Be Hospitable Thyself

by admin on September 23, 2013

My church is made up of mostly young couples, that is to say, young adults in their twenties and thirties having babies or just starting out. I’ve been attending for over a year bc I agree with their theology. However a lot of them have known each other since diapers and there’s a problem with friendliness towards visitors. It took a long time before I was accepted into the fold. One thing that happened while I was still new and bothered me was a concept one couple came up with called `family dinner`. Basically they announced that they wanted to get to know other couples so they had a new program where three spouses would sign up to eat at their house and bring a side, then they (the hosts) would provide the main dish. Kids could come to of course. I’m sure it was meant kindly, and a few months later I know and like the couple but at the time it miffed me a little. It seems to me if you want to know someone better, you talk with them a bit and invite them over… It’s about you extending hospitality out to them…. not, `hey, WE want to meet more people so YOU should sign up to meet US!` …not to mention it was for couples, so it was another exclusion of sorts. I’ve shared the story with my Dad, an Emilio Post of sorts (ha ha) and he said that it was good intended and meeting new people was a good idea, but still felt a little odd. What does the etiquette dame and readers think? 0922-13

A lack of hospitality is ubiquitous to not only the entire culture but endemic in churches.  The irony of that reality is that Christians are commanded by scripture* to show hospitality which is also a primary criteria for church leadership.   It really doesn’t matter which church one attends, the problem is so widespread.   It is the exceptional church that has a very hospitable congregation.

So,what to do?  My personal belief is that I can only be responsible for myself and therefore I take the initiative to offer hospitality myself as opposed to waiting for someone else to do it.   I have encountered many women over the years who complain of being lonely yet when I ask if they are doing any hospitality themselves, the answer is nearly always, “No”.   I’ve known women who have cried at the receipt of an invitation to a holiday luncheon I host yet as the years roll by, it becomes apparent that while they enjoy the fruits of others’ hospitality, they themselves see no particular reason to do it themselves. They do absolutely nothing and appear to be waiting for others to clamor to invite them to something.  It becomes a very one sided interaction that is sure to lead to relationship failure and as someone who is always taking the lead to extend hospitality, I cannot begin to tell you how discouraging it can be to feel like I am pulling that hospitality “sled” all by myself.    I’ve become less merciful in regards to women who complain of loneliness yet take no steps to change that by reaching out to others to begin forming friendships through hospitality.

I searched your submission and could not any reference to you being a hospitable person to your fellow church members.   It’s basically a gripe about other people’s lack of hospitality when the reality may be that you need to step up and become more hospitable yourself.

So, what does hospitality look like?   While I do host big parties for families and couples, most of my hospitality these days is one on one or small groups.  I host an annual holiday luncheon for 6-8 women, regardless of whether they are married or not.   I have one woman over for lunch and serve chicken salad, fruit salad and chips…nothing complicated.   I meet others at restaurants and I pay for the bill…..a local Chinese lunch buffet is a favorite spot.   Invite several single adults to lunch after church, in the building, and bring a crockpot of soup or chili as the main dish.   One friend of mine cannot easily leave her home to come to my house or go to a restaurant due to the need to care for an elderly parent so I bring lunch with me when I visit.    Look for ways to be hospitable.    A funeral years ago gave us the opportunity to serve others when it became apparent that the entire family would be hastily traveling to the burial site an hour away immediately after the conclusion of the funeral service which was right at lunch time.   We packed 27 lunch bags for them to take and eat on the road.

And it doesn’t need to expensive.  Friends of mine are well known for serving homemade milkshakes and grilled cheese sandwiches to guests for an after church lunch.   Another couple was so poor that they served pancakes.  They are the two most hospitable families I know because they understand that it is relationship building that is important, not whether the food was high end.

* An excellent book on the subject is “The Hospitality Commands – Building Bridges to Friends and Neighbors” by Alexander Strauch

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Dominic September 23, 2013 at 9:28 am

I’m not sure I quite understand the problem here. People in the congregation were invited to a sort of potluck with a couple who were hosting. How is that not offering hospitality? The method of invitation might have been a little unconventional (and if it was strictly limited to other couples, then yes, that might have been exclusionary, and something of a misstep), but it was an invitation.

(Friendliness toward visitors and getting to know new members of the church also seem to be two different things, albeit related.)

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Phoebe161 September 23, 2013 at 9:52 am

Ah all the “expectations” of what church should be… What a huge, touchy subject! One subject that I could spend hours griping about on top of my soap box! But the subject here is hospitality… and Admin is so right. Too many church attenders (regardless of denomination & beliefs) want the church to serve “their” needs.

