looking for you to give him a garbage bag. (This also helps your son when he takes out the garbage.)
Really Large Groups
When the number of guests is over 75, which usually only happens rarely, and in summer, I put an extra 5-gallon container of water on a table outside, and a garbage container in an appropriate spot, to reduce the traffic in and through the house, and to cut down on garbage pickup later. With that large a group, we’ll expect lots of kids, so we set up outside games such as volleyball, “Polish” golf, a homemade mini golf game that a friend has made, and we sometimes have set up the pingpong table in the driveway.
What We Do In Winter
In winter, we like to plan get-togethers around ice skating on our lake. If the group is over 35 or so, we take all the coats to the bedroom, but our present home has a “not beautiful, but functional” entryway with about 25 hooks for coats. Everyone just takes their coats, and shoes or boots off there, and yes, it is an amazing pile at times, but it works. I have a bench there to sit on to put on shoes or boots, which also holds hats, mittens and scarves. We encourage people to take their skates to their vehicles before we eat, so we don’t have anyone tripping over, or getting hurt on, a sharp pair of skates. We put up a bench (sawhorses), down by the lake for putting on skates.
When we are having a small group or a family over, I have a few standby recipes that I make for the first time someone comes to visit. They are tried and true, delicious, easy, and can be prepared mostly ahead. I like to invite 2 families at once, so that they also can get better acquainted, and the burden of conversation is spread out. It makes for a fun evening!
I’ve Learned A Few Things Since I Was A Young Bride
When I was a young bride and I was having company, I used to clean the whole house, cook everything, and set the table the day of the dinner! I would be exhausted by the time the guests arrived! I have learned a few things since then!
Now, I choose a dessert that can be made ahead, I clean the house days ahead–it’s not going to get that much dirtier in just a few days–I try to use crockpot recipes, or recipes where the majority of the work is done beforehand, and little work is done at the last minute. e.g. I rarely serve mashed potatoes and gravy to guests. I almost always set the table the night before.
My goal is to leave as little as possible to the day of the dinner. All I do the day of is touch up the bathrooms, if needed, and make finishing touches to the meal. This way, I am much more able to visit with and serve my guests, and enjoy the evening myself. The children and the guests’ children, if old enough, clear the table and load the dishwasher.
How To Have An Edifying, As Well As Fun, Evening
I like to have my guests share their salvation testimony with us the first time they come to our home. We will often ask them to share while still at the table. We include our children, so they have heard wonderful testimonies over the years, that have greatly increased their faith. This has made for memorable and spiritually enriching times! (If a person is not sure of their salvation, you will probably find this out, too, and have the joy of sharing with them how they can be certain that they are saved from hell and their sins, and going to heaven when they die.)
The Goal Is Love
These are just some of the ways we have learned to show hospitality. The goal is love. Remembering that will bless others, and you will be blessed, as well.