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How I Overcame My Fear of Hospitality

(Note: This post was sponsored by (in)courage. All opinions are my own. Read our disclosure policy here.)

Are you afraid of hospitality? Read this post for encouragement and inspiration!

I used to be so scared to invite people into my home. Hospitality felt like something I just wasn’t good at.

In fact, I told myself for a long time that I’m an introverted person who is a homebody and who doesn’t host things or initiate. And by telling myself this, I had convinced myself that hosting and initiating weren’t my gifts or my personality.

It was safer to wait to let other people do the inviting. It was safer to convince myself I wasn’t the type to step out, step up, initiate, or lead.

But all that changed when I read Just Open the Door by Jen Schmidt. It’s a book written specifically for people like me who feel so awkward about the whole hospitality thing.

If you feel like you aren’t a good cook or you think your house isn’t nice enough or you don’t feel like you’re organized enough or you think you don’t have room to host people or a dozen other excuses… and yet you are also craving deep community and authentic relationships, this book is for you.

Just Open the Door will show you that no matter the size of your home or your budget and no matter your current season of life, there is a way to show hospitality. And, you’ll learn just how big of an impact opening your home and door and life can have — not just in other’s lives, not just in your kids’ lives, but in your own heart and life.

That has definitely been true for me! Let me tell you a little about it…

The Big Commitment I Made in 2018

After reading a pre-release copy of Just Open the Door in December of 2017, I felt stirred to step way outside my comfort zone and commit to opening up our home every single week in 2018.

I had no idea how that was going to transform my life!

Just for fun, I counted up and, since January 1, we have hosted at least 135 people in our home and have opened up our home at least 22 different times! All of that in three months — and we moved during that time period, too!

(And that doesn’t count the many lunches and coffees and dinners we’ve initiated or said yes to or initiated with new friends that didn’t happen at our house!)

Some of these were people we knew well. Some we had never met before. But in every case, I didn’t regret opening up our door and saying, “Come as you are.”

I’ve fostered many new and beautiful relationships. I’ve deepened old relationships. I’ve learned a lot of new hospitality tips and tricks… and had some funny and memorable fails.

Hospitality Can Look Like Many Different Things

I’m learning that when I start looking for opportunities to exercise hospitality, I begin to see them all around me.

So far, it’s looked like:

  • Having my mom and sister stay with us while Jesse was in Peru
  • Taking my daughter and her friend out window shopping
  • Inviting a number of different friends to coffee and/or lunch while our kids are at school
  • Having a friend over for tea
  • Planning a sleepover for my daughter and some of her closest friends
  • Inviting my blog readers and Instagram followers (most that I had never met!) to come over for a ladies’ get-together
  • Ordering pizza and asking friends to come over and join us
  • Letting my kids invite their friends over for a playdate
  • Inviting friends we’ve known for awhile over for dinner
  • Offering to babysit for friends so they can have a date
  • Coordinating a dinner out with new friends
  • Asking new friends over for dinner
  • Inviting my Discipleship Small Group to come over after dinner
  • Hosting our Community Group
  • Volunteering to open our home to host a get-together someone was planning
  • Hosting a birthday party
  • Inviting friends with kids the same ages as my kids over to play for the afternoon

For you, it might look completely different. But no matter your stage or circumstance or season of life, there is a way that you can reach out and open your door — even if it’s just opening up the door of your heart by inviting friends to have a picnic at the park or inviting a friend to join you for a walk (see more of my ideas for Hospitality on a Budget here).

You Don’t Have to Be a Great Cook to Be Hospitable!

I’ve discovered that I don’t have to be a great cook or decorator or party planner to be great at welcoming people into our home. Some nights, I didn’t have time to offer much more than takeout pizza or a simple crockpot meal. But we still had a great evening!

As I’m learning, hospitality isn’t about the food you serve or the home you have or the table decor or the seating arrangement, it’s about opening the door and welcoming people into your real, imperfect life.

It’s about letting people know that they are seen, heard, cared for, and loved. It’s about just opening your door!

I’m learning that it begins with a simple willingness to say yes and go first. To be the one to get brave and say, “Hey, I don’t know you very well, but would you like to grab coffee with me?”

OR, “I know you don’t know me that well, but you just moved here and don’t have a lot of support. Can I babysit your kids so you could have a date night with your husband?”