In addition to Admin’s excellent suggestions, I would encourage OP to get involved the various activities the church offers — Sunday School, “life groups,” bible studies, mission projects, various ministries and other volunteer activities, fellowship activities, etc. Make an effort to meet people. Bottom line, get out of your comfy pew seat and do something about it! To make friends, be a friend.

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Abby September 23, 2013 at 9:53 am

So, if I am understanding this right, this was not a church wide organized thing, just one couple decided they wanted to get to know the other members, so they had a sign up sheet where three other families could sign up to share dinner at the couple’s house?

I have to admit, the format is a bit unusual, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. I mean, the whole point was to get to know strangers right? I mean, you would feel awkward just walking up to someone and randomly saying, hey, nice to meet you. Would you like to come to my house for dinner? Bring potato salad. And if you pick and choose who you invite based on who you feel the closest with, then you run the risk of being exclusive to other church members. I think this is probably the least obtrusive way to meet new people without putting anyone on the spot who may not be interested in participating.

The one thing I’d agree with OP on is if the invitation or sign up sheet specifically said couples, well that was a bit rude, or at the very least, thoughtless. Since OP says he or she likes the couple, I will assume no exclusion of non married members was intended, and the invitation was either misinterprested or poorly worded.

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Huh September 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

OK, I have a question for admin or anyone else who wants to respond. I am part of a social group (about 11 people, 14 if you count spouses) who knows each other through an organization and tries to meet about once every couple of months and have dinner at a restaurant (everyone pays for own dinner) to catch up and at Christmas we have a potluck dinner at one lady’s house (she has a big enough house/table to accommodate everyone.) Recently, we were all talking about having a game night together.

I would actually LOVE to host a game night event at my house for my friends (these friends and some of my others). The problem is I have only ever hosted a few things at my house because it is way too small for a large number of people. You can fit 5 people in my tiny living room somewhat comfortably, but you are pushing it. I can only accommodate 4 at my table, so big dinner parties are out and some games require everyone sit at a table. So my question is, what do I do if I want to host people? Of the 11-14 members, usually about 8 can show up to any particular event, although there have been a few times all 14 of us have gathered.

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I suggest September 23, 2013 at 10:09 am

The only “exclusionary” part in this story is where only couples can sign up for the “family dinner”. Don’t the hosts want to meet single church members as well as couples?

Other than that, I have no problem with the concept.

Our church has something called “Dinner for Eight”. Eight people (all adult ages, single, married, gay, whatever) sign up, then take turns hosting dinner. The hosting person makes the main dish and the others bring sides. The group stays together for about a year (Sept – June) then at the end of the summer it’s all shuffled again. People who live in small places (ie assisted living) are accommodated by the group, somehow. It’s flexible. It works. Usually in a given year, there are three or four Dinner for Eight groups.

It’s a way of getting to know other church members in a small group, friendly, environment. Occasionally there will be a “special interest” group of Eight: sports fans, seniors, etc, but usually it’s just a motley group of all kinds. I attend a very inclusionary church.

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Gena September 23, 2013 at 10:13 am

I once belonged to a singles group and had a similar issue. E-mails were sent out inviting us all for “movie night”. The email told the time and theatre to meet at, and stated we’d decided which movie to see when the majority of the group arrived. I arrived on time, and a few of the “core” group were already there. As they talked, it became apparent that they had been having other communications during the week and had already decided what movie we were seeing. Not really a big deal, but it was just an example of the “cool” kids club that the rest of us couldn’t get into.

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Nannerdoman September 23, 2013 at 10:18 am

I can sense the “couples only” trend–as a single woman, I felt it myself when I was in my early 20′s. My present congregation does a lot of potlucks and things at the church and it is clear that EVERYONE is invited.

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Redneck Gravy September 23, 2013 at 10:23 am

I agree about the hospitable “sled”. I also drug a sled for years to eventually discover I am one of the few sled drivers. While I hear others complain about being invited to a pot luck and having to provide a dish when they think the host should supply all the meal, I rarely, if ever, see the same complainers hosting any type of event.

Same complaint about having pizza at the weekly poker game. Everyone is tired of pizza, yet no one offers an alternative or to host at their home. I think I do enough to provide the clean location, paper goods, cards & chips, if you are so unhappy – don’t come!

After hearing several people complain about their lack of activity on Saturday evenings I started a dinner group (open to all interested). I scout a restaurant to find out their pricing, reservation policy and seating for groups (with or without children). I now email around 20 people weekly with a location – some show up complaining about the choice of location, yet have never offered any suggestion for another restaurant.

I have started losing some of the email addresses – either you are part of the solution or you are part of the problem. I’m not inclined to continue urging you to attend and then listen to you complain.

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Lo September 23, 2013 at 10:24 am

Oh man, you should come to my church. Their new person outreach is out of hand. I get greeted about 15 times between the door and the auditorium. I prefer to be anonymous so it kind of grates but I guess we have it good.

