5 Easy Steps To Host a Meal Night

Meet part of the fam!  This is the Pendergrass side that gathers most Tuesday nights.  (You friends of mine on Instagram get the Tuesday night update on my story.) 

"My story."  Is it just me or does that sound a bit soap-opera-ish?  (Don't judge me...I grew up on them but that's a different post.)

Before I tell you about Tuesdays let me tell you whose at the table.  The 3 kiddos in the foreground are our youngest 3.  

The head at the end of the table is Brady.  He is our oldest son and his goal is to get to this seat every week.  (He wanted the back of his head in this shot because he said it looked better from behind.) He just turned 16.

Elizabeth Jane (also co-star of most instagram cooking clips) is our 8 year old.  She is the youngest and owns it. 

Shepherd is to the right and he is #3 child.  His goal is to steal the end seat from Brady every week. He is 12. 

Mary Taylor is our oldest and she is the beautiful blonde smiling at the other end of the table.  She prefers to sit by Pop.  Every week.  Same seat.  Not moving. She is 18.

Taylor (isn't he cute) and I are sitting between his parents in this pic.  Nanny and Pop are an awesome host and hostess! They are wonderful parents-in-love!  I am so blessed.  

For years Nanny was frustrated, because as the family grew we could not all "gather around" a table.  It was just too small.  We sure couldn't invite more to join us. We couldn't sit together as it was. 

Solution.  Pop built another room...and this huge table. Now we can all fit.. plus many more.

Most Tuesday nights there are several folks joining in.  The night of this picture was the last night one of the regulars, Vijay (purple shirt), Jay and Kari's friend who moved to Atlanta the very next day. (picture a sad emoji face because we miss him.)

Jay and Kari are sitting beside each other in the middle.  Jay is the youngest Pendergrass son. He is a fantastic cook and you will be introduced to recipes of his as time goes on.  Kari is a blessing as a sister-in-love.  She is super creative and they have tons of small group ideas I will be sharing on the website as well. 

Their son Pate is across from them.  He is the youngest of the in-town cousins. He comes honestly by his creative genes.  He and Elizabeth Jane can be found making everything from skyscrapers out of scrap wood to train tracks that scale tables and pillows.  I couldn't resist this pic.

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But the main event is hosting.  Not the introduction so on with it.

Tuesday dinner starts with a text.  Sometime on Tuesday morning the anticipation builds. My kids will even start asking if it has come through or not. "Are we going to Nanny's?" is a question I'm asked.  (Usually each kid asks me at lease once.)

Nanny sends out a group text to invite us to Family Meal Night.  

 

1.  Develop an easy way to communicate with the people you will be inviting.

Nanny sends the text and all we have to do is respond with a thumbs up or thumbs down signifying wether we can or can't come.  (Even though a thumb is all that is needed we tend to have fun as we all reply.) She can find out early in the day how many so she can plan the amount of food she needs to make.

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2. Decide who you would like to invite.

Our definition of "family" for the family meal has changed over time.  What started out as mostly just our family has morphed intentionally to include others.  We have had college students, ministers, friends, and neighbors who have been invited.  It's fun each week to see who may be there.  We've made some dear friends this way.  

 

But this meal could be created to be a niche group too.  

  • Maybe you want to develop a standing weekly dinner date with your small group. 
  • A house church that we attended had a Sunday meal together.
  • One church we love has a single's meal each week on Wednesday nights.  
  • A group of widows I know have a standing date that they look forward to each week. 
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3. Decide on what to eat.

Nanny lovingly and painstakingly plans the meal for us.  Honestly, it feels like a gift every single week.  She thinks about different things all the time.  She asks the grandkids about favorites.  She considered the diets that some of us have been on (or are on).  If a birthday falls during the month she makes a birthday meal! This week we are celebrating the March birthdays on one night because we have so many. 

But this process doesn't have to be hard.  One week she made a baked potato bar with tons of fixings.  It was delicious.  She has made chili and hot dogs.  Occasionally she surprises the younger ones with a pizza night. 

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  • You can make your group a potluck. That's how we did the house church group.  One person would make the main dish and others would bring a side or dessert.  We decided  the week ahead so we did not have to plan at the last minute.
  • Some small groups I know brown bag it.  Everyone just swings by and grabs whatever they want to eat and they all sit down and eat.
  • The widow's group picks a restaurant and go out to eat together.
  • One small group I know keeps a set menu for the month and repeats that menu over and over. They switch houses but keep the menu simple. 

 

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4. Decide what your goals are for your group.  

If you are wanting to get to know each other better then just jump in with both feet.  Make it a point to circulate among the group and get to know each one as best you can.  Try to break the habits we have of sitting by the same people over and over.  

Some groups get together purely for entertainment.  In that case have a great time.  Make the focus fun. 

Your group may want to study something together.  Develop a plan and make sure there is someone who spearheads that part of the evening as well.  

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5. Be honest with yourself as a host/hostess. 

  • Is there something that is a hardship you could cut out? (If so cut it out and don't feel guilty.)
  • Is cleanup atrocious? Ask for help from the group...Nanny always says, "Many hands make light work."  What might take you hours could take moments with a group.
  • Is the cooking too much? (Ask for more help or feel free to regroup and brown bag it the next time.)
  • Has the grace run out for you to do the hosting? Sometimes groups need to swap the space up that they meet in and that is ok too.  

 

There is not a way to get rid of every inconvenience of hosting but you can make life easier for yourself. If you are not honest with yourself you may begin to resent your group.  Just keep it as simple as you can.

Also remember that people are not coming because your house is the cleanest in town.  Lay down any perfectionistic tendencies that could be causing you to make entertaining harder than it has to be.  It's not possible to alleviate all the struggles of entertaining, but it is possible to make things easier on yourself.  If you need help ask for it.  

The goal is relationship and connection.  

We are blessed each week because Nanny makes a place for us to connect!