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.


  1. This sounds like such a good idea! I've recently become aware that I'm amassing a vast amount of knowledge about different people's food preferences (one person who's allergic to mushrooms, someone else who can't eat ice cream, another who shuns cheese, chocolate and cream are just a few examples) and I'm beginning to worry I'll forget some of it. There's just so much to remember, but I think it's really important not to serve food people can't eat to them, so this idea could be really useful to me. Thanks!

  2. Jo, thankful this might help! There is so much to remember and personally that means I need to write it down and keep it together so I can find it when I need it!

  3. Good idea to write down notes. I always try to keep it all in my head!

    I made casserole that contained rice a couple of years ago when we were hosting a guest, and though I cooked it longer than instructed, the rice never got soft. We resorted to microwaving individual portions, and even then, the rice had "bite" to it!

  4. I love the idea of having a place to record all of your thoughts after an event!

  5. I love this! What a practical way to encourage ourselves to practice hospitality more, too!

  6. This is great! I have a journal that I got one year for Christmas events, but never thought to carry that through to my every day hosting. I try like many others to keep these notes in my head but with a toddler running around that never seems to go as hoped ;)

    I have failed on many occasions to make spanish rice. each time I have tried, I follow the directions exactly and I always end up with hard rice and a ton of broth! I have had to throw away so many batches I finally just gave up on spanish rice all together!

  7. ps. would you mind if I printed a copy of your reflection notes to begin my journal?

  8. ApronTails, feel free to copy the reflection notes. We just ask that if you use this info online you include a link to this post and give Amy H. credit for the idea.

  9. Thank you Stephanie I will be sure to do so when I make one. I will be happy to share how it turns out!