I don’t really see a problem with the event you’re describing. Try to see it from another point of view. This is a no-lose situation. You aren’t being pressured to do anything at all. Asocial and introverted folk like me, we sometimes dread pointed invitations because we don’t want to be seen as mean spirited, but I would not want to go and have dinner with anyone as a get-to-know-you. I’d rather get to know them quite well and then have dinner with them. So the idea of signing up for their hospitality seems very convenient. You let them know you’re interested and they host you and provide the main dish while you bring a side dish (which you would have offered to do anyway because you want to be polite and hospitable). It puts everyone at ease!

I agree that making it just for couples is exclusionary, so the system isn’t perfect. But what has anyone got to lose by going for it?

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AnaMaria September 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

Agree with admin. Just yesterday a couple invited me (a single) and one other couple over after church- lunch was soup and grilled cheese, which everyone, including their children, enjoyed. We just sat and chatted- I’m sure the hosts had some boardgames or something in the closet in case the conversation had stalled, but it didn’t.

For two years between finishing college and getting into graduate school, I lived with my parents (while attending church on my own) and my church family was incredibly hospitable to me, but my parents wouldn’t let me invited them over to our house in return. It was their house and they were letting me live there for free, so I couldn’t complain, but I hated not being able to invite people over- but, I am also very, very thankful that they didn’t wait for me to make the first move! I finally moved into an apartment a few months ago for graduate school and am thankful to have a place where I can be the one demonstrating hospitality again- it’s great to be able to bless others!

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Angel September 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

Yeah I don’t understand the problem here either. It sounds like a good way to get to know new people coming into the church. If they are limiting it to only couples or families, that isn’t too cool but what is stopping the OP from inviting some people over herself? Even a small house can still accommodate 2 or 3 visitors at a time.

I agree with the admin that sometimes it can be discouraging to “pull the hospitality sled” on your own. Out of all our close friends only one couple really hosts anything–they have one child only though and were always hosting things even before he came along. We recently stopped having our annual memorial day bbq where we host about 30-40 people on average–and guess what? Practically NONE of the people we consistently invite, ever invite us to do anything. So we didn’t see them last year. Kind of makes you wonder who your real friends are. So now we have decided to scale back the party considerably and it makes it much easier. But sometimes it takes stepping back from the situation a little bit and re-evaluating what you are willing to do. For us simplifying has really helped. And much less likely to feel resentment that way.

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essie September 23, 2013 at 10:45 am

Dominic, it’s just a bit…impersonal. It’s not a “Hi! Welcome to our church [yada,yada, yada] Why don’t you come over to our place at [time and date]? We’d LOVE to get to know you better.” It’s a “We’re inviting stranger couples to join us for dinner at [time and date]. If you’re interested, sign up and bring a dish.” A sign-up sheet just isn’t as warm and welcoming as a direct invitation. (Which explains why there are no sign-up sheets for dating. Who wants to spend time with someone who implies “I don’t know you or care about you, but spending time with you is better than spending time alone. At least, it’s something different.”)

Then there’s the “Single people need not apply” with its implication that only married couples are worthy (which, honestly, is prevalent in most churches I’ve attended. Not intentional, but it IS there).

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Adelaide September 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

I’d feel a little miffed too, since the OP said she was single. If the events at the church are only for couples, how are you supposed to get to know anyone? It seems like they’d only get to know other couples this way…I know how hard it is to break into an established group of people. It isn’t as simple as inviting people to things. A lot of times you can’t cold-call someone and ask them to your house, they might not come if they don’t already know you.

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Harley Granny September 23, 2013 at 10:52 am

My problem with this is twofold. I am very very shy and I was also taught to not go anywhere unless you were invited.
I was also raised that the group should invite the new person 1st.
And you never ever invite yourself…..trust me this made marrying into a large family very difficult for me.
This is why I’m a bit confused by the OP. The invitation WAS issued. It was up to you to take them up on it. It ‘s a system that has worked for them. Maybe you just need a clarification.
Since you’ve been there long enough you could host at your house.
As to all the other……some people are natural born hosts while others are not.

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MichelleP September 23, 2013 at 10:57 am

Thank you so much for posting this. I don’t attend church anymore due to the lack of hospitality I received at the last few I tried. Not one single person introduced themselves to me or spoke. I am fairly outgoing but am intimidated in a new place with all strangers, so I did attempt to be friendly, but there wasn’t much reciprocation.

I have the problem of offering others hospitality but they never seem to accept. Everyone is too busy seems like. I’m a single mother and a full time nursing student, and I still make time for others. I don’t know if I’m just unlikable or what. I’ve often invited my family members, specifically my cousins’ wives as they are close to my age and we know each other, but they are always on the run. Same with the students I am in class with. What should I do when I offer hospitality but it’s not accepted?

