Laughter is a universal language. Like a smile and without a spoken word, human beings understand it and therefore, it reveals commonality and builds a bridge between all of us.
Bridges can provide strong foundations for new and budding friendships. If you like to work out and you meet someone who likes to work out, consider working out together if you want to get to know them better. The same goes for golf, scrapbooking, going to Starbucks, or numerous other hobbies. The point is, have fun as you seek to share Jesus and get to know other people.
A great way to build a bridge is to host a Game Night. Consider buying or borrowing a few group games like Taboo or Guesstures for larger crowds and Phase 10 or Sequence for a more intimate group. Those are some of my favorites. I would stay away from games like Monopoly, Dominos, and card games like Spades or Bid Whist. Those have a tendency to get violent, at least where I’m from.
Make an invitation list. Oftentimes, I have an A and B invitation list. I start selecting people off the B list depending on the responses received from the A list invitees. Consider how your invited guests will interact with each other. Diversity is the name of the game. You may ask, “Who should I invite?” I recommend inviting four groups of folks:
Group 1: Church Folk – Invite a few friends from church. These are people that you like and are comfortable with. In most cases, they would have already visited your home. They know where things are, don’t mind lifting a hand and can help you out in the kitchen. (If you have great relationships, your biological family is included in this category.)
A word of caution, don’t invite too many people from this group because then your other guests start to feel left out. Nobody wants to feel like a third wheel on a date. Church folks can be clickish (yes I know that is not a real word but you know exactly what I mean).
Group 2: Work Buddies – Invite a few friends or associates from work. These could be people that you really like or those that you want to get to know better. Be careful about inviting people on your work team. You don’t want to unintentionally hurt other people’s feelings. So if you can only invite a couple people from your team, make that known to everyone and also let them know that you’ll be rotating as you host other events in the coming months at which time other team members will be invited.
Group 3: Neighbors A – these are literally people who are within walking distance from your house.
Group 4: Neighbors B – these are neighbors in the biblical sense of the word. This group can consist of strangers or someone you just met. Of course you need to use caution and spiritual discernment, while understanding that some people are just waiting for others to recognize them or acknowledge their presence. When you extend an invitation to someone, it communicates, “I see you and God sees you too.”
Of course, you want to provide snacks. Keep it simple. Depending on the time of day, chips and dip, cookies, and punch are a good start. Guests can bring a dish if they so choose. Give your guests some idea of what to expect. You don’t want them to forgo dinner and then come to your home and politely remain hungry for the rest of the evening. (Note: They will talk about you when they get in the car to return home.) In your invitation, be clear about what food you are offering: light refreshments, appetizers, heavy hors d’oeruvre, etc. In this way, guests can decide if or how to nourish themselves before arrival and therefore, will not suffer from unmet food expectations.
It’s Game Night: Greet guests at the door with a smile. Let them know that you are honored that they have chosen to spend these precious moments with you.
Do what I refer to as “The Party Dance.” Think about the good wedding receptions you have attended. Normally the bride and groom spend time visiting individual tables and thanking their guests for attending. This is why they rarely get the opportunity to eat. In the same manner, acknowledge each of your guests by name at some point throughout the evening. Spend a few minutes asking questions in attempt to get to know them better. Listen attentively. Tell them something about yourself that they do not already know. The relaxed group environment provides a very nonthreatening way to share. And yes, I encourage you to eat.
Finally, commit to two things: laughter and having fun. Jesus will be in your midst. Let the games begin!
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011
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