How to Host a Church Ladies’ Luncheon In Your Home

 
“… distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”
Romans 12:13 NKJV
 

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.

The Guests

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.

My House

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.

The Menu

Next came the menu – simple and delicious:

Chicken Salad or Chicken Caesar Salad
Crusty Cheesy Garlic Bread
Cherry Pie Fruit Salad or Fresh Fruit
Double Chocolate Pudding Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Tea/Coffee/Water

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.

The Luncheon

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:

Day Before

Set the table.  Cook the chicken.  Chill the cans of fruit for the fruit salad.  Place my crock-pot on the kitchen counter. Pray!

11:30     

Welcome the ladies & seat them in the family room while I finish small details.  Ask them if they would like something to drink.

11:40   

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!

12:05     

Remove dirty dishes and serve dessert with hot tea and coffee.

12:20     

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. 

Variations

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.

Conclusion

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!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Recipes

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
Italian croutons

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!)

Mix:                                   
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 TBSP. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Stir in:
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.

Bragging On God

“Some trust in and boast of chariots and some of horses,
but we will trust in and boast of the name of the Lord our God.”
Psalm 20:7 (AMP)

We don’t usually go around boasting about ourselves.  With a trusted friend we might share the sense of accomplishment we have in learning how to whip up a new recipe.  Or we may confide with a sister-in-Christ the excitement of (after disciplined eating and exercise) now being able to zip our size ___ jeans again (without feeling like we are trying to fit a tuba through a button hole).

But, how often do we boast about God?  This is one of the BEST ways to share Christ with people without seeming pushy!  For example …

  1. She brings up the weather … “Yes! Didn’t God give us a beautiful day?!”
  2. She asks how you are doing … “Things have been challenging lately. but through the yucky dark tunnel, God has been shining His light.” (If there is time, “God has a way of bringing good out of bad. Do you mind if I share a couple of the amazing things God has been teaching me?”)
  3. She brings up a personal struggle … After listening: “I am so sorry.  I can kindof understand what you’re going through.  When I was in a difficult place, God brought some true encouragement my way.  I think it will help you, too. Do you have time for me to share a couple things with you?”
  4. In the check-out line“How are you doing?  Thank you for taking good care of us today!” Smile … you have a Bible verse on your check or on a pre-made card that you can hand to people who serve you in the the community – it can say, “Thank you!  We appreciate all you do!  … then a favorite Bible verse.”
  5. You meet someone with a Bible name“Oh, I like your name!  It reminds me of Esther in the Bible.” Then you may have a chance (based on their response) to continue talking about God and His Word.
  6. At Thanksgiving you take your neighbors some goodies“We thank God that you are our neighbors!”

Approach each person and situation with prayer for God’s guidance.  He will give you the discernment you need, to know today whether you should just smile or if this is an open door to brag on God. 

You might call this “teaching through the back door.”  Some people, at certain times, are much more apt to listen to your personal experience than a sermon.  And the glow of joy as you share will speak volumes.  They just might be drawn to God in you like a magnet.

Use your imagination!  You can practice this as a family, in a ladies Bible study, or with a close friend.  Bring up a scenario and brainstorm. See  how many ways you can bring Him into the conversation – not in a pious sounding way (bringing attention to yourself), but bragging about Him and what He is doing in your life!

How do you brag about God?  Please leave a comment below – we’d love to hear how God is using you.  You might give us an idea we may be able to use while shopping or walking through our neighborhood today. 

Mommy Survival Kit

A dear friend of mine is celebrating her birthday this week. She is a busy mom with four active kids, so I was trying to figure out what would bless her the most. Her mini-van is her 2nd home, so, I thought a van survival kit might come in handy.

 
This box was on sale at Michael’s for $2.00. Then I spent about $4.00 on stickers: alphabet with stars and cute insects (lady bugs, butterflies, dragonflies, etc.), plus a package of neat sayings (she and I collect fun and inspiring sayings, usually in plaque form – and that doesn’t mean on our teeth). I scattered the stickers on top and on all four sides.

The boys and I scoured Dollar Tree and came up with some great mommy emergency items, and I raided my own personal stash to come of with a box full of smiles:

 
  • Correspondence Items – encouragement notes, stamps, stickers
  • Feed the Soul Items – New Testament, Gospel tracts, two small books full of short stories (each with a Bible verse)
  • Office supplies/Tools – tape, glue stick, scissors, mini stapler, calculator, white out, pens, pencils, screw driver, sticky notes,
  • Mommy 9-1-1 – silly string, “Bang” gun (pull the trigger and sign falls down that says “bang”), earplugs, sudoku book, $1 bill plus loose change, disposable plastic gloves
  • Medicine – ibuprofen, 1 children’s benadryl, cough drops, band-aids, antibacterial gel, tums
  • Personal Care Items – fingernail file and clippers, lotion, red lipstick, tissues, wisp (disposable toothbrushes), clear fingernail polish
  • Yummies – chocolate (of course!), tea bags, granola bar, coffee bags, mints
 
I’ve probably forgotten something, but you get the general idea. Danean was thrilled with her gift, and it makes me so happy thinking about her driving around town, ministering to her family with her handy-dandy kit at her side.
 
