I grew up in a home where people felt welcomed. My sisters and I showed up with our friends all the time. People also came by on their own. They felt comfortable enough to just drop by.
What made our house so welcoming? I really think it worked because Mom never fretted about people coming over. She worked full-time and raised the three of us. When she came home from work she was tired. Usually she come in the door from work and went straight to her bedroom and put on her pjs. She NEVER felt like she had to entertain people. She also did not stop what she was doing to shift gears when people came over, but she often invited them to join in with what was already going on.
I often remember:
- People being welcomed.
- Mom going about the things she needed to do.
- She would say, "Around here you help yourself."
- If people were around at dinner time they were invited to eat.
- The entire atmosphere was relaxed.
- Our den was kid/teenager proof.
- Everybody had refrigerator rights.
I know some of you are gasping at the last one. But these things set the tone for a very welcoming home.
1. Be willing to be risky. Just because it may be a different way of doing things does not mean it is bad.
Years ago I heard James Dobson teach that we, as parents, should want our home to be the place teenagers gather. Even though our kids were young when I heard the message I have never forgotten it. Dr. Dobson encouraged parents to overlook whatever was broken, busted or spilled. He even challenged parents to buy food to fill the cabinets with things teenagers like so they would want to come to the house.
2. Be willing to be the gathering house despite the obstacles.
Our house was that house long before Dr. Dobson taught that message. Bettye could've taught Dobson a thing or two.
But in this day and age I feel like I also need to explain this point more specifically. Some parents think the only way they could attract kids to come is to be the "cool parent" house. Some people are believing the lie that it's safer to let the teenager come to their house and do the things "teenagers do" at their house rather than our who-knows-where. This is a lie. Letting teenagers drink (or do drugs) in your home is illegal. That's the bottom line.
We sometimes make gathering people much harder than it has to be. It's not always beautiful tables and elaborate meals (although they have a place as well.) A lot of the time gathering people is just making them feel welcomed. Letting people know you are glad they've come and encouraging them to make themselves at home can truly touch hearts.
3. Make your home a safe place where they know they can come and not be pressure...but accepted and loved.
If you are a parent of teens (or soon to be teens) sometimes just providing a safe place and welcoming them into your home can be a game changer for teenagers whose homes are far from welcoming. Making a place for teens to gather and allowing them a place where they know they are welcomed can be transformational.
This can also be applicable for college students as well. If you are an empty nester and you home is lonely...there are MANY college students who would LOVE to be welcomed into a home. (There will be more post to come that will help you if this is your journey.)
4. Fill the pantry.
We have some suggestions, from our pantry to yours, to make gathering folks easier.
- Crystal Light Peach Tea. Don't laugh. I know it sounds silly. It's delicious and people now ask if Peach tea is in the pitcher at our fridge because they love it so much. It takes up very little space in the pantry. It's inexpensive and it goes a long, long way. My mom used to keep Kool-aid for us. (Hence my nickname the Kool-aid Kid.)
- Popcorn. It's such an easy go-to.
- Pretzels. Mom often got these and I still get them today.
- Cereal. I know this is hilarious? Kids love it. Teenagers love it. This mom loves it. As I was writing this story I came to the kitchen and found three teenage guys circled around the island with bowls of cereal.
- Sandwich fixings. When all else fails there are sandwiches.
- Bowl of fruit. Mom did this. I do this. My sisters do this. (Does everybody?) We hardly every throw rotten fruit away.
- Make extra for dinner. If we have people stop by unexpectedly we can feed them...if we don't we have leftovers for lunches! Win-win.
These may sound so simple to you...and I hope they do. This doesn't have to be hard.
5. Keep it simple.
I think about Jesus when he wanted to gather the disciples one day on the beach. He just made them some fish and had some bread. He used what he had. It wasn't a big deal.
That day was a game-changer for Peter. He was welcomed to sit down and eat with Jesus after Peter had denied Him. Peter couldn't have felt more blessed. There's way more to this story that may be for another day, but for today...big things happened over a very simple meal. It's ok to keep it simple and to provide a place where people feel welcomed!
If you are someone who grew up being welcomed in our home growing up I'd love to hear your comments below! Did Bettye welcome you? What was it like from your perspective?
If you have a great story to share about someone else who welcomed you into their home when you were growing up...please share in the comments below. What made you feel welcomed? Your sharing will encourage others as they make spaces to gather people.