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Allie September 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

The question is whether the invitation – come make the effort to meet us, couples-only, and while you’re at it, bring a side, ‘cuz we don’t want to make ALL the effort – is rude or not (I have made an effort to summarize the invitation as well as the perceived tone, OP). I think you are overreacting to a degree. It seems to me this couple thought they had hit on a good idea – we’ll provide the venue and the main course, the couple can provide the side and we’ll get to meet all sorts of new couples. It is, of course, open to them to set the terms of the invitation and they are likely completely clueless that they are disincluding singletons with this method. You could ignore their “club” altogether, approach them and say you would like to participate, although you are not a couple, or – here’s an idea… extend some invitations of your own to some other members of the congregation to have coffee, lunch, take a walk, etc. I know it’s hard, and not everyone will be interested in being BFFs, but you are bound to make some new friends.

Incidentally, I have kind of the opposite problem at my new church. The congregants are falling all over themselves to be friendly to such a degree that it is cloying. I wish I could just sneak in and hide out in a back pew, but I have a baby and I can never seem to blend in anywhere anymore. If anyone can think of a polite way to say “please leave me alone,” do let me know.

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Goldie September 23, 2013 at 11:11 am

I would disagree with the part of Admin’s posts that says young, single women complaining of loneliness should host parties, otherwise they’re not pulling their weight. Hosting a party is a lot of work. I’ve co-hosted with my husband when I was married, and with a boyfriend when he and I were together; I cannot begin to imagine the effort it would take for one single person to host a party. Additionally, I’m guessing that most of these women live in apartments, or with roommates, where it might not be possible to invite people over for a party. They might not even have enough dishes, silverware, table space, and chairs for all the guests. Even if we’re only talking six to eight guests, these women are living on their own and may not own 6-8 sets of anything. So I would not hold it against them that they go to other people’s homes, but don’t host parties in their own. Neither would I advise for Admin to take it personally and feel discouraged. With that said, one can always organize a brunch at a nice restaurant, a concert or movie night together, etc.

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admin September 23, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I don’t recall referring to “young, single women” being the only ones complaining of loneliness. My conversations have actually been with mostly married women.

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Jane September 23, 2013 at 11:35 am

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the invite, and it sounds like the couple was trying to be hospitable. Simply bringing a side dish to a potluck (even at someone’s house) would the absolute norm in my church.

It sounds like the OP may be accustomed to a different social circle and holds higher standards of etiquette than the other church members.

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Lindsay September 23, 2013 at 11:48 am

I agree with the Dame’s perspective about how hospitality should start within. I know well that it can be painful to extend the first invite when you feel that as a newcomer you should be welcomed by those who know the group or terrain. I also don’t understand the OP’s complaint. It sounds like the host couple puts up a signup sheet saying they can accommodate 3 couples (6 adults would be more thoughtful so as not to exclude singles), and anyone can sign up. I actually think this is a very gracious concept, as one doesn’t have to wait for a personal invitation, but can step forward and say “Yes! I’d like to be included!” and those who are very busy just don’t sign up.

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Surianne September 23, 2013 at 11:53 am

I agree with Dominic, I’m not understanding why the OP is offended by this. It sounds like the couple wants to meet new couples, and has left it open to whoever is interested to sign up — which seems pretty inclusive to me. Since it’s not an official church event I don’t see the problem with making it specifically for couples, as that’s who they’re interested in meeting.

I also agree with Admin’s reply that you can be hospitable yourself if you want to meet new people. Her ideas are a great starting point and I bet one of them, or something similar, would work for your church. As someone who isn’t a great host herself (money, lack of cooking skill, lack of space), I’d actually feel more comfortable at something casual like the pancake gathering.

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acr September 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm

While I don’t think the couple who issued the invitation are super-stars of hospitality, I can see where maybe they were thinking of this more as a club than as, say, a dinner party. Also, if they were inviting other families with children, that could be a lot of people. Even if each of the four couples only had 1 child, that’s 12 people. That’s a lot of work and food. I do think they (as the Dame said) would have been better to have a pot of stew and not turn this into a potluck, but I think people have been convinced that hospitality = fancy, expensive, etc.

I have no problem with them limiting this to other couples, unless your church was extremely small – say 30 people or under. Anything over that, and you can’t just be all inclusive with events at your home.

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clairedelune September 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Perhaps this is inconsistent of me, because I do get upset when people host dinner parties and then start issuing directives about who should bring what (something I would not do myself when hosting parties), but this doesn’t seem like that sort of situation at all. It seems like some folks who thought that a potluck would be a good idea, and decided to get the ball rolling by volunteering their home to house said potluck. And potlucks are a legitimate form of socializing, as long as you don’t present it as something other than it is to begin with. In fact, churches & potlucks go together in my mind like peanut butter & jelly.