OR, “My daughter is loving getting to know your daughter at school. Could I pick her up to come over to our house for the afternoon after school?”

Be Willing to Go First & Be the Initiator

The more that I open up my door, the more that I want to open it up. And the more I’m realizing how much THIS is where real relationships and community develops.

You have to experience the awkward in friendship in order to experience the awesome in friendship.

You have to be willing to take risks. To not wait for an invite, but to be the initiator. To be okay if someone says no or a relationship doesn’t turn out like you hoped.

Those seeds of friendship, when watered and nurtured and fostered and tended to, will grow into a least some strong relationships and friendships. It’s so worth the effort!

Stop Feeling Awkward About Hospitality

Because of how much Just Open The Door has changed my life and changed me as a person, so many of you have asked me how you can get your hands on this book. I am thrilled to let you know that it is finally available to order!

This book is SO encouraging for those fearful of hospitality and hosting. It shows you how hospitality is so much more than a physical space and starts with simply opening up your heart to let people in.

It gives you practical ways to open up your door and show hospitality — even when you feel like your home is too small or you can’t afford to prepare a fancy four-course meal.

Here’s more about the book from the description:

For many of us, inviting people into our lives and homes feels more like inviting judgment on our entertaining skills and stress on our already maxed-out schedules. But what if you knew that opening your front door had the power to radically change the world? To make an impact and leave a legacy with everyday invitations?

Jen Schmidt has set out to reframe how we think about hospitality and to equip us to walk a road of welcome in our daily lives. Jen knows that every time we choose open-door living—whether in our homes or by taking hospitality on the road just like Jesus—those we invite in get to experience the lived-out Gospel, our kids grow up in a life-lab of generosity, and we trade insecurity for connection.

Just Open the Door is a personal yes-you-can guide to offering the life-changing gift of invitation. Whether you’re a seasoned host looking for renewed inspiration or a nervous newbie not sure where to begin, these personal stories, practical ideas, and poignant insights will give you the confidence you need to see your home as the most likely location for changing the world around you, one open door at a time.

So if you’ve been wanting to open your home (and heart) to others more, but you’ve held back out of fear, I can’t recommend this book enough!

Go here to get your copy of Just Open The Door!


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  • I love what you’ve been sharing your journey to share your home and life with others. It’s been interesting because I’ve been on a similar journey though I’ve always had people over, but I’ve been learning to open my heart to more people and be the initiator more than ever before in the last year or so. There was, in fact, a time in March where I literally had people over 4 out of 6 days and I cooked for all them. After I had finished with that run, I was amazed that I had actually been able to pull that off! On the other hand, I have learned to know my limits and this week I’ve been feeling tired and a little under the weather. For that reason, I’ve committed to not having anyone over and just resting as much as I can. (That’s a bit tough because starting Thursday I’m really busy again) But giving myself grace is so important, too.

  • Kitty says:

    Thank you for the encouragement!!

    I’d love to hear good ideas/resources for hospitality when it seems like everyone is on a different (and usually very restrictive) diet these days. It would be so much fun to invite people over for last minute take-out pizza, for example, but this person can’t have dairy, that family is gluten-free, etc. (I seriously can only think of one or two families we know who could actually come over for take-out pizza. 🙂 How do you entertain when figuring out any kind of meal, snack or dessert seems daunting, especially for those of us who aren’t used to cooking for restrictive diets? 😛 Does anyone else run into this problem?

    • Sally says:

      Yes! Respecting others’ allergies or food sensitivities or choices creates such a challenge. I’d love ideas on navigating this situation. Sometimes this pushes the cost out of range. 🙁

      • Sandy B says:

        As someone who had a daughter with Celiac Disease long before anyone heard of “gluten”, I can share that it is easier than you think, especially nowadays where you can buy things off the shelf!
        If it is someone close to you, talk to them and get ideas. It’s nice to have a “safe” place to go. We had friends that would make a specific meal when we went over, that we had worked out ahead of time. Usually hamburgs and sides. Other times I would bring the main dish, so that’s a possibility, as well, making it a potluck.
        If it’s a new group of people, offer something simple like fruit and vegetable trays. it doesn’t have to be complicated.
        Pinterest has ruined entertaining in some aspects, because there is pressure to have a certain flair. Personally, I stay away from Pinterest (which wasn’t around when I was raising my family) and go with tried and true recipes.

