A few years ago, when my oldest son was still a baby, I asked God what I could do to reach out to the women in my church. An idea drifted in from Him regarding hospitality. Thus began “Ladies Lunch at Sara’s.”
Three guidelines determined my plans:
1. Cover the entire event with prayer.
2. Invite three ladies at a time, making a group of four.
3. Keep it simple.
I live 45 minutes from my church. So most of our church ladies live near each other, down by the church. It made me smile to think of ladies fellowshipping while driving to and from the event. So, I whipped out my handy-dandy Church Directory (with photos) and started leafing through. I made a few calls: some ladies had to work that day or had other plans. But, eventually I came up with three hearty souls, willing to brave the drive.
Each luncheon I tried to choose at least one really talkative lady, so that there wouldn’t be a multitude of awkward silences. I prayed over my guest list, asking God who He wanted to come, who needed to get better acquainted, and who needed encouragement.
Our home is graced with a tiny dining room, and I was enthused to pull out my pretty dishes that I hardly ever use. Remembering the many Swedish meals so lovingly served on the very same table, I joyfully decorated the worn-with-age table (covered with a pretty cloth) that had belonged to my grandparents.
I wanted to make the setting pretty and “girly” for this ladies day out. But, I didn’t want it to be too fancy. Sometimes I wonder if I made it too pretty (is that possible?) and so ladies didn’t feel like they could reciprocate because they didn’t feel like their luncheon would be similar to mine. I hope that is not the case! In the future I plan to keep it a bit more simple.
Next came the menu – simple and delicious:
I prepared as much as I could ahead of time, and put it all together at the last minute. Every luncheon I used the SAME menu. This helped greatly in shopping for ingredients and preparing! Tweaking the dishes caused them to get yummier each time I prepared them.
It seems like I also asked people ahead of time if they had any food allergies. For sure I would do that now, since I am now gluten-intolerant and much more aware of such needs. In case you are interested, I’ve posted my recipes below.
Welcoming the guests was a joy. My house isn’t tiny, nor it is huge. One lady unknowingly made my day by calling my home “cozy like a cottage.” My goal was to make my guests feel comfortable and to soothe their spirits with God’s tender loving care. I wanted to honor them each as the precious souls they are, lovingly designed by God for a special purpose.
The unofficial schedule looked something like this:
Set the table. Cook the chicken. Chill the cans of fruit for the fruit salad. Place my crock-pot on the kitchen counter. Pray!
Welcome the ladies & seat them in the family room while I finish small details. Ask them if they would like something to drink.
Invite the ladies to come to the table. Sit down and pray together. Eat! I tried to balance the visit so no one woman monopolized the conversation. My goal was to: curve away from gossip, try to point the conversation toward spiritual matters, get to know the ladies better, and have fun!
Remove dirty dishes and serve dessert with hot tea and coffee.
Retire to the family room for more conversation.
After about another hour, eventually someone would say, “I think it’s time for us to go home.” They always stayed just the right amount of time.
The ladies luncheons worked perfectly during that stage of my life, because I timed the luncheon during my son’s nap. Nowadays it would be a bit more challenging with sons ages seven and five, who are anxious to be part of anything involving food.
Here are some ideas you could consider when tweaking this idea to fit your current stage of life:
1. Join with another lady from your church and have the luncheon either at your house, her house, at a park, or at church.
2. Buy similar sized baskets at a garage sale or thrift store. Have a fancy “basket lunch” with simple items. Line it with a cloth napkin. Everything in the basket will taste delicious because it is in a fancy container and is shared with friends. And there will be no last minute cooking, as well as simple clean-up.
3. Include your children in the prayerful preparations. They could be “chefs,” “waiters” or “waitresses” during the meal. Tell them not to expect a tip, but plan a special time together for afterward: playing their favorite game, or take them out to ice cream and talk about how encouraged the ladies were by the time together.
