This post could also be titled: “Bringing the Real Woman to the Table: Christian Hospitality in the Age of Pinterest.”
Very simple. It’s an invitation for conversation and a widening of one’s skill sets in your safest space: your home. It’s creating a place for growth and conversation in the context for perhaps one of the most underestimated means of God’s grace… Hospitality. And it can look different based on your passions and on your audience… whether friends, neighbors, or currently for me- college women.
For me, it’s looked like a once a month on Friday’s, I invite some college girls from Cru (our ministry at Mizzou) to come to our home for 2 things: a lifeskill and some Biblical content. Sometimes it’s a big group, sometimes it’s small. But it’s always quite intimate and a good time.
Some topics for Life Skills include (insert your own!):
Some topics for Biblical Content:
When I first posted a picture on social media of our initial Table Talk (see above with the girls in our kitchen), my phone exploded from women across the country- and even abroad. It was mainly moms in ministry eager to do the same, but feeling like they didn’t know where to start. It seemed to be striking a nerve in many young women that wanted- maybe needed- specific direction… and maybe even permission to love people in this way.
The following is a result of many conversations compiled into the following 10 tips/principles for those who want to try their own version of Table Talk.
We all have a vision of what the phantom woman/wife/mom is. Whatever it is, it’s a myth and doesn’t exist.
In an age of Pinterest, the standards can feel so high- societal pressures to be a certain sort of crafty, have some Joanna Gaines swag on our walls or even just a clean house (is that even possible?!)… sometimes it’s all just too much. And because I don’t feel like I can be that Phantom host or any kind of expert on things (let’s be honest, I’m just surviving life at times), I just avoid. Because having people in my home will expose that I really don’t have it altogether after all.
2. Bring your best and worst; Bring the real you.
This means embracing your giftings & talents as well as your limitations. It means not dogging on yourself and talking excessively about what a hot mess you are (guilty!) but it also means letting it go when you didn’t have time to wipe down your counters thoroughly or get your bathroom as clean as you would like. It means that you don’t have to be all things to all people, but that you are freed up to be the REAL you. The good, bad & ugly and you’re inviting people into your world to see the highlights and the lowlights.
3. Put yourself out there. Any time we initiate with any group of people, it’s risky business. I always remind myself that God brings who He wants to each time, so if it’s a smaller group, great- even better sometimes! The results are up to God and will vary, but just keep doing it.
4. You don’t have to be an expert. The idea isn’t to come across like you’ve got it all together. Some of the lifeskills are areas that are new to me, like cake decorating and gardening. The idea is more to get their feet wet and learn something new in a fun way. Same with the Biblical content portion- they aren’t topics I’ve now mastered; they’re areas I’m growing in and providing a place for discussion along the way.
5. Be resourceful. Along the lines of embracing limitations, don’t feel like you have to cover every subject or lifeskill alone. Who are the people around you and what skills do they have to offer that you think you & others would benefit from? A couple months ago, I brought in a neighbor to facilitate/ teach on finances. She shared from her own experiences (both good & bad) with money, some Biblical principles and even pulled up her Mint app on our apple TV so the students could see how she actually budgeted. It was awesome!
6. Value the “ordinary things” as “important things.” I say this a lot, but it’s because it’s true. When we only make time and space to talk about what we consider spiritual things, we subconsciously communicate that maybe those other “real life” things just aren’t as important to God.
When women open up their most sacred space and offer help to other women in basic life skills- whether it be how to do laundry, avoid debt, or how to sew a button- we communicate that God cares about all areas of our life. That there is no sacred/ secular divide. That be it gardening or diapers or their future or current workplace or their ability to ask good questions or flirting or how to use a meat thermometer- that these are all important to God. That the little things really aren’t so little; they’re sacred and worthy of time and attention.
7. Get your guests involved. During your lifeskill portion of the time you’re together, I suggest giving your guests something to do. If you’re cooking, let them chop. If you’re gardening, let them plant or weed. People like to have something to do, especially if they are new to a group & don’t know the other guests well.
8. Focus on things that you’re interested in. What are your hobbies/ interests/ passions? And if you don’t know what they are, start exploring and bring in some other people who are interesting and that you’d be excited to learn from.
9. Keep it simple. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you overwhelm yourself. This might fit better under #5, but there have been times when I’ve asked for help with some of the snacks. Christmastime was so crazy and I knew that my capacity would be slim for a Christmas Tea themed Table Talk, so I reached out to some empty nester friends and (heaven forbid!) asked for help. One friend made a couple of beautiful cakes and the other made tons of cookies- it was GLORIOUS and so, so appreciated.
10. It doesn’t have to be perfect. As we’ve added more kids, it’s become harder and harder to un-smudge all my appliances and get all those tiny fingerprints off the windows and wipe down this or that. And you know, it’s a good thing because as a wise woman once said, I’ve had to truly “let it go.” And more than that, embrace that it’s the spirit of a home that people will remember and the sense that they were loved and welcomed, not how clean my countertops were.
May we reject the phantom host and may our tables create sacred space for us to embrace our strengths and limitations, so we can grow and develop and thrive.