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June First September 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Personally, I like the low-key approach.
I’ve attended churches where people surround me because I’m one of the few new ones at the service. I’m sure they mean well, but it’s a little overwhelming. One woman went so far as to scan the pew book (I’m not sure what these are really called, but you write your name and whether you’re a member, visitor, guest, etc) and called my name as I was leaving the church. I was halfway to the street before I realized she was talking to me.

Back to OP: was this potluck for couples only? That’s a little off-putting.

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badkitty September 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm

I actually don’t see a problem with this method of invitation *in that context*. We’re talking about a church which has a culture of unfriendliness toward newcomers, so one couple decided to put their invitation out there publicly in the form of, “look, if you’re interested in getting to know some of the people of this church, we’re available and this is what we’ve come up with to make it simple for everyone involved”. Unconventional, perhaps, but were you really expecting them to be the ONLY ones putting forth all the effort of forming deep bonds with people they see once a week or less – for only a few minutes at a time! – and THEN feeling out if they’re interested in coming over for dinner?

This seems perfectly efficient and kind. I would suggest to the OP that, rather than continuing to hold on to this incident as a complaint, you ask yourself what YOU did to foster deeper relationships with both the established members and the newcomers.

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Catrunning September 23, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I had tried attending various churches throughout the years, and the only other group of people I have seen who were more cliquish – ingroup versus anyone else – than the “church ladies” were junior high-age girls. Why meanness and even passive agressive bullying seem to go hand and hand with church participation, I haven’t the clue. Maybe the self-rightousness that some people get from their religion blinds them to their actions. Or maybe their church is the only venue where those meanspirited people can still get away with their behavior.

I have since converted to an entirely different belief system and no longer encounter any of that type of behavior in my new places of worship. Namaste.

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NicoleK September 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Yes. This.

I’m a naturally shy person, and my mom always told me the way to get invited is to invite people. Some people won’t come, and of the ones who do, some will never invite you, some will only invite you after they’ve been invited several times, some will only invite you to flesh out large gatherings… but some will become friends.

It is really, really hard. But there you go.

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jojo September 23, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Admin, making lunch was such a kind thing to do for those mourning relatives, I’m sure they all appreciated your thoughtful generosity.
I go to a local church playgroup ( I’m not religious but respect their values) and I’m blown away by their hospitality and friendship, they really live their Christian values.
Perhaps the OP has found the right way to celebrate her faith to but is still to find the right group for her?
It does sound like the big problem is not OP being single but that awkward 20/30s friendship stage, where everyone wants to make friends but is so busy working, raising children and keeping their relationship with their spouse on an even keel, that they’re not sure how to go about it.
I for one am at that stage, with school and university friends all off on their own adventures in different countries and work friends all working while I stay at home with my toddler, it’s very isolating.
Funnily enough the street we recently moved into has four new babies this year, so I guess it’s up to me to follow Admin’s advice and finnish unpacking the boxes in our living room and invite them all round for tea and cake :-)
If any other posters have suggestions for making friends at 30, I know I’d love to hear them too.

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Stacey Frith-Smith September 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Single people can struggle with a sense of social, emotional and intellectual “space” that feels like a challenge to fill. Having a spouse, children and home to run in common just makes an easier and more natural alignment of couples to couples or families to families. Having said that, OP, I do sympathize. Single, I’ve been the hosting party many times and have not always had a response rate that reflects my efforts. That is something all hosts face in these days. But the idea that the proverbial grass is a little greener on the other side of the fence is an illusion. The reality is that people sometimes have a hard time getting out of their own heads and the accompanying noise it contains and into life with an open and grateful attitude. So- what Admin says. Host, visit, extend, and repeat. Try the new activity. Try the new hobby. Take the class. Take the vacation. You’ll find some like-minded souls.

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Wild Irish Rose September 23, 2013 at 2:02 pm

My husband is painfully shy and doesn’t often reach out to visitors to our church, but is fine with the meet-and-greet moment we have in each service, during which the people in the congregation shake each other’s hands and offer the Lord’s peace. Some people just aren’t good at meeting others. OP, if you feel left out of church activities or that you have not been adequately included, why don’t you take the initiative to join in on a ministry offered by your church? Visit people in the hospital, volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, find out what church members need and offer to help out with rides, weeding, simple home repairs, child care, delivering meals, etc. There are jillions of ways to meet church members without expecting others to go first.