4. Plan for a larger group potluck. You could announce a theme: salad potluck, dessert potluck, chocolate potluck, garden bounty potluck, pizza potluck (veggie pizza, fruit pizza, “real” pizza, and dessert pizza!), picnic baskets, etc.
5. Ask ladies to bring a “show-and-tell” item: something that is special to them to talk about to the group.
6. No matter what, plan to include Christ in your party. Write Bible verses on slips of paper and set them around the table. Have a list of questions, some off-the-wall silly and others more spiritual in nature, to ask around the table during lunch. Share a brief devotional. Ask the group, “What has God been doing in your life?” and see where the conversation leads. Inquire about prayer needs and pray together as a small group.
7. Prepare a small token of friendship to give them when they leave. Keep it inexpensive and simple! It could be a flower with a verse attached with a curly ribbon. Or it could be a Bible verse magnet for their refrigerator. How about a Dollar Store doily tied with pretty bowMaybe it could be a craft made by you and/or your children.
8. Consider this part of your children’s education. They can learn much about hospitality, socializing, manners, serving, and the delight of ministering to others through hosting a ladies’ luncheon.
9. Mail each of the ladies a note, thanking them for coming and telling them what you appreciate about them. Don’t forget to add an uplifting Bible verse.
When I became pregnant with our second child and was very sick most of the time, ladies luncheons could not continue. I miss them and hope I can do it again someday. As I look back on the five – six groups of ladies I had in my home, over the span of a few months, I thank God for the rich memories and treasured moments of encouragement He allowed us to enjoy.
Sometimes ladies forgot to say thank you, while others brought a hostess gift or wrote a thank you note afterward. I was touched to tears by one widow who sent a note describing the luncheon as “a highlight of her life.” A few times I was sad because I did not receive an invitation back, but so much greater was the overwhelming joy that came from serving God and others!
Perhaps God is calling you to a ministry of hospitality in your home. Keep it simple and God-centered, and you can’t go wrong!
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Chicken Salad (a yummy college home-economics class recipe – 6 servings)
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup pineapple chunks, halved
12 black olives, halved
4 Tbsp. slivered almonds, toasted (browned in saucepan for 4 minutes)
1/2 cup mayo
Lettuce – 1 head
Chill plates (or serve right away out of the refrigerator). Toss chicken and salt. Add pineapple, celery, olives and mayo. Lightly toss – don’t overwork. Serve over lettuce – garnished with sliced almonds.
Chicken Caesar Salad (from my dear friend, Barbara – 6 servings)
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1/2 – 3/4 cups parmesan cheese
1 bottle Classic Caesar Kraft dressing
14 grape tomatoes, halved
Toss first three ingredients together lightly. Top with tomatoes and croutons. Be sure all the ingredients are served well-chilled.
Crusty Cheesy Garlic Bread (source unknown)
3/4 stick of butter, melted
3 TBSP. dried chives
2 TBSP. minced garlic
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. salt
1 loaf Italian bread
Combine the first five ingredients and brush on sliced Italian bread (3/4″ slices). Broil for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm in a basket, wrapped in a cloth towel or napkin.
Cherry Pie Fruit Salad (source unknown)
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can sliced peaches
1 can sliced pear
1 can apricots
1 can pineapple chunks
Optional: blueberries, strawberries, grapes
Drain canned fruit and place all fruit in a large bowl. Stir together and chill. Just before serving, pour it into a clean bowl so it will look fresh and pretty. Serve in small dishes or ramekins.
Crockpot Double Chocolate Pudding Cake (from my college friend, Jen … a chocolate lover’s dream come true!)
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 TBSP. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
3 TBSP. melted butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Place batter in 3 1/2 quart crock-pot.
In another bowl, mix:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Sprinkle over batter in crockpot. Gently pour 1 2/3 c. hot water over the top. DO NOT STIR! Cover and cook on high 1 3/4 – 2 hours. Do not cook on low. Serve with ice cream.