7 Practical Tips on Apartment Hospitality

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 on 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 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.

Practicing Hospitality-Bring a Dessert!

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!

Practicing Hospitality-Toys

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.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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Comments

  1. Wow, this is one of the very best posts I’ve read in a long time!
    We are on the other end of the spectrum: a large family in a house. But, we’ve only been invited as a whole family one time to someone’s apartment in four years of being in our church!
    I think most people don’t know how to be around kids. Thanks for the tips of how to handle kids in a small space.
    We’d gladly accept an invitation to dinner! ;)

    • Thank you so much Kelli!! How was your experience being invited to the apartment??Do you have any tips for us Apartment-dwellers when inviting over a large family :)

      I agree, people don’t know how to being around kids and they often feel that their apartment or house is too small to invite families over. But the more the merrier! And for dinner and getting to know one another you don’t really need all that much room! The idea is to share Christ and get to know others in the church NOT to impress with our house. I think pride gets in the way of hospitality a lot!!

  2. Thank you, Jami, for this post! You prompted even more thoughts in my head on how to be a better guest, and also how to show hospitality! The bin of toys idea is a gem. We also have a little child-sized chair, and children’s books, as well as stuffed animals, dolls, Legos and cars to entertain kids.

    I LOVE being with newlywed couples, and couples without children, but honestly, it is EXTREMELY rare, (almost never) that they invite a family like ours: older parents, with older children still at home, to their apartment or home. The tendency is to invite people like yourselves over. We miss out on SO much when we do that. I commend you for this post and the wonderful tips and encouragement you’re giving to others to practice hospitality and keep on trying, even when it is difficult! Especially to establish this habit from the beginning of your marriage! Fantastic! It truly is a skill that takes practice, and repeated effort:) But God blesses far above the effort.

    Thank you, also, for the opportunity to be a part of this post, and for the links to my posts on hospitality and gracious kind words. I am learning from you, and am excited to put your tips into action and check out the resources you’ve recommended!
    Love your heart for the Lord and hospitality, James!
    Wendy

    • Wendy thank you so much! Your comments are always such a delight to my heart!! :)

      GREAT idea on the kids toys. I’m thinking that I need to head to the dollar store and stock up on some crayons and coloring books. A great (and quiet) way to entertain the kids while the adults get to know one another!

      A new post idea about getting your house ready for kids to come over on a tight budget is coming to mind….pass along any ideas you may have on that subject ;)

      Thank you for being a mentor and a resource! :) And just so you know I plan to make hospitality a main focus over the coming months and by summer hope to launch a contributor blog for hospitality so let me know if you ever have anything to contribute! I so value your thoughts and experience on this and all subjects!

  3. Jessica Martin says:

    I know Wendy and found your post through her. AWESOME thoughts! We have lived in a house with our four kids for the last 4.5 years and in the last month moved into an apartment. Some of my friends assumed with the downsize I would NOT want to watch their children any longer. I had to almost coax my girlfriend to drop her kids off one morning to do a fast town run. She kept saying “yeah but isnt 8 kids too many for an apartment?” I assured her it would be fine! People assume that apartments are not children friendly and tiny. Our new home is not large but it was not a problem to have the extra children here either. My kids LOVE having their friends over and missed them dearly. It was great to have them here! When she returned she asked “how did it go are you never going to want to do this again?” HAHA I assured her it was fine and to bring them anytime! They came back last week and all was well again! People who haven’t lived in apartments with children are just scared to be trouble some!

    • Hi Jessica, I am so glad that you stopped by!! (thank you Wendy!)

      I think being in an apartment and showing hospitality is all about the mind set! Sure, 8 kids in apartment IS crowded but hey, 8 kids in a house is crowded too!! You just have to be open and love the chance to invite others into your home. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree, I think people don’t want to “burden” those in an apartment. Although it is never a burden for me!

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  4. Great post, and great tips, Jami! We lived many a year in apartments. We only just recently moved into a house. I forget how much of a challenge an apartment can be for inviting people over, especially once small children are involved.

    One thing we did before we had kids (and even after on some occasions) was tell our friends we’re coming over and we’re bringing dinner. So at least we were releasing them from the burden of cooking! It was a little awkward at first because you’re bringing food into a woman’s kitchen, but in the end, they were so thankful, and even brought us a meal the same way once our baby came. So we didn’t cook dinner, but we still had GREAT fellowship!! It’s a fun new twist we’ve found on hospitality that’s been super fun!

    • Hi Leigh Ann! Thanks for stopping by :)

      What a great idea!! If a family offers to bring something when they come to our apartment we always let them, even if we don’t need too! I have found that it makes the families feel more at ease to be contributing.

      What a fun idea to do the whole meal! :)

  5. Love this post! We have lived in an apartment since we got married almost 19 months ago, and will continue to live in an apartment for at least the next four years while my husband is in medical school. We regularly open our apartment to friends and family, although it is better received by some more than others. We struggle to have my husband’s family over because they are just not comfortable in an apartment setting, especially one with (purposefully!) no television. We love to open our home, even if it is a little cramped!