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NostalgicGal September 23, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I live in a small town now, and belong to several groups and clubs. Hosting is often a roundrobin in the clubs especially (one has a meal after the meeting) that is shared. You do have to sign up to bring the next round or a few rounds in the future; but that is only to make sure that someone is bringing. The membership is maybe a dozen that show to meeting at any one time, if we get everyone that may be two dozen. There can be 3-4 that arrange to do it that month; in my turn I take one month and bring everything (food and drink) so that it’s clear I did my turn fully and freely; and I can sit back for the rest of the year. (My BBQ feeds are looked forward to).

The idea is you have to participate. If it’s made to be equal and even in the hosting as well as the participating then life is good and it keeps the spirit going.

The signup thing seems a bit awkward but at least it sorts scheduling etc… but I agree, sounds strange.

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Kimstu September 23, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Yup, admin is right that if you want to get more hospitality you should start by giving more hospitality. And if people start taking advantage of that by habitually accepting your invitation without issuing you any invitations of their own, then you prune them off your guest list. There ARE still a lot of gracious hospitality exchangers out there, you just have to put in a bit of effort to find them!

However, OP has a point that a publicly-posted invitation addressed ONLY to a subset of the congregation (in this case, couples) is rude. It violates the basic manners principle of not informing people about a social event to which they aren’t invited.

Of course, there can be exceptions for specific subset-oriented activities, such as an excursion for families to a children’s movie, or a senior citizens’ exercise class, a mothers-and-daughters luncheon, etc. But it is rude to arbitrarily limit an occasion of general socializing, such as a potluck supper, only to participants who come in prepackaged pairs.

I don’t think the casual sign-up-potluck format itself is rude as long as it’s open to everybody, although I have to disagree with @Dominic about whether it’s an invitation. It’s a general announcement and call for participation, which is fine, but it’s not the same thing as inviting your chosen guests.

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Jewel September 23, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I completely understand when the Admin says that some folks feel free to enjoy other’s hospitality but see no reason to host others. I’ve cut back on hosting because I was tired of never receiving reciprocal invitations and/or only receiving invitations to home sales parties. I guess some people just weren’t raised right.

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Emmy September 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

It seems like the OP is seeking something to complain about. It’s also unfair to assume that the couple wanted to people to come to them and that’s why they did the sign up. My guess is they wanted to connect with other couples who would be interested in fellowship with them and wanted the invitation to be available to any couple in the church who wanted to sign up for it. I don’t see how this is “expecting others to extend hospitality to them”. In fact, it sounds very friendly. Instead of just inviting people from the clique, it sounds like this couple wanted to extend the invitation to others in the church who wanted fellowship.

I don’t think just inviting couples is a problem. It would be similar to a woman hosting a luncheon for other women or an event for just retirees. It is more likely that people in the same place in their lives will be able to better connect.

Some people have unrealistic expectations for hosting. They think the house needs to be perfect, a smorgasbord of food needs to be on the table, and they need to be the ‘perfect hostess’. Then there is the issue of who to invite without excluding anybody and in some groups the number of people can be overwhelming. It’s not an excuse to bow out of hosting, but I wonder if pressure to create a perfect party prevents some people from trying.

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sv September 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

One of the pillars of getting to know people – if you want to be invited to socialize, then issue an invitation first. If you want to get to know people in this congregation on a more personal level then you should be offering your own hospitality, not waiting for them to notice you.

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JK September 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm

I too fail to see the hospitality fail. The OP advises that her church members are largely young adults, many starting families and many who have know each other since childhood. I imagine that this could result in some cliquishness among the membership. It seems that the dinner organizers may have felt the same way. So, in an effort to break the pattern or simply to branch out, they came up with their concept of a family dinner. It seems that the sign-ups were open to everyone and on a first-come-first-serve basis. No one was obligated to participate. This both helps to broaden this social occasion to folks outside any “clique” and to limit any potential awkwardness that would arise with a more targeted invitation extended to someone who was really not that interested. Frankly, it seems like a nice idea to me.

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lakey September 23, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Actually, I think that what this church did was a good idea. There are always people who feel left out, or like outsiders. I personally am uncomfortable with strangers. An “arranged” get-together like this may seem a bit impersonal, but it can be a risk free way for people who are shy to get to know others without fear of rejection. I think it’s human nature for people to be more comfortable with people they already know, sometimes organizations do these activities to push people into getting to know each other. I’ve belonged to organizations and worked for organizations that do these arranged activities and it can work out well.

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Dominic September 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I agree with essie that it is a somewhat impersonal way to “invite” people to get together. I did say I found it unconventional. But that’s sometimes how it’s done in organizations/groups/dorms/etc. As another poster pointed out, it might be difficult to invite some directly without leaving others wondering why they weren’t invited. Whether you’d call it an invite or not (and since it takes place in a private home, as a small group function, I’d call it an invitation), it’s an outreach to others, probably meant well, if not perfectly executed. It’s a hybrid, maybe–a way to meet people who might be socially minded (or want to be) but too shy to approach others in their group.

