Even though the bustling season of Christmas is behind us, holidays are not the only times for hospitality! In fact, sometimes it is easier to open our homes to friends and extended family when it is not a crazy busy holiday. Such was the case for me when I offered to host a Sunday night Teen Time for junior high and high school students from my church.
As I’ve written before, hospitality does not need to be complicated or expensive in order to bless others. You do not need to serve a fancy dinner or use antique china. Think of the meals that your family enjoys most and offer those to your friends. Breakfast foods, taco bar, potato bar, soups, and salads all work well, as well as crock pot meals.
I organized my preparations for Teen Time into these areas:
- Cleaning my house.
The more I eliminate clutter from my everyday life, the easier it is to clean my house! I set aside 2 hours on Saturday to pick up & put away any random items, dust the furniture, run the sweeper, mop the floors, and clean the bathroom. I did not spend more than 20-30 minutes with each task. It was nice to know that my house was completely clean a full 24 hours before the event! It was such a help that the dishes & kitchen were also clean & tidy when I went to bed, as that is my usual routine. In the past, I often left too many things to be done at the last minute. This way was much better!
- Planning my menu.
I knew to expect about 20-25 people. It seemed to me that chili would be the perfect thing to serve on a cold winter night! Usually the girls bring desserts and the guys bring sides or drinks. I estimated that I would need to double my usual chili recipe. I created a very simple grocery list of 5 different kinds of canned beans, tomato sauce, grated cheese, ground beef, and corn chips. I went to the grocery store on Saturday after I finished cleaning my house. This took me about one hour. Again, it was so nice to have the supplies on hand the day before!
- Welcoming my guests.
Being ready for my guests requires that I focus on that goal a few hours before my guests arrive, not just 5 minutes before I see them at my door. I had a very simple lunch earlier in the day with only a few dirty dishes. I mixed up the chili about 3 hours ahead of time, rinsed out the cans, and cleaned up the counters. I put a tablecloth on the table, set out the serving dishes, and lit a candle. I also set a large plastic container in the sink for the ice. I quickly set out 10 folding chairs. All I needed to do then was stir the chili every once in a while. I was relaxed and refreshed when my guests arrived knowing I was ready to welcome them!
- Cleaning up.
In only about 45 minutes, my kitchen, dining room table, and living room were all clean and tidy again—the few dishes and chili pot were washed, a few servings of chili were put in the freezer, the extra chairs were loaded in the car, and the trash was taken to the garage. The only thing left to do was post a picture of this great group of teens on my Facebook page!
Hospitality can be a blessing to you and others when you organize and simplify! There is something very special about gathering around a table sharing food, words, and laughter. This verse captures the essence of hospitality:
“And they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.” Acts 2:46
What are your favorite winter meals to serve your guests?