The Dinner Party That Wasn’t

Our new church has a “Dinner For Six” program which I’ve mentioned before: people who want to participate sign up and the coordinators divide everyone into groups of three couples. Each couple hosts dinner for the other two once during a three-month period , with everyone dividing up the meal each time (host family provides main course, one family brings salad and bread, the other brings dessert and a beverage, and they rotate with each meal). It’s a really neat way to get to know people beyond just chatting after services and to meet people from other Sunday School classes or the other side of the church. πŸ™‚

We had our first dinner back in October with our pastor’s family and another couple. The second couple was supposed to host in November, but the wife’s mother became ill and she spent much of the month in the hospital with her or at her home afterward, and not only was there not an opportune time, but they were just under too much pressure. Throughout December we tried to find a time that would work for everyone, but we just never could get together. The new rotations for the Dinner For Six were to begin in January, but we attempted to get our last group together one last time and arranged to do so at our home this past Saturday.

Hospitality is not my strong suit, but I’ve come a long way, by God’s grace, since early married years when I felt I had to spring clean every nook and cranny, get every house project on the docket done, and then make some elaborate new dish when company came. It was nice to have only the main dish to prepare, and I put together a tried-and-true crock pot meal that serves a crowd and planned for a side dish “just in case.” I’m more on top of regular housekeeping than I used to be, but there was plenty to do (you can’t clean too far ahead, because then you’d have to do it all over again before the event). I learned a long time ago that I’ll probably not get everything done I’d like to and to prioritize what things had to get done vs. other things I could then get to if I had time. I was a little dismayed at not having help: Mittu was sick and Jason was ministering to her, and Jesse had an basketball game two hours away (way too far in my opinion!) which Jim attended. I felt bad about not going, but I didn’t feel I could handle being in the car so much before having people over even if I’d gotten everything done ahead of time, plus I felt I should be here in case something happened to delay them. So I actually looked forward to putting on some music and digging in.

Everything came together fairly well. But then a couple of hours before dinner time I got word that the pastor’s wife and daughter were sick and that he would be coming alone with their part of the meal. I was disappointed that his wife couldn’t make it and felt bad that she was sick.

The pastor arrived at 6, but the other couple was nowhere to be seen. We thought perhaps they had mistaken the time, so we waited until about 6:30, then decided we should call them. Not only had they forgotten all about it, but their refrigerator had broken down and they were right in the midst of cleaning everything out of it and putting a new one in, so even though we had enough food for them to go ahead and come without bringing their portion, it just was not a good time. If I had been thinking we could have offered to take dinner to them, but that just didn’t come to mind.

We enjoyed the time with the pastor, but I couldn’t even really enjoy feeling a little like the Shunammite woman who helped feed the man of God because I felt that, instead of ministering to someone who was out and about and needing refreshment, I was taking him away from his sick family who would rather have him home. And though the conversation around the table was pleasant, even fun, after everything was over, I felt profoundly disappointed.

Disappointed? Why?

Because I felt like I had gone to all that work for nothing.

Nothing? No, not if everything is done as unto the Lord. Hospitality does not depend on the number ministered to, and even if only my own family had shown up, are they not worthy of hospitality as well? I do cook and clean for them regularly, of course, and we have an occasional special night with tablecloth, special foods, etc. — this could have been a special celebration “just because.”

Because I wanted my new friends to see my home.

Ah, there is the crux of it. No, it’s not like we live in a mansion and I wanted to offer a museum tour. I enjoy visiting other people’s homes and seeing what other people have on their walls, how they arrange things, what they collect, what colors they like, etc. –it helps me get to know them better and see their personality reflected in their home. And I wanted them to get to know me in the same way. I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong. But hospitality is not about me. It’s not supposed to be, anyway. It’s supposed to be centered on ministering to others.

As I worked through my disappointments, I looked for several good things from the experience:

  • The house was all clean, earning me a bit of rest and time to do other things for a few days.
  • I got a few more decorating projects completed.
  • There was enough food left over to provide for Sunday dinner, making an easy meal of just warming things up.
  • I could rejoice in having a calm, productive day rather than whipping myself and my family into a frenzy as has happened previously when company was coming.
  • We got to spend time with the pastor and ask some questions we had.

And in church the next day, hearing some of the burdens and prayer requests and even victories as one new precious soul came to the Lord, I was reminded that there are much bigger things going on in the world than my little dinner, and I need to get over myself. πŸ™‚

If you’re still reading, thanks for listening to my rambling as I tried to work out my thoughts and perspectives. πŸ™‚

15 thoughts on “The Dinner Party That Wasn’t

  1. Thanks for sharing this experience, Barbara — of your preparations and disappointments and how you worked through. A somewhat painful process, but I’m glad you found blessings.

  2. Hospitality and nurturing are among the areas I am to serve in according to the test we take to find our strengths and weaknesses. And like you I used to feel that everything had to be perfect and spotless, then I’d be so stressed I couldn’t enjoy myself. Time and maturity has changed that. Still, I would have been a little upset that the one couple didn’t bother to cancel. If they had, the Pastor could have stayed home with his family. And since this was the last chance for this group to get together before moving on, you really didn’t get to know them as the organization suggests.
    I’ve often thought I’d enjoy being a part of this, called different things in different churches. Our daughter and her husband are doing it…since we’ve moved back here, we’ve not really gotten involved with any groups at church and I miss being with other couples but since Honey Bear spends the week out of town, we usually just spend time alone together or with family. Thanks for sharing.
    Mama Bear

    • I don’t blame them at all. They’ve had a lot of their plates lately and just clean forgot — I’m sure they would have canceled if they’d realized what day it was. We hadn’t talked since nearly a week before. I could have/should have touched base to make sure they had directions, etc.

