Making An Impact – 5 Ideas for powerful dining experiences

IMG_1643“And get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner…” Romans 12:13 TLB

You want to have an impact on people’s lives.  I want to have an impact on people’s lives.  What are some of the most simple ways to actually do that?  One way is sharing a meal.  Let me unpack this a bit.

Marni and I are living in Seattle with our very young son, Hudson.  We get invited to the home of Hope and Harry MacDonald.  I can still tell you that this one evening transformed our friendship.  Hope had gone to every effort to make this a wonderful experience for us — china, fondue, candles, desert, and just the set up of the table said to us, “We want you here!”

We knew we were moving from Seattle to Houston.  The Jani’s invited us to dinner.  They lived at the time on the water in Bellevue.  I will never forget when Marni and I arrived — they had moved the kitchen table out to the lawn so it was on the waterfront.  Candles were in glass cylinders so not to be blown out.  There was a lingering sense about the meal… it was incredibly valuing to us that they would go to this effort.

I remember when Marni and I got married and purchased – or shall I say, were given, a large assortment of china, we said we were going to use it at least 3-4 times per year.  This year we had a couple over for Valentines Day.  It was fun (and of course a little effort) to set the table with all the “fixin’s.”  The joy we received they rounded the corner and saw the table all decorated, and they realize it was for them, they were honored.

A few years ago we took the boys on the little cruise from Long Beach to Mexico.  It was about 4 days.  We had a great time just being together as a family.  If you ask the boys what they enjoyed the most?  Dinners!  Coming into the elegant dining room, with the tables looking so nice, being seated, and then handed a menu from which to choose your meal.  We had great conversation, it was a great atmosphere, and we felt special for sure.

At a Young Life summer camp we do what most kids do not get these days — almost every meal at a round table, with table cloth, all the place settings done nicely, cloth napkins, and a server to bring all the food.  It is a special time of fellowship, conversation, and for sure saying to the kid – “you are important!”

Don’t laugh or judge me on this next statement:  My family watches “Leave it to Beaver!”  It’s true!  My mom gave it to the boys for Christmas.  The “Beav” is Charlie’s age, and Wally is Hudson’s.  We have enjoyed watching these and really it’s quite remarkable how much the boys enjoy it. (And yes, Marni has drawn the line at June’s pearls!)  During most episodes they show the family at the dinner table.  It is usually set very nice, they seem to be taking their time, passing the serving dishes, and recapping the day.  It really is both a step back into time as well as a challenge of how to make meals intimate, conversational, and honoring.

Here you go – 5 ways you can use a dining table to make an impact:

  1. Pick a couple, family, or friends you want to value.  Set a date and invite them over for a meal at your home.  Plan on making it as nice as you would a Thanksgiving meal.  Linger at the table.  Talk.  Get to know what is going on in their lives more than you ever would at a restaurant.
  2. Surprise your family with a dinner by courses!  Set your table as nice as you can.  Bring out each course with some topics and questions.  Strive to eat slow (very hard for me) and to linger a bit and have conversation.  Appetizer, Soup/Salad, Main Course, and then dessert.
  3. Take an important person to you – friend, spouse, date, to a nice restaurant, but for lunch!  Marni and I love to do this and will do this with regularity in the fall.  The restaurant is the same as it is at night — just less expensive and less crowded.  We love going to this restaurant in Colorado Springs:
  4. Surprise someone special with a picnic!  I will never forget seeing Betsy McKillop bringing lunch to her friend Ann Miller.  Ann was the secretary at the high school and had a short lunch.  Betsy brought all the lunch in a picnic basket and set it all up in her car!  I remember as I walked by there was even a checkered napkin making a “table cloth” over the center console of the car.
  5. Have a few families over that you don’t know, but want to.  This can be after church, this could be parents of kids that are on your kids sports teams, or just people in the neighborhood.  We have lived her for 8 months – we have hosted 15 dinner functions that I can remember.  We have been to someone’s home for lunch or dinner 2x that I can think of.  People are busy, and people don’t want to initiate is my sense.  So, when you do invite, initiate, and have folks over — you are valuing like crazy!

You want to make an impact?  One way to do this is to utilize your “dining table.”  People will be impacted by your hospitality – I just know it!


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