Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Meal With Jesus, by Tim Chester (Book Review)

from Carrie

Hospitality involves welcoming, creating space, listening, paying attention, and providing. Meals slow things down. Some of us don't like that. We like to get things done. But meals force you to be people oriented instead of task oriented. Sharing a meal is not the only way to build relationships, but it is number one on the list. (Chapter 2, Meals as Enacted Community, page 47)

Crossway Books kindly offered me the opportunity to read a copy of A Meal With Jesus (linked to my review), which is subtitled Discovering Grace, Community and Mission around The Table. It's a very thought-provoking read and one worth considering when thinking through the how and why of offering hospitality.

I invite you to read my full review of this title over at Reading to Know today, as well as join in on the discussion! See you over there...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

HOSPITALity : Meals for Caregivers

Guest post by Amy H.

Bringing meals is common after the birth of a baby or even after a death in a family. But, take a minute and consider, when else might the provision of a meal be a true blessing?

A family in our church recently experienced an unexpected, long-term hospital stay. While they had lots of family in the area, and their children were all grown--this was certainly a time when bringing meals was appropriate.

Caring for an ill family member can be very consuming, and meals are generally not a priority. This was one need that others could meet. For me, as a SAHM, it was a perfect ministry and I was thankful for the opportunity!

In this case, the meal would be eaten at the hospital so:
  • The meal must be in all disposable containers. There should be nothing to wash or feel the need to return.
  • Everything necessary for eating the meal must be included. A cooled bottle of water, a plate, napkin, plastic ware, and even condiments if needed.
  • This is a single-serve meal. Leftovers will be difficult to keep although I did include a few snack items (like chips that come in a can allowing them to easily be kept for future snacks).
  • The food must be ready to eat when delivered, meaning no heating up or refrigeration required.
  • Because I wanted my children to be involved, I invited them to make cards for the family to be included.
  • Writing out the menu is a nice touch. This can easily be included on a tag or in a card.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables might be refreshing, especially if they've been eating in cafeteria or take-out. For one meal I included a caesar salad with the dressing, Parmesan cheese, and croĆ»tons all separate to keep it fresh.
  • Since I was thinking of my meal as a gift, I wrapped it up in a gift bag, which also made for easy transport!

Coordinating drop off will be important and will vary in each situation. Offering Hospitality has previously posted some helpful tips for organizing meals.

This is the first time I've been involved in bringing meals in this type of situation; however, it got me thinking! I will certainly remember this for the future and be on the look out for unique opportunities to offer hospitality!

When else might providing a meal be a blessing?


Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Keeping a Hospitality Journal: Reflection

Guest Post by Amy H.

Remember when I shared that I didn't know how to cook when I got married? Well, one Sunday I prepared pork chops with barbecue sauce in our crock-pot. When we got home our apartment really smelled wonderful and I anticipated a delicious meal to serve our guests. We sat down looking forward to our meal. Then we cut into the pork chop. To say it was dry is an understatement! Clearly our guests were attempting to be polite, but the pork chop was awful! Thankfully we had dessert that day because it quickly became our lunch!

After this lunch, I began the reflection portion of my hospitality journal. I was keeping track of my planning so that I could reference it in the future, but this was one meal I didn't want to repeat! Or at least, I didn't want to repeat it the same way. By entering a note on my planning form that in the future I needed to use more barbecue sauce in this recipe I was sure to not repeat my mistake!

Over time, I realized that taking a few minutes to reflect after offering hospitality was an opportunity for me learn.

In offering hospitality, one of my goals is make my guest feel important and to get to know them! If I write something down then I am much more likely to remember it! So, over time I learned to also write down a few things that I learn about my guests because I want to remember them!

For example, I know that one of my friends enjoys catsup on just about everything. So when she comes for a meal I always put catsup out! Another friend enjoys half-and-half in her coffee. It's easy to keep that on hand for her visits! In a recent visit a friend mentioned that Smarties were her favorite candy. A few weeks later I found a huge bag of Smarties for a bargain. It brought me such joy to take them to her, knowing that she would enjoy them! By keeping a few notes, I know I am truly getting to know my guests better!

I have also learned that taking time to reflect is an opportunity for me to minister more personally to my guests.