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Jenn50 September 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm

A little off-topic, I suppose, but I really like potluck events. It gives everyone a chance to try something new, and serves as an ice breaker. “Did you make this bean dip? It’s really yummy!”

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Jen September 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I think the host couple actually came up with a good way to avoid leaving people out, not make people feel obligated, and dealing with schedules.

OP, think of it this way, the host couple wants to get to know the others in the group a little more one-on-one than a large group setting. The couple is perhaps worried that a direct invitation to people might make them feel obligated to come, even if they don’t want to. Having an open-ended invite allows people who are interested in extra participation to join in – not everyone wants to be more buddy-buddy outside of the large weekly group meeting.

Having decided to have a smaller get-to-know you dinner, the couple has decided they can comfortably host X number of guests but they don’t want to play favorites or rank people. Imagine how someone would feel if they were essentially asked, “Well, the Smiths, Johnsons, Briars, Archbolds, and Stevens couldn’t make it, how would you like to come?” Even if the couple didn’t tell them that, word gets around and people’s feelings could be hurt.

Also, adults are really busy. Picking three couples and trying to schedule something on a night when they’re all available can be extremely difficult. By doing the open invite, the host couple could pick the day and time and then whomever was available then could come.

Open invite on church bulletin = only those who want to come, no one feels obligated, invites don’t feel like a popularity contest, easing scheduling headaches.

I can understand, however, how a single person would feel awkward or left out. This was a faux pas on the host couple’s part, but perhaps an unintentional one? I don’t know the specific wording of the invite, but perhaps they wanted to make it clear that they wanted 6 adult guests at most and were worried if they put the invite up for 6 guests, then some people would assume 6 couples and not 6 individuals? I’ve had that happen to me before and ended up with way more people than I had planned to accommodate. So perhaps their rudeness was unintentional – unfortunate, but unintentional.

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KB September 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I feel a little bad for the OP. When I was little, my very religious, church-going family was in the military and moved around a lot. Being so young, it didn’t affect my church experience, but I know my mom had a hard time. She would sign up to help with things, try to get to know people, host dinners that she invited people to, etc., but most everyone had been there for years and years and she got excluded for being “new” and, since we were military, because she would be “gone in a year or two.” It was a real struggle for her, since churches can be so clique-y and (speaking as a religious person) religious people can be very judgmental, especially in big groups where they imagine they have peer pressure to be judgmental.

It’s possible the OP has tried to reach out and just didn’t mention it. If not, it’s never too late to start.

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Cat September 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Being an older, but always single, woman, I can speak to the fact that some married women may be fearful of a younger, single woman being a temptation, however unwarranted, to their husbands.
I have had problems getting handy-men to come to my house. I resolved it by inviting the man to bring his wife (to “see my mini-horses”).
I put on old shorts, a very old tee shirt, put my hair in a pony-tail, wear no make-up, and go out to clean the stable so that, when she arrives, I am hot, sweaty, and covered in horse manure. I have never had a wife feel the need to accompany him back.
Now that I am sixty-four, it’s not such a problem.

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hakayama September 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Wow! There’s so much going on there, and not just the dinner invitation almost fiasco.
Dear unknown OP: You do not specify your gender, but the description of your difficulty in breaking into the “young marrieds mostly with babies” circle points to your being female.

It is undeniably real that, in the world of couples (and more likely than not especially that church subset) no matter the age, single women are seen as a threat. Their status as never married, widowed or divorced, does not matter either. YOU were successful in breaking through the shell of that group, and yet probably did not realize that it was a major accomplishment. However, expecting to be very warmly treated is totally unrealistic. You have nothing in common with those folks (well, maybe the church thing…). Actually you do not really FIT in that group. Think about it…
Uncle Emilio was right on target in describing the invite as well-intended, but all the good intentions can come crashing if details are overlooked (the couples bit). You took it personally even though the “slight” was really an oversight.

It’s probably safe for me to venture a guess that you are also new to the community at large, or you are a “returnee” to your home turf which likely changed during your absence.
Seeking social contacts outside of work and family, is no easy task. But like with other endeavors, it’s not safe to put all the eggs in one basket. While you love the theology of your present church, and you find it spiritually fulfilling, you cannot count on the church to satisfy your other human needs. I see that as limiting and potentially risky.
Do you have hobbies? Are you interested in sports (as in active participation)? Gardening or raising orchids? How about courses in what interests you? Volunteering, no matter how humble, puts you “out there” too.
Finally, there are the personals…. Yes, the personal ads for “friends only”, as in seeking “people to do things with”. They may not be instant bosom pals and friends, but having company at the movies, a museum or a show beats flying solo. The beauty of it is that it requires no commitment beyond the one initial cup of coffee in the local (or distant) cafe.
DIVERSIFY! Best wishes and good luck.