      • Another thing I often do is ask if they’d like to bring something — especially if there are allergies. A simple meal like rotisserie chicken or chicken baked in the crockpot with roasted broccoli, fruit salad, and rice is one option that usually can be eaten by almost everyone.

    • Susan says:

      Yes, I have run into this problem of special diets within my own extended family. It makes things a bit stressful when celebrating birthdays and holidays. Special diets for health reasons is one thing, but when we get into preferences on top of that, I start to lose it! And then there are friends of my kids who have decided they are vegan or vegetarian. It makes it tough to cater to all these different people!

    • Allison says:

      Another ideas is to stick with “build your own” type meals – like tacos. Tacos are great because you can make things from scratch, or pretty much all the ingredients can be bought prepackaged for convenience! And it allows people to just put on the ingredients that fit their dietary needs 🙂

    • I try to always ask about allergies and then plan accordingly. I also love more build your own type meals so that people can pick and choose what works for them. Soup is a great option much of the time because it’s usually gluten-free and then you can just have veggies, cut up fruit, cheese, crackers, etc. on the side.

    • Kitty says:

      Thank you all for the great suggestions!!

  • Joolz says:

    I love this! So awesome that you are opening your door. Thank you for sharing specific examples of how you have “opened your door” and reminding us all that we dont have to be perfect to be hospitable 😉

    Some ways I’m hospitable- my husband and I host an occasional game night at our house and invite a few couples. It’s after the kids are bed, and we just serve popcorn or a simple snack and enjoy board games and conversation! We’ve even invited ourselves over to the house of some friends who are game geeks- all they had to do was have us over and we had to do the hard part of finding a sitter 😉

    I also want to do a BYOL event- Bring your Own Lunch. I work for a few hours in the morning and my baby needs a nap when he comes home. I’d like to invite one or two ladies over to my house to eat (bring your own lunch!) and chat while baby is napping, and before preschool pickup (having preschool pickup makes it so there would be a finite end).

    There’s a friend who moved one neighborhood over. I might see if I can invite her over for tea one evening.

  • Sally says:

    I preordered the book and am patiently waiting to receive it next week. After I read it, perhaps I’ll end up choosing the DVD study by Jen Schmidt that goes along with it for my women’s group at church. This seems like it would be an excellent fit.

    Something else to consider: are all the people around us just like us? Or have we reached out to people who are not our age range, gender, race, economic group? There are quality friendships waiting to be nurtured in diverse relationships.

    • YES! I so agree — and this is something we’re working on teaching our kids in their friend groups, too! Most of my friends are SO different than me in many respects and yet there’s much, much that I can learn from them because of that!

  • Sandy B says:

    One of my favorite books that influenced me in the areas of homemaking and hospitality was “The Hidden Art of Homemaking” by Edith Schaeffer. It reads like she speaks so it had a feel of mentoring. (If you haven’t heard her speak, it may seem boring, but I didn’t find it so.) She had a gracious spirit and wonderful insight. I highly recommend adding it to one of your reading lists, it will be an encouragement.

    • I agree! I read it as a teenager; it’s one of those books in which different ideas and thoughts that she wrote about have stuck with me for years, and influenced my attitude and habits. It’s one of my favorite homemaking books, and it has stood the test of time, so I’m not the only one. 🙂

    • I love that book! I’ve read it more than once! But I think her love of beauty and making everything so beautiful and special sort of scared me off when it came to hospitality. So I’ve had to give myself grace to realize that hospitality can look like many different things!

  • Christine says:

    I did not see this addressed in your post: My problem is I’m a clean freak and CANNOT stand seeing my home dirty. I also do not enjoy the prepping or the cleaning up and I find myself feeling annoyed and resentful because of all the extra work. Does the book address this? I do not want to feel this way.

    • Yes, the book definitely addresses this. I’d encourage you to ask yourself where this is coming from… is it something from your past? Are you worried what people will think? Are you just a person who is really sensitive to clutter? Etc.

      And another thing to consider: What about starting out with just inviting someone out to coffee? And then, once you feel comfortable with that, moving up to a picnic at the park or an outdoor cookout?

