1. Soup & Sandwich Luncheon
I first heard the concept of a “standing invite” from Rosaria Butterfield, one of today’s leading voices for Christian hospitality. A standing invite is simply an invitation into a rhythm that occurs at the same time each week or month (think every Friday night or the first Monday of the month). This school year I began my own standing invite by blocking off the last Monday of each month for a soup and sandwich luncheon in my home for all the women in my small group (typically about 8 women and their children.)
How does this practically work? I provide a crock pot of soup and some kid friendly sandwich options, and everyone brings a side to share. We gather from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to share food and conversation.
Does committing to each week or month seem overwhelming? Limit it to just a few months like January through March when the winter is long and people are often the loneliest.
2. Tea Exchange
Are you looking for an easy way to connect with some of your neighbors during the holiday season or a group of women from your church? This idea is simple! Everyone brings several samples of their favorite teas or hot drink mix to share with a group. Open and display the different tea & hot drink boxes and let people choose new flavors to take home. Not a tea drinker? Think of your favorite hot chocolate mix or cider packets!
In our current culture with different comfort levels about gathering and food, this could be a fantastic alternative to a cookie exchange party.
3. Favorite Things Party
This idea might be my favorite yet for connecting with people. Everyone brings 2 wrapped items (these can be the same item or different!) that are $10 or less. These are “favorite things” that are simple and low cost (i.e. decorative recipe cards, candles, small notebook, a cookbook, favorite cleaners, unique spices for cooking, a kitchen utensil, a decoration, etc.) Number the items and have people draw two numbers from a bowl (make sure they don’t get their own items!) Everyone gets to leave with two new “favorite things!”
4. Thanksgiving Dinner
We’ve all probably heard the advice, “You should invite someone to share a Thanksgiving meal with your family,” but very few of us are bold enough to try. Are your neighbors (or let’s be honest, your family?) too intimidated by a meal? They might say no to a meal but many would be willing to come for dessert! Decide what time you will eat your meal and invite your neighbor for an hour or so after start time to join your family for some dessert and board games.
Is it difficult to get anyone to come to you? Have your kids deliver some leftovers to a lonely neighbor or go for a drive after dinner and deliver to someone who isn’t spending the holiday with family.
5. Holiday Craft Party
One of the best ways to reach your neighborhood can be through its children. My friend in Texas hosts an annual holiday craft party for her neighborhood each December. She sets up a few different craft tables and provides some easy appetizers and desserts. If this sounds overwhelming to think of all these details, you could consider involving other neighbors by asking them to help supply craft supplies and food!
In a culture where people are struggling with depression, isolation, and loneliness, the holidays offer a unique opportunity to open up our lives and time. Your home does not have to be big or well decorated, it does not need the latest forms of entertainment or the newest toys. The simple invitation of opening your home and table to others can be one of the most powerful ways to transform our communities.
Favorite Resources on Hospitality
Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt
The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield
The Art of Neighboring by Dave Runyon and Jay Pathak
The Simplest Way to Change the World by Dustin Willis and Brandon Clements