Our church is working on becoming more guest friendly. Prime parking spaces are now reserved for visitors. Smiling greeters at each entrance warmly receive newcomers and hosts accompany guests to their destination, be it the sanctuary, nursery or youth center. These hosts personally invite first-timers to one other activity in the life of the church that might interest them: Awana, a men’s golf outing, a church picnic, or a women’s group. The church sends a letter to all who sign the guest registry, and a member calls each local visitor.
This new emphasis on guests at church has encouraged me to think about guests in my home. How guest friendly is my house? When my husband and I purchased our first living room furniture in the 1980s, I swooned over the then popular camelback sofa and winged-back chairs. My colors were crème, pink, cranberry and teal. The finished room was elegant and formal. Quite lovely, I thought. A little too lovely, I later realized, at least for our lifestyle. I was constantly shooing my young children off furniture, and my teeth were on edge when anyone ate in the living room.
Eighteen years and two moves later I have the opportunity to “redo” our living space. For years I’ve wished our home said, “Come on in, curl up on the sofa, feet and all.” This time around I’m shopping for comfortable seating, durable fabrics and an inviting statement. I hope the room is so enticing people can’t help but curl up on the furnishings. The throw rug is definitely not the latest designer style, but it’s comfy for the kids to lie on and doesn’t show stains. My decorating goal is no longer to look like a photo op for a sleek magazine. Instead, I want my home to be inviting, not formal. Cozy, not cutting edge.
Since we often have out-of-town company, we try to make our home guest friendly by keeping a basket for visitors filled with items they may have forgotten. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, razors, shampoo and other toiletries fill the basket. Many of these items are gathered during our own travels. Over the years the baskets have taken various forms and sizes, sometimes bulging, other times slim. During hectic seasons it may contain merely a piece of fruit and a couple of stamped postcards of our city. Or a simple bouquet of fresh-cut flowers from the garden stuffed in a Ball jar may wave hello from the nightstand. What the welcome gift is seems not nearly as significant as the gesture itself.
Although the furnishings and welcoming touches are important, what truly transforms the climate of a house is the attitude of the hosts. The relaxed manner in which we heartily greet our guests sets the tone for their visit. The thoughtful questions we ask can say a lot more to our guests about their welcome than surgically clean bathrooms and sparkling floors. Eye contact, focused attention and a ready smile communicate volumes of love and care.
Stop and recollect the homes where you’ve been warmly welcomed. What made you long to linger a while longer? How were encouragement, hope and joy shared? Determine how best to imitate these behaviors and values.
My friend Dave fondly remembers his pastor frequently falling asleep in a favorite chair following Sunday dinner with his family. For that reason, he wanted his own house to be a place of refuge for my husband. Dave’s home speaks to us: come on in, curl up on the sofa, feet and all. And take a nap if you’d like.
Special Touches to Have for Guests
- Keep a toy basket handy for visits from families with toddlers.
- Have coloring books, paper, crayons, markers, scotch tape and scissors handy to enter-
- tain school-aged children in a place accessible to them.
- Stock a bookcase shelf full of books for visitors of all ages: picture books, middle readers, young adult and adult books.
- Make easy healthy snacks available to guests and encourage them to help themselves. Applesauce cartons, frozen fruit bars, and juice boxes are generally a hit with youngsters.
- Place stationery, stamps, pen and a notepad within bedside reach for overnight guests.