      • Christine says:

        Thanks Crystal. I am hypersensitive to clutter and I tend to overdue entertaining (in my mind) to please everyone’s tastes that I end up not wanting to entertain at all.

        I appreciate the babysteps approach. I’ll think about that too.

  • Melissa says:

    Can’t wait for nice weather so I can invite some families over. I find it’s so much easier to entertain when the kids can play outside and we can throw something simple on the grill.

  • Kandice says:

    Are the bonus offers for the paper book only or also the ebook?

  • Aubrey says:

    OK, so this might sound really petty, but it’s been something that I’ve been struggling with for many years (about 6 to be exact, since we moved cross country to the town in which we currently live)
    What I struggle with is that we invite people over frequently, but with the exception of one family, NOBODY EVER reciprocates. And, I really do mean nobody! I know I shouldn’t be “keeping score” when it comes to opening up my home and my life – but after years of this I’m getting weary. It would be nice for someone else to invite our family over, or if they’re not up to entertaining in their home, even just initiating a dinner out together or some other get-together.
    I’d love suggestions for dealing with this?

    • I’d really look for people who you can build relationships with who will pour back into you. That’s what I started praying for last year and then I started being really intentional in which relationships I invested a lot of time into — because I have plenty of opportunities to pour and give, but I knew I really needed two-way relationships where there is give and take. So I started praying for it and then I started actively paying attention to who was investing back into me and I began putting more time and effort into those life-giving relationships.

      I hope you’re able to find those same kinds of people!

      • One more thing: A few of my friends have told me that because we are so chill and laid back and because we do crockpot meals/paper plates or pizza, etc. that it’s given them the courage to invite us over — when they have always been scared of hospitality in the past. So that’s another thing to consider: the more you lower the bar, I think the more it gives people permission and courage to show up and be initiators, too. 🙂

        And I’ve also been really honest with people in letting them know that I need people in my life who will pour back into me and have two-way relationships. I’ll say things like, “I totally get that you might not be in a position to offer this right now, but I just wanted to be honest with you that what I’m looking for in relationship is someone who is willing to pour into me. Because I need to allow myself to be needy. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but it’s an area I’m working on becoming healthier in.”

        • Christina says:

          This is how I feel about my two failed attempts to have people over. Failed isn’t the right word…but the mashed potatoes were awful once and the other my floors were dirty. I hope that it helps people see that having people over doesn’t have to be fancy.

  • Jr Davis says:

    Thanks for sharing. I like the ideas. I believe if people just step out to invite people over and get to know people our communities would be better. One thing I do is invite those who impacted my life to have lunch with me. Fellowship is important to me. It takes time build new friendships.

  • Angie says:

    This is so encouraging. Thanks you for sharing such a thoughtful and honest post.

  • Melissa_in_NJ says:

    Aubrey I’m with you. I email, I text, I invite, we go out for lunch, we text some more, we see each on FB, I never get a return invite. Not for me, not for my family, nothing. Am I that repulsive? Time after time. I find it hard to believe I’m that awful to spend time with. They might TYPE, Oh, we should get together – it was fun when we did. But nothing. Unless I initiate. I’ve lost track of the number. And I don’t even try for immediately. That’s too needy — and I don’t have the time either. I let a month or more go by because there’s an ebb and flow to school commitments, sports, etc. and I get that. One time I happened upon two “friends” going out and they didn’t even invite me along. I went home and cried. Another time I saw them at a restaurant. Guess I’m out. Yet one of them still replies on FB, bumps into me and talks nice, etc as if I’m “in.”

    • I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. One thing that has made a huge difference in my relationships is for me to be really honest in letting them know that I need people in my life who will pour back into me and have two-way relationships.

      I’ll say things like, “I totally get that you might not be in a position to offer this right now, but I just wanted to be honest with you that what I’m looking for in relationship is someone who is willing to pour into me. Because I need to allow myself to be needy. It’s not something that comes naturally to me, but it’s an area I’m working on becoming healthier in.”

  • Christina says:

    I stopped having people over a few years ago because I’m not too good at keeping the house clean. I have felt the nudge to bring people over for awhile but your posts really helped me to actually do. It was horribly stressful for me leading up to it. We had a nice time even though I never got around to mopping and my mashed potatoes were gross.

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