Last week I wrote a review of a fabulous book called “Practicing Hospitality: The Joy of Serving Others” and also shared 10 great resources to help you get started with practicing hospitality.
These posts spurred on some discussion of hospitality and how to really practice it. I know that living in an apartment, condo, or small house can make hospitality feel like a chore or nearly impossible! But I am here to give you some encouragement. Practicing hospitality in small spaces is doable!
Hubby and I live in an apartment and understand full well that apartment living poses its own unique problems to practicing hospitality.
One wonderful new blogging friend asked:
Question- do you ever find it difficult for others (who are not in the same situation of apartment living or not your age) to accept your invite? Sadly, I feel like invitations to join in dinner at an apartment is countered with a request to meet in the invitee’s house instead or just wait until we’re “settled” (ie in a house). I whole-heartedly believe that we can (and should!) come together in hospitality regardless of the meeting place. Yet, that doesn’t appear to be universal. I’ve considered that perhaps we need to just focus on our age or also apartment living, but then this feel contrary to the concept of open hospitality. Do you have any tips or tricks for opening your apartment home in hospitality and those invitations be accepted?
I am so glad that she asked this question. Hospitality in an apartment can be tough and poses challenges that those living in a house do not always share. I asked my lovely friend and mentor Wendy from Faith’s Firm Foundations her thoughts on this and got some great feedback. She is on the other side of this question, she has a house and a family and offered some great advice on this subject. So here is a mix of our responses on the subject.
7 Practical Tips for Apartment Hospitality
1) Don’t Take it Personally
Usually (if not always) the families who ask instead to have the dinner, lunch or get together at their house are doing it because they are uncomfortable in some way or don’t want to be a burden.
Wendy points out,
The people who offer to have the get-together at their house might be good-heartedly thinking of the apartment-dweller’s finances and inconvenience in having their family over.
Often a young couple is in an apartment until they can buy a house and are often times starting out in marriage and in life. A large family may feel like a burden to the apartment-dwellers, so out of a kind heart they don’t want to put that burden on you. Try to understand where the family is coming from, and if that family never visits your house, then be thankful to get to know them and don’t feel hurt by the request.
2) The Culture Doesn’t Teach Hospitality: Be Patient
Hospitality is mostly a lost practice in our culture today. Families within and outside the church are often not familiar and may not be comfortable with hospitality. When you invite a family over for dinner this may be the first time they have been invited to someone’s house in a very long time. We get used to having friends and family over in our culture, but we are not used to inviting total or near strangers over to share a meal.
Many families may be uncomfortable with this and thus caught off guard and instead it is easier for them to have it at their house. Go with the flow and get to know the family. When you know them better you can invite them over to your apartment again.
3) Keep Families with Children in Mind
Families with children, especially young children, can be very conscious of the mess their children might make, the room they take up and the noise level. Again, families may not want to burden you with this and also as Wendy so wisely puts it,
The family could be very aware of the work the apartment-dweller will have to do in order to host a family, perhaps their children are not as well trained as they’d like, and they’re concerned that their children will break things in an apartment, or make too much noise and disturb others in the building.
Families may be declining your invitation due to embarrassment at how their children might act at someone else’s house or apartment. Keep this mind and watch when you go to their house how they deal with their children as dinner time and how early they go to bed.
We have had friends who prefer to have us to their house instead of our apartment so that they could put their kids to sleep in their own beds and we have more free time to talk and play games.
4) Make it Easy for the Family
Living in an apartment, we get used to where you are to park and how to find your apartment. But an apartment complex can be so confusing to a new comer! Wendy shares,
Sometimes coming to a building at night also can be intimidating, and even scary for some, and the apartment person should realize that their guests may not be familiar with the area, the apartment complex, or how to get in, where to park, etc.,
Some may feel that it is easier just to invite you to their house where you can pull up into the driveway and walk right in the house. So always make it easy for the family you are inviting over. Wendy shares,
Perhaps there could be ways to make this easier–invite them to follow you home after church, in daylight, be outside to greet them, and show them the way to your apartment, walk them to their car, provide a map to the building.
Our apartment complex can be confusing so we have done things such as open up our patio door and turn the light on. As soon as we see them coming down the side walk we head to the patio and point them in the right direction. Or be prepared with a complex map that you can email to them along with the address and what they can bring.
5) Ask the Family You Are Inviting Over to Help
As Wendy said earlier, families can feel like a burden upon a couple living in an apartment, especially a young newly married couple. If you feel this is the case then let the family know what they can bring. Do not assume that the family will or even can bring something but if you know this family wants to contribute then let them! Being able to bring something such as a salad, dessert, or drinks helps the family to feel more at ease and helps them feel like they are contributing.
Make sure you know what the kids will or won’t eat! Some families allow their children to be extremely picky, so make sure you know this up front so that the parents are not embarrassed when the kids won’t eat your cooking. Also, always make sure to ask about allergies!
6) Make Your House Kid Friendly
The more we practice hospitality the more we realize that we need to have a game plan for when kids come over to our apartment. Since we don’t have kids we often make plans without them in mind. Some families will require that their children sit quietly during dinner and while we talk and other children will freely roam your apartment.
Be ready for kids being in your apartment. Grab a couple classic kid movies at Goodwill or find Veggie Tales on Netflix and offer to put a movie on for the kids.
Another great option is to head to GoodWill and find some great plastic toys for kids of all ages (get plastic so you can give them a GREAT scrub). Spend a couple dollars and fill a tub of toys and bring them out when kids come over. The parents will appreciate that their kids will have something to distract them. And make sure you let the parents know that you don’t mind the mess!
7) Keep Practicing and Learning!
Some families may never feel comfortable enough to come to your apartment, but that’s okay! Don’t take it personal and be thankful for any opportunity you get. I know that we have been on the apartment side of this. We have taken the initiative to invite a family over. I’m already planning on what to cook and I have game ideas ready and then they invite you to their house instead. I know that I can get hurt feelings but at the end of the day you never know why the family wants it at their house.
Keep practicing hospitality and always continue learning. If you are known for practicing hospitality within the church and word spreads that you have had families in your apartment, more families will feel comfortable going to your apartment. Make it as easy for the families as possible and kid friendly!
And always remember that the goal of hospitality is to share Christ with those in our church and our neighborhoods! You can get to know a new family from church just as well at their house so be thankful for this season in life and remember this for when you have a house and family and a young married couple in an apartment invites you over.