Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship


Photo by Amit Gupta via Flickr.com; Creative Commons 2.0

After seven years of marriage, my wife and I have welcomed numerous friends into our home. Once we decide to host friends for an evening, we usually kick into get ready mode, a fast and furious sprint in the days and hours before our friends arrive. We divide and conquer the to-do list: select a menu, complete grocery shopping, mow the lawn, sweep the floors, run the vacuum, clean the playroom, wipe the bird crap off our lawn chairs (we have lots of trees), set the table, clean the playroom (again), and somehow, someway, pray all that happens before the doorbell rings.

Over the years, that to-do list has prepared us for hosting company, but it has also prevented us from welcoming friends in our home. Unwritten Southern rules of offering hospitality with excellence have affected how often we invite people in our home. ‘We should have the __________s over sometime.’ And then we delay or postpone the invitation. Why? Because the to-do list is always there, the gap between our day-to-day home and the presentable, acceptable-for-hospitality version of our home.

But over the past several months, Emily and I are learning to lay those conventions aside. Why? Because inviting friends into our lives when we are only ‘excellent’ isn’t friendship. Sure, there are still times we like to go all out, spruce up the house and cook a huge, Jamie Oliver style meal. It can be fun and it’s enjoyable to do things well. But that standard of excellence is rarely possible with two children under the age of 3. Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.

Learning Scruffy Hospitality in this Scruffy Little City

It’s interesting how wrestling with friendship and hospitality is taking place for us in Knoxville, this place which was called a ‘scruffy little city on the Tennessee River’ in the Wall Street Journal before the opening of the 1982 World’s Fair. Knoxville has always had a chip on its shoulder, being slighted by outsiders, but something interesting happened in the years after this article snubbed K-town. We owned it. The World’s Fair was a success. We inverted the insult and made it a welcoming motto. ‘Keep Knoxville Scruffy’ is a movement in our city that welcomes people into a fun, vibrant city scene without airs of pretension and exclusion.

I’ve begun to think about what it means to embrace scruffy hospitality in this scruffy little city and how that creates space for friendship. I preached on this subject earlier this month, a sermon you can read here. In that sermon, I described scruffy hospitality in this way:

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’

Hospitality is not a house inspection, it’s friendship. In an age of ever-increasing loneliness, in a time when Americans eat 40% of their meals by themselves, can I allow myself to value tidiness over community? Sadly, I’m sensing there’s pride lurking across the threshold of my welcoming mat.

So here’s the way of repentance for us. For me and my house,  we’re trying to eliminate complications, not add to them. We aren’t going to host people every night of the week (after all, I’m still an introvert), but I want more memories with friends new and old than I’ve had over the past 7 years.

So I begin to ask this question, a good question: what does it look like to welcome people into my humility rather than my standard of excellence? The playroom may not be tidy. Our kids, who are lovely and enjoyable, may become noisy and cranky around 7pm. Dinners may be sponsored entirely by Trader Joe’s frozen section rather than a handmade Jamie Oliver recipe. I might serve Crane Lake wine. Well, maybe not. Pepperwood Grove is still a low budget wine for a few bucks more and so much better.  But why would I withhold an invitation simply because I can’t make dinner from scratch?

Speaking of wine

In the corner of our dining room, we keep a basket of wine corks. On those corks is my Sharpie script recording the date, the guests, and any special event that bottle of wine represents. It’s kind of like an album of hospitality. Memories of first meals with friends with whom we have known now for 7 years. New corks from this year’s new memories. Memories of celebrating major life events. Memories of mourning sad losses.

I hope when I look at the cork basket in a few years, there won’t be so many long intervals between guests. I hope there will be more new friendships written there. I hope there will be more Pepperwood Grove corks.

One thing I can expect…I probably won’t remember how accurately I trimmed the grass on our driveway on any given night we host guests. But I will remember the people who put their feet under our table.

What about you?

So it’s Thursday when I published this post. Go ahead and invite someone for tomorrow night. Keep your to-do list short. Take ten minutes to pick up the house and throw something together for dinner, even if it’s from Trader Joe’s. You’re more ready than you think. And we’re all hungry for genuine conversation more than we realize.