For the reflection portion of my journal I make notes on what worked well, what I would do differently the next time, and what I learned about my guests. I write my reflections on the back of my planning form to keep them for reference. Here are a few questions that help me think more clearly:

  • Set-Up:  Were my guests comfortable? Did the seating arrangement work out? Did I move any furniture or arrange anything differently?
  • Menu:  How was the food? Did the recipes lend themselves well to the occasion? What was I able to prepare before the guests arrived so that I could focus on them? How much food and beverage was consumed (this is especially helpful to know as you entertain larger crowds)? Anything I didn't have enough of or that I had a lot of leftover? Also, make notes of any changes you made to the recipes for future reference.
  • Personal Information:  What did I learn about my guests? Do they have favorite foods or games? Any allergies mentioned? Are there things that they do not enjoy? Any special interest that they mentioned? Are there any significant events coming up in their lives? I usually put these events on my calendar, especially if I want to follow up with them in the future. What prayer requests were shared? Take time now and pray for them!
  • Follow-Up:  Was there anything that you offered to do for them or give them? Maybe they asked for a copy of a recipe, this is the time to go ahead and get it sent to them. If appropriate, go ahead and send them a note thanking them for coming, encouraging them in an area of struggle that was mentioned, or simply mentioning a favorite part of your time together. Let your guest know that you enjoyed the time with them and heard what they shared!

My hospitality journal has changed over time, yet has consistently proven very helpful! Taking time to plan and reflect has made preparation easier, helped me to learn from experience, and minister to my guests in a more personal way.

I shared about my dry pork chops. Do you have a hospitality experience that you would rather not repeat? 


Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Keeping a Hospitality Journal: Planning

Guest post by Amy H.

When I first got married I did not know how to cook. Yes, growing up I spent time with my mom in the kitchen but personally preferred helping cleaning up rather than learning to cook. 

What I haven't mentioned is that we frequently invited college students into our home, and not just any college students, but CULINARY students. It was admittedly a little intimidating! We also hosted parties and had our family come for overnight visits. 

Planning for each opportunity seemed to take so much time and there seemed to be so many details to remember! I knew there had to be a way to make the planning easier!

This is how my hospitality journal began: to make planning easier! 

At first it was a notebook where I would write my planning notes. This way I could look back and re-use already planned menus instead of thinking about everything all over again. Over time, my planning developed into more of a system.

Now I use a three-ring binder with a prepared form. I've found the binder to work well for now, my journal is always changing to meet my current needs. With my binder I am able to plan several events simultaneously, keeping them separated with dividers, shopping lists are easily included in each section, coupons can be kept in the front pockets, and paper invitations can be kept there, too.

In addition to keeping my planning all in one place, right now I also keep a list of people that we would like to have over or spend time with soon. When I'm planning our calendar, I reference my hospitality list and begin making plans with someone from the list.  The more I have written down, the less I have to remember!

Each hospitality entry is divided into two main sections: planning and reflection. Today I'll share primarily about planning and tomorrow about reflecting.

For the planning portion, I have created a simple form that I keep in my binder. Here I record planning in the following areas:

  • What:  Will this be just coffee, dinner, or a party?
  • When:  Date and time
  • Location:  If not at your home, include address, phone number, contact person, etc.
  • Guest List:  Include phone numbers or mailing addresses. I highlight names when an RSVP is received, if applicable. Sometimes this is a separate page, but it is helpful to have all of this information close by when planning a larger event.
  • Invitations:  Will I invite in person, with a phone call, e-mail, or snail mail? When will invitation need to be given or mailed?
  • Favors:  Will I have any little gift for my guests? Anything to set at their place or by the door to give them as they leave? If overnight guests, am I prepared with items they may have forgotten or need?
  • Menu:  I write down everything, including details like the condiments. This helps me think through my grocery list and table setting, and also helps me not to forget something! The more detail you include, the more useful this will be for the future. Why plan and think through the details twice? Also consider how you will serve: sit down or buffet?
  • Decorations:  Will there be a theme? Any special music to play? Will I use any special paper goods or set the table any certain way? What serving dishes will I use? Do I need to move any furniture, clearly mark an entrance, or provide an area for coats? If there is anything I want to remember then I take pictures to include in my journal.
  • Entertainment:  Any special activities or entertainment for children? Are we planning to play any games? If it's a movie night then what movie will we be watching? For overnight guests, will we visit any area attractions? Will I provide information about the area?
  • Notes:  Are there pieces of furniture I want to move? Candles I want to remember to light? Do I need to pick up small toys because there will be a baby or maybe a high-chair or booster to set out or ask the parents to bring? Do I need to set out a trash bag or trash can for the party?
Keeping a journal has made offering hospitality easier and hopefully made my guests feel more comfortable and cared for. I have found it helpful for small groups, large groups/ parties, and out-of-town house guests.

Your journal will suit your needs and look different from mine! I am simply offering an example of what works for me. Maybe there will be one thing that you can take away that will help you? I hope so!

How do you organize your hospitality planning?


Amy H. offered hospitality to college students for over 10 years as the wife of a collegiate minister.  Today her ministry focuses on her husband (who now coordinates campus ministers in New England), three children (ages 2, 5, and 7), and friends both new and old.