  3. I feel your pain, Barbara. I can SO relate to what you’re sharing. Hospitality is not my strong suit either. I *want* to be more hospitable, but it doesn’t come naturally. (I always blame it on my lack of ability in gourmet cooking skills. Excuses, excuses.)

    So when you actually go to great effort to be hospitable and it doesn’t turn out like you expected, yes, it’s disappointing. But I love your take on it, trying to find good things out of it anyway. Regardless of whether your “gift” was able to be enjoyed by all you offered it to, it was most enjoyed by the Father, who was your primary guest you were trying to please anyway.

    I pray your new group will be a ball of fire in opportunities and desires to get together. πŸ™‚

  4. You should have called me… we would have gladly come. πŸ™‚

    With me, hospitality tends to happen or not happen depending on the seasons of my life. Used to do a lot in college and right after. Then, it kind of dwindled as the Lord led me to do other things. And then, it was virtually non-existent when my little one came along. Now that she is older, I think I am ready to do more entertaining again.

    Sorry about your dinner that didn’t happen, but at least the house is clean. And that’s a plus in my book! πŸ™‚

  5. Boy I hear you on this one. Hospitality is not my ‘thing’ either. We used to have a small group in our home weekly and I was stressed and tired and just didn’t want to deal with making things ‘presentable’. So the group stopped and no one else wanted to host it either.
    It is ok. sometimes change of plans are good. We have never had our pastor over it would be fun to ask questions and talk as friends.

  6. I love your sweet spirit and your finding the good things in all the disappointment. I can certainly understand the disappointment! Thanks for being so transparent and for sharing what the Lord taught you through it all.

  7. I can understand your disappointment. I love to entertain, but it’s still disappointing when people don’t show-even if I understand their reasoning. At the same time, it can be a huge heart check, forcing us to realize why we’re entertaining in the first place–and how our motives aren’t always as pure as we thought they were.

  8. Life happens despite plans. It is only natural to feel a bit disappointed. The good thing is you could put it into perspective and didn’t just dwell on the “me” aspect of the experience. Too many people never learn to look beyond their own situations and disappointments. Jesus is our guide in that area and you always demonstrate obedience by following his lead.

  9. I, too, become disappointed when guests can’t make it. And I think your point about remember that it’s not about me is a good one. It isn’t. But I sure like thinking it is! (I can esp. identify since we’re currently settling into a new church and I like having people over to see our house and get to know us! Same reasons!)

    Good thoughts and a good word for me today! Thanks for sharing that!

  10. I’m sorry that your guests didn’t make it. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel like you went through so much work for nothing or that you didn’t feel disappointment. But the fact that you recognized it, means so much. Hopefully things will turn out better next time πŸ™‚

  11. Pingback: Blogging Year in Review « Stray Thoughts

  12. Barbara,
    My husband and I were in a church even before we were married, back in 1981, that had Dinner’s for Six and it gave us a wonderful experience of meeting couples and learning about hospitality, fellowship and Christian marriage before being married. I have thought about the experience a number of times, thinking I would love to bring the idea to the church we now attend. I am the chairman of our adult ministries committee and just brought the idea up at our last meeting. Everyone was game to try it so I am starting the process of setting it up. I started with searching the idea on the internet and came across your post on the Offering Hospitality blog by Carrie. I know your post was done some time ago, but do you have any specific information or samples of how the information was shared with church members. Promotion items or sign up forms, etc.? I would love to borrow any ideas you or your church has that have been successful.

    Thanks so much and God bless,

    • Hi Jeanyne,

      I’m happy to help as much as I can. The people who coordinated the Dinner for Six printed up cards with information about how it all worked and left them on the Welcome Desk at our church and had a sign-up sheet there for people who were interested to sign up with their addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses. Then they placed announcements in the church bulletin several weeks ahead of the final sign-up date, and often one of the coordinators would stay near the Welcome Desk after church in case there were questions. After the final sign-up date, they would divide the people who signed up into groups of six (sometimes more if it didn’t divide evenly or if there were single people who wanted to participate, though sometimes single people signed up in pairs as one of the groups to host. If they did have a group of more than six, they’d call the people in that group to make sure it was ok). How they worked out how to group people with new people, I don’t know – they must’ve had a spread sheet of some kind. Anyway, once they worked it all out, they printed up cards for each participant with information about who was in their group, their contact information, and which couple hosted first, second, and third. Then it was up to the people involved to schedule times to get together.

      I just looked through my files, and I do have a sample of the initial card announcing and explaining it. I’d be happy to try to scan that and send it to you if you’d like.

      I’m happy to hear your church is doing this. It is a lot of fun and a great way to get to know people from church better.

      On Sat, Jan 17, 2015 at 1:50 PM, Stray Thoughts wrote:


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