Do you know someone who needs a survival box?  It’s a blast putting it together and giving it away. And, come to think of it, I might need one.  How about you?
 
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10


I Like Salt


Do you have a sweet tooth or a salty one?  I am blessed with both.  But, if I had to choose between a restaurant appetizer or dessert … I’d probably pick cheesy fries over cheesecake. 

This past week, salt took on an entirely new dimension for me.  My sister Sharon highly recommends sea salt and vinegar potato chips dipped in Trader Joe’s salmon pate’.  Intense!  It was a pretty good mix, once I got used to the strong punch.  When I told Sharon about my startled reaction to her delicacy she laughed, using her waving arms to demonstrate, she said “I can feel the spray of the salty sea air blowing on my face when I eat those chips!” 

The Power of Salt
Our assorted palettes are fascinating. The blandest foods I’ve ever eaten were in Sweden and England.  When I visited Sweden, I was surprised to find that at most hamburger stands mashed potatoes are a popular option!  Swedish people typically like more bland foods: I am not a typical Svenska flicka (Swedish girl – my Mom is 100% Swedish).  If my taste buds are any indication, I must be a classic combination of Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, and Mexican.

But, some flavors are too much for me.  For three years I lived in an apartment above a nice Vietnamese family.  For months the fragrance of their spices around dinner time gave me a headache and made me feel sick to my stomach; I could only imagine how their food tasted.  An Indonesian friend told me that his people tend to love spicy foods and that most Indonesian women like their food even hotter than what the men can handle, smiling as sweat pours off their face at the table.  My apologies if you are the exception: I’m sure there are varied taste buds in every culture.

What Flavor Am I?
Jesus said to His followers, 

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13

          In God’s eyes, am I salty? 

                   And if I am salty, am I 100% salty? 

                          And if I am not 100% salty, am I still salty? 

Clearly, salt can lose its flavor. If it is contaminated with dirt or dust, it is no longer of value.   The contamination of sin in my life diminishes the saltiness God calls for in me.  My saltiness (Christlikeness) should cause those around me to feel as though they’ve eaten a tasty, savory snack when they are with me, causing them to thirst for Living Water.  Jesus is the only One Who can fill our deepest cravings and quench our thirsty souls.

Everything we eat (with the possible exception of plain rice cakes) has a flavor.  And most every food leaves an aftertaste. Compare how you would feel after tasting cod liver oil versus your favorite dessert: strawberry shortcake.  Quite different, right?!  And which one do you prefer?  That’s a silly question!

What kind of taste do you leave in people’s mouths after they spend time with you? 

Worth Your Weight In Salt
For a moment, imagine spending a day with Lot’s wife.  I can’t say that she’s on my “Top One Hundred Women I’d Like To Meet” list.  She looked for satisfaction in earthly things, and was no doubt left wanting.  She loved her earthly possessions more than God – walking by sight instead of faith.  As a result of Mrs. Lot’s poor choices, she became too salty, or salt of the wrong kind: frozen in time as a pillar of salt, alone and of use to nobody, including herself, herself and God.

We can become pure delightful saltiness by allowing God to refine us into 100% pure godly salt!  And our saltiness shouldn’t attract people to us … rather to Christ IN us. The savory flavor of Christ should be tasted in our:

1.   Words
“[Let] your speech always [be] with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6

2.   Attitude
Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” Mark 9:50b

3.  Influence
“Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’ ” 2 Kings 2:21

The next time we munch a lip-smacking snack, let’s remember to thank God for the opportunity we have to be salt for Him!
Pretzel image courtesy of Microsoft Office Free Images Online.

Calendar Comfort


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


We think we’re going to remember, but usually we don’t.  It’s easy for me to remember December 3rd every year, the day my sister’s oldest son was born and lived just one hour.  On that day I email or call my sweet sister to let her know I’m thinking about Ben, remembering his precious life and her loss. Every year on September 4th I get an email from a friend remembering the due date of our baby that died before his birth.  It means a lot to me to know that our Little Jewel is not forgotten.

This Saturday is the 10th anniversary of a dear friend’s widowhood.  Ten years ago her husband died of cancer.  Months ago, while we were talking about Alberto, I asked Maria, “When did he die?”  I wrote down the date and added it to my calendar as soon as she left.  Unfortunately I don’t always do this with everyone I know, but in this case I now have the privilege of loving my friend by remembering her husband.  She may need some extra encouragement, so I’m going to call her today and see if she would like a visit. 
  
One time when I was unsure whether I should say something to a friend about her loss, another friend recommended, “Always say something.”  In most situations we are encouraging people by keeping the memory of their loved one alive.  Sharing God’s comfort is always a good thing.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say and our fear keeps us from reaching out in compassion. A book I found very helpful is When You Don’t Know What to Say by Sandy Lynam Clough.  Here is what she suggests:

1.  Spend time.  The ministry of presence: sometimes the pain is too great for words, and someone may simply need us to be there with them.

