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7 Tips for Hospitality on a Pastor’s Wife’s Budget

Guest post from Christine of Grace Covers Me

As a church planting pastor’s wife, I have countless opportunities to invite people over for dinner, host parties and showers, and give gifts. Unfortunately, because we are a church plant without a building or a large budget, my husband and I must primarily use our personal budget to carry out our ministry.

I have learned, first and foremost, that the goal in hospitality is not perfection or complexity; it is inviting people into relationships and into our heart. Our small budget has also forced me to get creative with how I practice hospitality.

Here’s what I do:

1. Perfect a Signature Dish

At the beginning of our church plant, we invited most church guests into our home for a meal. I developed a menu that I used for every guest that I felt confident in making and that was easy and inexpensive.

When items from my signature dishes went on sale, I bought in bulk. Sometimes, instead of inviting people for dinner, we’ve invited them for dessert and coffee, which is much cheaper and less labor-intensive.

2. Create a Bridal Gift and a Baby Gift

Because I get invited to most showers, I made a cookbook of all my favorite recipes on my computer that I can give to brides. After printing off the recipes, I put them into protective sleeves in a notebook that I make personal with scrapbook paper.

For babies, I use Gymboree reward bucks to buy clothes when they’re on sale or I buy diapers in bulk to give as gifts.

3. Keep Staples on Hand

For parties or larger dinners, I bought glasses, place mats, pitchers, and white serving dishes at the dollar store. I also keep paper products (including kid’s cups) on hand, as well as staples such as coffee, sweeteners, lemonade mix, and popcorn.

4. Decorate on a Dime

When hosting showers or Christmas parties, I decorate tables with things in my yard (pine cones, berries) or décor in my house (candles, wreaths, trays). I also bought inexpensive fabric and sewed tablecloths that I use over and over again.

5. Maintain a Gift Closet

Anytime I see clearance sales on gifts or cards, I snatch them up and put them in my gift closet. Then, when I need something, I can shop my own closet.

6. Make it a Group Effort

Whenever possible, I ask people to share the load. Our community group folks take turn bringing snacks, we often have potluck dinners, or we accept a dinner guest’s offers to bring a side or dessert.

7. Keep it Simple

Simplicity is the most important thing to remember when practicing hospitality on a budget.

Why meet a friend for lunch when you can meet for coffee or, better yet, have her over for coffee at your house? Why buy a cake for a shower when you can make a lovely one yourself?

Why freak out about a complex dinner menu when hosting friends? Simple works, and it enables you to concentrate on guests rather than worry about your home or the food.

Hospitality doesn’t depend on money. It depends on relationship. With a little creativity and a lot of simplicity, we can all practice it well.

Christine Hoover is a church planter’s wife and mom to three boys. She is the author of the forthcoming book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart (Moody, February 2013), and she enjoys helping other ministry wives embrace God’s calling on their lives through her blog, Grace Covers Me.

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  • Jessica B. says:

    Love it! I, too, maintain a “gift closet”, although mine consists primarily of kids’ toys. I set aside a gift budget that I use for Black Friday/pre-Christmas sales and then I buy toys for the next year. With four little ones there are lots of last minute birthday parties and my gift closet has saved my sanity on many an occasion! 🙂

    Thanks, Christine, for the other great tips!

  • Jessica says:

    Great tips!

  • Sarah says:

    Beautifully said and well done! I wish more people would “entertain” this way. It would be an encouragement for others to better steward their money, talents, time and possessions.

  • Jeannine says:

    Thak you for sharing these fantastic ideas! Keep serving HIM!~

  • Great post! You shared wonderful, practical ideas. I love having people over and practice several of the ideas on this list already – but you also gave me some new things to think about, like having a “signature dish” at the ready that I feel comfortable with. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Wow. So this is really crazy. I could totally have written this, and actually, about half-way through, I thought, “Did I write this? What’s going on?” because your written voice reminded me so much of my own. Funny!

    I, too, have recently planted a church with my husband and have 3 kids under age 5. I love, love, love having people in my home, but our finances are so tight after my husband’s recent knee injury (no insurance, $100,000 hospital bill! Whoa!), so I’m always doing everything I can to save a little money.

