How Not to be The Perfect Hostess

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.

Galatians 6:4

My dear friend, Elise, is a great cook and a natural hostess.  She inspires me! She makes it all look effortless—nothing seems to ruffle her feathers. She hosts her church small group, frequently entertains houseguests (sometimes longterm), and has invited my family over for amazing meals.

I, on the other hand, dislike cooking. When we host Elise’s family, I almost always serve them pizza (not exactly hostess-with-the-mostest stuff, right?).  To be fair, I put out sides, make a whopper of a dessert, and try to set a nice table…but still. After years of this, I determined to do something really special for them and cook a nice, big dinner. 

I started cooking right after lunch.  At that point our dishwasher was not quite full, so I waited to run it until I had a few more things to add. Soon I was cooking up a storm and the dishes were piled up all around the sink.  I thought I’d have just enough time to run the dishwasher, unload it, and reload it before they arrived.  I poured in the detergent and hit “start”… but nothing happened.  Broken dishwasher.

I started washing each and every dish in the sink, next to the sink, and in the dishwasher by hand.  I’m a germaphobic, meticulous handwasher so it took me almost ninety minutes to get those dishes done. By the time our guests arrived I could not face the thought of another dirty dish, so I went to my pantry to grab pretty paper plates to put my fancy dinner on.

Foiled again. All I had was a mishmash of leftover paper goods from my kids’ birthday parties—I’m talking purple polka dot dessert plates, Star Wars napkins, and Elmo cups. As I handed her husband a Disney princess plate with my lovely meal on it, I made a joke about how you know you’re with great friends when you don’t have to worry about your lack of hosting prowess.

To my surprise, Elise laughed so hard she dropped her bright green plastic spoon.  “Are you kidding?” she asked.  “You’re always such a tremendous hostess—you can be almost intimidating!”  And I replied, “What?  You’re the awesome hostess!  I’m trying to live up to you here!” After we chuckled together, Elise served up a question that cut to the heart of the moment:  How do you present yourself at your best without trying to look perfect? 

I think the answer lies within the motivation of the hosting.  If your goal is perfection, not joy, they’ll know.  If you’re performing instead of serving, they’ll know. If you’re trying to impress or looking for compliments for you instead of trying to please them, they’ll know. If you’re more immersed in “doing the party” than in being present with your guests, they’ll know.  You’re cluttering your own spirit, and making your guests feel uncomfortable.

If you’re all about the presentation and not the people, you’re missing the point of Christian Hospitality: loving and serving others in the name of Jesus. But if you’re being yourself, doing what brings you joy and relaxes you, that will relax your guests. The best hostess is true to herself and loving to her guests.

No matter how big or small the party is, Christian hospitality isn’t about entertaining, it’s about love.

Think it Through:

When you host, do you feel pressure to perform?  Is that pressure external or internal?

How can you focus on your natural strengths as a hostess and surrender other party elements?

How can you show God’s love to your guests?

For more about hosting with love, check out my newest book, Organizing for Christian Hospitality: An Organizing You Handbook.

And please share this with other Christian hostesses!  Here’s a Pin-friendly image:

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