    • Yes, I find some families are more accepting of our apartment than others. And it seems like the families who have lived in apartments feel more comfortable than those who haven’t lived in apartments before. lol, well with no television that’s where board games and card games come in ;)

  6. As the mother of a large family, this was a terrific post to read! It helps me look at it from the perspective of smaller families or couples without children. This is wonderful food for thought…thank you!

    • Thank you Kasey!! I think some families probably feel like it’s easier for everyone if they just host the dinner. But many couples and small families WANT you in their apartment! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. Hi Jami Leigh! Thanks for your kind comments on my blog! This was a great post with some awesome points!

  8. Misty Pearson says:

    Thanks for this post! We live in the Baltimore – Washington area and everyone lives in apartments! The toy bin is a great tip and a huge social saver for us. Times of great laughter and conversation can get started with a bin of toys! You never know what adult will sit in the floor and help entertain kids. This can be a huge help to parents of young kids who might just need some fellowship. I would also suggest having crayons and coloring books or activity books (for older kids). You can pick these up at the dollar store and can offer some “quite” play also. Especially if one of the kids needs lots of attention…even those kids can color and the adults can visit! This can also help for the later in the evening events and you don’t want kids stomping around on top of your neighbors.

    We have some young kids that come over frequently and they know there are two shelves in “Auntie’s” living they can play with. It’s where we keep their toys their and they know anything there is fair game. This has helped keep them off the “untouchables”. One of the shelves has bowls that i don’t use as often and they each get a spatula from the kitchen…hours of baking fun always follows! They think it’s a special treat just for them! And it’s little dollar bin toys, deck of cards, small books and happy meal toys people at work pass along…no real big expense.

  9. I know this post is a little old, but it was an encouragement to me to see someone even addressing this issue. My husband and I have 2 small children and we’ve always lived in apartments the whole time. We are not that young, and not newlyweds. We would love a house, but because of circumstances we can’t afford it at this time and it’s possible we never will be able to afford to even rent one. So apartment living is our reality and I am ashamed to say that I never invite people over. I get the same vibe that they feel sorry for us and why not just have us over to their big, spacious, comfortable house. Hospitality is already foreign to me because of the way I was raised and my worldly mentality. I want to get better, it’s just hard with these challenges, but thank you for addressing this specific topic, you are a dear!

    • I’m glad you are encouraged by this and that you are in the same boat! It’s a hard thing to talk about when most of our friends all have houses and just suggest we do things at their place since they “have more room”. As a natural hostess this has always hurt me! I want to be able to host as well.

      I hope this gave you a little encouragement. You are not alone! And we have realized to just push through it :) If we want to get together with a new couple or family, they may invite us to their house first because they just assume we won’t want their whole family to our apartment. So next time we just make it clear that it’s our turn to host them ;)

  10. Yup. My problem exactly. I’ve invited church friends and coworkers over to our home time and time again, but only one family has ever taken us up on it… a young couple about the same age as us who also live in a small apartment. We have enough space to make everyone comfortable. Lots of family friendly movies and games. Hubby and I both love to cook. (Well, HE loves to cook. I bake.) But for some odd reason, no one ever accepts. Interestingly enough, no one returns the invitation, either. Not only does no one accept our invitation, but no one invites us over either, except for the previously mentioned couple. I was getting discouraged until I read the part in the post about how people aren’t trained in hospitality anymore. It’s not common, and that probably explains why we never get invited anywhere that isn’t a whole church function.

    Well, I’m gonna keep trying. Someone has to accept eventually. If only to stop me from asking. :)
    Ashley Penn recently posted..God Answers Prayer (And Teaches Me A Lesson!)My Profile

    • I’m so sorry Ashley!! Keep trying and plugging away! Thankfully our church started encouraging members to practice hospitality so when we asked people over it wasn’t as weird. But it’s still hard sometimes to get people to actually come! Stay encouraged! :)

  11. This is a great article. I’d like to add a few thoughts. Please remember that the person who is visiting you may not be able to climb flights of stairs and that may be while they have not accepted your invitation. It is not personal, it is just that they have physical limitations.

    Second, I’d like to encourage people to invite singles over to their homes. I am a single person, So often, after church I hear people inviting families over, but I do not receive invitations myself. When you get to know people, you find out you have a lot more in common than you thought! You are not defined by being married, it is a part of who you are, but not the whole. And please don’t do any match making unless that person asks. That is very embarrassing.

    Could you address how long people should stay when they visit? I find that some people eat and rush out the door and others stay for five or six hours and I am exhausted. If you could write about the etiquette of being a guest, that would be so helpful. I don’t think many people understand this anymore, and we all need a refresher. I know I need one.

    Last, I hope you address this somewhere, but please don’t cancel on people. I have a terrible time with this. I prep for people to come over and at the last second they cancel! So I have all this food prepared (food for six instead of one, for example) and have taken the time to really try to make my home lovely and warm, and 15 minutes before hand I get a message that someone is not coming.

    Your site is charming and I find your writing fresh and delightful. Keep it coming! :)

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