    I also keep my gifts cabinet stocked when possible. I aim to “gift” people for birthdays, showers, etc. for under $5. Or, I will hand make something homemade for an even more personal touch and frugal option.

    I like what you said about perfecting a signature dish. We always eat dinner together for “church”, but we do have some money to use for that (other than our own). I am always stumped as to what I should cook…I may consider choosing a few “go-to’s” for dinners.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • cassie g says:

    As a wife of a pastor, I have to tell you this is a great article. I use the same ideas except I never think about coffee and sweets, I always do dinner or lunch. I have a gift closet also, since I am invited to all showers and such. I have never thought of the cookbook gift idea and will use this one. I was a chef in my earlier years so I have several go to meals.

  • I’m glad that you mentioned popcorn. We had a large party with about 60 children, as well as their parents, a few years ago.

    I made a few different treats, and I popped a giant bowl of popcorn.

    The children ignored the treats and all went for the popcorn. We decided that from now on, we’re making popcorn to serve at parties! We buy popcorn in a 50 pound bag, so it’s not a large expense (we go through 50 pounds in a year as a family).

    Like you, we have signature wedding and baby gifts. The baby gifts are handmade, which saves me a lot as well.

  • Deborah Auen says:

    Great ideas….Thank you for sharing….I noticed we cut way back on entertaining because of cost,even family….and I so miss the company….I am going to try and use some of the ideas here…..

  • Kerri says:

    Thanks for the great article!

    My husband is an urban missionary with Youth for Christ – so we have learned to stretch our budget. We have to raise all our own funds which involves meeting lots of people (potential supporters) which translates into lots of entertaining. I definitely will be putting your tips to good use.

  • These are fabulous tips! Budget isn’t my main problem in hosting people at our house – comfort is! If I can simplify it by having one rock star meal and easy silverware/dishes/platters, that will greatly increase my comfort level!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this encouraging post! I love your practical ideas and was inspired. Hosting does not come naturally for me, but I think too often I make it harder than it would have to be by not keeping it simple enough.

  • Diana says:

    I will be a pastor’s wife in a few years and this post made me smile. It also made me think of my grandmother who was a Pastor’s wife her entire marriage and was known for pulling pies out of the oven to serve to guests I never understood how she was able to manage that with five children until recently. Those pies meant a lot to the people who had the pleasure of eating them. We just hosted a family who has been very generous to us as a thank you to them. Last year our family picked cherries in season and I canned them as pie filling. Whenever I make a pie I always make an extra crust just to have on hand. Baking a cherry pie tonight to express our sincere thanks took very little effort and not too much expense (that is if you stock up on butter when it’s on sale. 🙂 I love these tips! Thank you for sharing!

  • Deb says:

    TOO funny about the signature dish. When we were in Seminary, our friends came out prior to starting Seminary and I served manicotti, then when they moved to L.A., we had it again and my daughter pipes up with, “didn’t we have this the LAST time they were here?” 😉

  • L says:

    I am not a pastor’s wife but don’t have a lot of $ to go out with friends or throw extravagant get togethers, kids bithdays etc. I agree simple is best. A dessert and fruit is better than 10 different things, and I always make punch or one signature drink vs offering a selection of wine, beer, soda etc-a bowl of punch (even spiked) is so in-expensive vs buying all kinds of things we usually don’t spend $ on because we think others might like them. Even water with lemons, cucumber or oranges floating in it is different, pretty and cheap! I like to do brunch or breakfast for my kids birthday parties (or even when bringing someone a meal), egg casseroles are inexpensive and you can use what you have or is on sale vs serving a dinner with meat, veggie, bread and dessert. Just add fruit and some homemade baked something and you are set-much less but still showing hospitality!

  • Shelly says:

    I totally agree when hosting friends for dinner to keep the dinner simple. On time we had friends over for dinner and I made waffles, eggs and sausage. It was an easy dinner for me to make and our friends loved it.