2.  Say, “I’m so sorry.”  Avoid statements like: “She lived a long life.” (A life is never long enough for those who are grieving their loss.)  “God must have needed him in heaven.”  “There was probably something wrong with your baby, so God just took him.” “You can have another baby.”  “At least you have your other children.” A safe caring thing to say is a heartfelt, “I’m so sorry.”

3.  Don’t feel like you must try to solve their problem.  “Because we serve the One who is the Solution and the Answer, those of us who are Christians tend to feel that we are obligated to bring a solution or an answer to every problem and difficult situation.”  We often feel helpless, but the person grieving understands this.  Just go to her and talk, send an email or spend time with her.  She just needs you.

4.  Listen. If it seems appropriate, you can ask a question such as:

Do you want to tell me what happened?
Are you afraid?
What are your days like?
What concerns you most about the situation?
Are you able to sleep?
How do you want me to pray for you?
Can I give you a hug?
.
5.  Offer help.  Ask if you can watch her children to give her a break.  Offer to bring a meal.  See if making some phone calls for her might meet a need.  Offer to pick up something at the store while you’re out.

6.  Surrender.   When friends are in crisis it can bring fear into our own hearts.  Ask God to help you to surrender the future to His loving care, trusting He will take you through anything.  Only His love can make life peaceful.

7.  You’re My Hero!   Tell her how her way of handling the situation is an inspiration to you.  When we went through our son’s broken leg and false accusations leading to a DHS investigation, it comforted me when a friend said, “You are doing a good job, Sara.  Keep it up, this won’t last forever.” 

8.  Pray!  Most importantly, pray for your friend and offer to pray with them.  Some people feel uncomfortable with this, but most people like it when a friend offers to pray for and/or with them.  This can be done in person or over the phone.  You can even write a prayer on a card.  It is meaningful when a person who cannot even identify with your kind of loss takes time to cry and pray with you.  I know.

I hope some of these wonderful ideas help you comfort others.  Check out Sandy’s book for more practical hints.  Not long ago I ran across an obituary of a girl I grew up with who died in a car accident several years ago. I am writing it down – the end of the summer I’m going to send her mom a note of remembrance. Although she knows she will see Sarah again someday, the grief of her loss never ends.

If you have a friend who has recently experienced loss or is approaching a painful anniversary, take a few moments to let them know you care.  Think back to when a friend comforted you and when God comforted you through a trial.  Now you have the opportunity to minister.

Facebook Ministry

Facebook has certainly changed our lives.  For the longest time I avoided it. Then, as my twentieth high school reunion approached, I realized I wouldn’t know what was going on if I were not on Facebook.  So, I gave in, or rather, signed up to join the fun.  While I have chosen to take part, I completely understand and respect those who choose not to participate.

Getting a Facebook account has turned out to be a blessing for me. As long as I can control my time spent on it, Facebook is a place of encouragement: I get a chance to encourage others, and others encourage me.

I don’t know about you, but for me there is comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this crazy journey of life. Kimberly’s 6-year-old threw up last night, Carrie’s washing machine is on the blitz, and Janene’s car is in the shop, again – things like this challenge our family as well!  Some people post uplifting and convicting Scripture verses that minister to my soul, and there are plenty of hilarious cartoons to give a chuckle. At our house we love to keep in touch with foreign exchange students: those who are here, and those who have returned to their homelands.

With needy matters scattered across every page, Facebook is a terrific way to know how to pray for people. It has given me insight about those I am trying to reach, especially neighbors and teens in our church. Also, as a blast from the past, it has put me back in touch with former students, now young adults.  And our joyful conversation, rooted in the past, continues in the present and, Lord willing, on into the future.

How can Facebook be a ministry for you?  
Do you look at it simply as a place to vent and show off pictures?  I hope that you see it as more than that, as the ministry opportunity it is.

A few months ago I started a Facebook group called Kitchen Music.  Combining two of my favorite things in the name, it is a meeting place for fellow cooks.  We share recipes, food related stories, ask questions, and once in awhile I’ll post a Bible verse like, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Last autumn, I introduced a new feature called, “Recipe of Encouragement.”  On Mondays I post a specific person (such as pastors wives, singles, cancer fighters, and around the holidays neighbors and prickly relatives, to name a few) to focus on encouraging, along with ideas how to minister. Others in the group reciprocate with feedback: ideas and what they are doing to reach out that week.  It’s a blessing!

One dear pastor’s wife wrote in and said the best thing that can be given for her is prayers, as she often feels like she is under Satan’s attack. Another pastor’s wife joyfully recalled once when some teens in her church blessed them at a restaurant by insisting on paying for their meal. I hope these ideas and reminders will help Facebook friends take time to show appreciation to their pastor’s wife this weekend and continue to pray for her in the future.

As you go about your day as a woman on a mission for God, ask Him how modern technology, even Facebook, can be a tool of ministry for you.  How can you creatively use your computer for God?  I feel I should apologize for repeatedly using the word “encouragement” in this post. But, really, can there ever be too much encouragement?

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