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hakayama September 23, 2013 at 8:58 pm

P.S.: Try not to come across as desperate: as in clingy, eager, overextending… ;-)

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missminute September 23, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Hospitality can be a double edged sword. I was long known for generous dinners for friends or bringing an abundance of my signature dish to serve at their homes. In time I realised they were not returning the favour.

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Rug Pilot September 24, 2013 at 12:18 am

We have a similar “problem” at our synagogue. There is a program called Dinner for Six where couples get to gether in each other’s homes for dinner. One of the single women in our congregation decided to form a similar group for singles. Great!

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Piper September 24, 2013 at 12:22 am

I am always a bit wary when I see of hear people complaining about the “cool clique” or in crowd. I was never popular in HS or College as I was satisfied with a small circle of friends. When I started graduate school I realized my program had NO social scene so I decided to create one. Now I am not outgoing, particulary friendly or a charming hostess I just did not want to be bored. So I called all 42 people in our program and invited them to different activites 4 times during the first 6 weeks of our program. Yes that is 4 phone calls minimum each to 42 people so 168 phone calls if you are counting. By the end of the 6 weeks there were a solid group of maybe 8-10 of us hanging out regularly, so I stopped the massive invites to the people who weren’t interested and focused on the friendships that had developed.

At the end of the first year we formed study groups for a major exam, and a friend invited someone outside our group to study with us. At first she refused naming me as the reason because “our group was so cliquey and I never invited any one else to do things.” When I called to personally invite her I reminded her that I HAD in fact, invited her out 4 times and had decided when she did not accept or return my calls or reciprocate that she was not interested. She then told me that “my social position” in the department “required” that I keep trying. And yes, she did join our group, and yes she did complain BITTERLY about being lonely. Today I am single, 46,and have moved around and in and out of the US for work many times. I have never been considered “cool ” again but have also NEVER lacked for friends for long because I have DECIDED that that is who I will be. Want a better social life? Start one.

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Marozia September 24, 2013 at 3:55 am

When our church welcomed the new minister, he had a great idea to ‘get to know all’. It was a blessing of the pets!! All pets were welcomed (Yes!! even our pit bulls!!) and were blessed by the minister.
It was great!!
Why not make the initiative, OP and invite people to your place.

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Another Sarah September 24, 2013 at 4:42 am

Question: A few commenters have suggested that perhaps the inviting couple didn’t mean to exclude and that OP could have signed up anyway – being also single, I would hesitate to do that purely because I would feel like I was pushing my company on them when they didn’t *really* want single people there. Is that me? Or is there a polite way to feel out the terms of the invite?

@huh: there are loads of ways round this depending on the level of friendship – I often host for my friends, most of whom I’ve known since school. Due to the tinyness of my house we’ve been known to have “BYO chair” dinner parties (That works in my friend group because we’ve all known each other since we were 11, nobody stands on ceremony), borrow an extra table and chairs from the local community centre and cover them with a nice tablecloth, etc. Another thing we’ve done (also in part due to the hideousness of the british weather) was hold an indoor picnic, complete with checked cloth and cushions on the floor, full picnic basket, taped birdsong on the cd player and paper/vases of flowers everywhere. I wouldn’t advise it for sitting your grandma on the floor, but it was a lot of fun for a group of 20 somethings

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Katie September 24, 2013 at 7:17 am

It really irritates me when people claim they couldn’t possibly host because of the tinyness of their home and yet willingly accept invitation after invitation to other people’s homes and be hosted at their expense each and every time.
There are so many alternatives available if you just put some thought into it – in summer months, arrange a picnic in a park or local garden. If near a beach or common, host a BBQ there. In winter, arrange an evening at a local restaurant and perhaps pay for people’s drinks or their starters. Even offer to bring the main dish when a friend is hosting at their home. Arrange an evening bowling (or something) and pay for snacks.
Or even invite people over one by one for brunch/lunch/dinner – whatever you can do.
Or if you really feel you can’t do any of the above, be super generous with your hostess gift.

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Kristen September 24, 2013 at 7:22 am

My husband and I have been working on socializing more, by ourselves and together. It can be uncomfortable to make friends as an adult, but as admin points out with hospitality, we all have a responsibility to play our part in the process. Maybe consider starting a book group or discussion group of religious topics. Think about what you would like to engage with people on, and form a group based on that. If you don’t take responsibility for your own position, than as the admin said, it does become more difficult to empathize. Try pushing yourself once in awhile to initiate an interaction. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Good luck!

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