  • Anna says:

    This is a wonderful post! When I married 6 years ago, I became the wife of a young interim pastor. When you said that hospitality is about relationships you hit the nail on the head! I had to learn this the hard way, starting out so concerned about the planning and cleaning and such that I struggled to be flexible and love people. God was so merciful to me!

    Thank you for the real life look at making it all work!

    And yes, popcorn is a marvelous thing! Try sprinkling it with a little cinnamon/honey or a few mini chocolate chips! Oh, it adds good things to any party!

  • I’m also a pastor’s wife and hospitality is so important. Once, when I invited a new friend and her family to dinner she said, “Wow, I’ve never been in a pastor’s house before.” That really scared me! So I said, “Don’t get your expectations up, we’re just a normal family.”

    What I have found is that the vast majority of people don’t care what you serve or if your house is picture perfect, they just want to feel comfortable with you.

    For weddings and babies showers we have two books that we give along with a small handmade item. For weddings we give “Love and Respect” by Emmerson Eggerich and for baby showers we give “The Complete Childcare Book” by Focus on the Family. Most of the times these books are not fully appreciated at the moment but within a year I usually hear from the recipient how much they enjoyed the book.

  • My husband is currently in Seminary and soon I too will be a Pastor’s wife. I often hesitate to have people over because I don’t see our home as welcoming enough – whatever that means. I have often thought of having people over for coffee and cookies or desert or something “simple” but we never do it – mostly because we feel like we can’t be good hosts because our house is too small, too cluttered, etc. There was a time when my husband actually refused to have people over at all because we only had one bathroom!

    Thank you for giving me some concrete ideas we can put into practice and hopefully we can open our home more! We had already set a goal of having someone/a family over once a month in 2013 and this will help us achieve that goal.


  • Heather Carter says:

    how do you get gymboree rewards card without spending a ton at gymboree? that place is way too expensive! for our tastes at least. I think all her other ideas are great. just can’t understand that part. maybe shoe knows something i don’t!

  • Emma K says:

    Love all the tips. I really love the signature dish idea!

  • These are great tips that I can apply to hosting our Bible Study. Thank you for the reminder to keep it simple.

  • conniewhite says:

    I enjoy moneysaveingmomidea

  • M says:

    I just brought MSM’s bbq meatballs to a church bible study potluck last night – I think they may become my go-to dish – everyone raved about them! Not a pastor’s wife, but every woman can use go-to meals, right? 🙂

  • Amy T says:

    This is me! lol. Thank you for posting. I love your heart and appreciate all that you are doing to be Christ to those around you. Too often we let fears and finances dictate what we can and cannot do. It is so encouraging to hear of another woman in ministry- living ministry. Thank you for posting. 🙂

  • Kristin says:

    I am a pastor’s wife and I do all of these things too! I actually rotate a few signature dishes and try to make a note in my homemaking binder of who we had over, when, and what I served so they don’t necessarily have the exact same thing every time they come. Sometimes I’ll plan a “theme” night and invite someone over for homemade frappes, hot chocolate bar, etc. which is cheaper than serving a meal. We also often invite people over just after supper to play games instead of for a meal, and homemade salsa that I can in the summer is great to serve with chips (which we always have on hand anyway) for an easy snack.
    A big thing for me too, is that I also don’t stress anymore about having my house spotless. Granted, I don’t want it to be gross (I try to make sure bathrooms and kitchen are wiped down, floors are clean) but I don’t worry about everything being in it’s place or looking perfect. I actually feel more at ease when I go to someone else’s home and it still looks “lived in” and I want our guests to feel comfortable in our home too, not worrying the whole time about dirtying something or if their kids are making a mess etc.

  • Christine says:

    What is “church planting?”
    Great post!!

  • jen says:

    I enjoy company but I struggle with enjoying cooking. So we don’t have company much. It doesnt come easy for me. Also knowing what to cook whether its a meal or snack can be stressful. Any tips or ideas?

  • Some of the most precious times in our ministry was when we were on a pbj budget and broke it out and started munching with the saints. 🙂 It doesn’t have to be a grand spread of food. It just has to be done in love.

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