121 thoughts on “Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship

  1. Well said Jack. Scruffy hospitality allows for the development of extended family: a place of true worship, fellowship, intimacy and ultimately discipleship. It’s part of how the church in Acts worshipped – between the temple and the home (oikos). The Eucharist prepares us for the other tables we share with others and reminds us that we are all equal in Christ.
    Keep on serving people the left over Mac n Cheese!

    • I like that thought of tables between temple and homes, also the other tables we share. Thanks for reading and responding Andy.

  2. Your house didn’t look scruffy when I was there. However, you did look a bit scruffy. Thanks for writing this. We all need more time together than our hyper culture allows. We’ve got to choose to be Scruffy!

    • I’m committed to not shaving on days we host people at the house. Though a college friend of mine said I look like an out-of-work French painter when I don’t shave. So much for manly scruff for this guy.

    • Thanks Dan. Glad you enjoyed the post. Here’s to more scruffy churches offering the genuine love of Jesus!

  3. I get the heart of your point… but there’s another point of view to this as well. From my perspective, I am just so sick of the sloppiness that has utterly engulfed American life – the ‘come-as-you-are-who-gives-a-damn look. And a yearn for a social life of good taste, manners, and elegance. (Yup – I used the ‘E’ word: elegance.) Part of the problem is society’s low expectations; another part is that so few people put real value in establishing and maintaining well-kept homes. Once it’s established, maintaining a gracious and inviting home is not terribly hard; if it’s important, the skills necessary for this are just a matter of practice, pride, and discipline.

    • I definitely get what you’re saying. However, we have two little boys — they are 3 and 4- — and we live in a 1,000 square foot apartment. My husband works full-time and I work part-time. Unless we never sleep, our house will never be 100% well-kept. It’s virtually impossible. I would argue that “a gracious and inviting home” is a relative phrase, and if we are trying to form deep relationships with both believers and non-believers, then we don’t want to make them think that only people with 100% well-kept homes have the ability to have people over. Some people don’t have the background or the finances to pull off what you’re describing, and so having that kind of standard might be an obstacle to gospel-centered fellowship.

      • Respectfully, I think you have completely misread the post. It was written precisely for people in your situation. I would be the first one to say yes if I was invited to your awesome apartment, and I wouldn’t care if you lifted a finger to make it anything other than “lived in” before I came over…….and that’s exactly what this post is about, it’s completely regardless of finances.

        • Chelsey was replying to Timothy (not the original post). I think we’d both be happy to be guests at her not-so-perfect abode. 😉

    • I see your point too Timothy, and certainly there is a place for that type of entertaining. There are certain dinners for which I will use tablecloths, cloth napkins, put out the china, make sure the wine glasses all match, and that we have enough silverware for 22. Yes, you read that right, on a regular basis I will host a dinner party for over 20 people.

      That being said, with 7 kids it’s far more realistic to welcome people into our everyday life. If I only had people over when I could “entertain” it would happen only about 2x a year. By embracing the idea of “hospitality” instead of “entertaining” it’s far more casual, builds relationships, values people over things, and can be practiced far more often. I probably have people over for a meal 2x a month instead of 2x a year.

      There’s a time for fine china, and there’s a time for paper plates & BBQ. It’s a heart issue as well, are we seeking to bless or impress? Entertaining impresses, hospitality blesses.

    • I like the discussion in this thread, finding a place for both elegant hospitality and scruffy hospitality. Drawing guidance from Scripture I see both patterns in the Jesus story. With Zaccheus, there’s spontaneous, right-this-moment hospitality that Zaccheus extends to Jesus. Not to mention this meal caused a bit of scandal, too.

      On the other hand, Jesus tells stories of lavish feasts. The prodigal returns and the fatted calf is sacrificed. He tells a parable of a lavish wedding feast with great preparation. But even here the elegant hospitality is refused and the invitation extends to the poor, the lost, and the hungry.

      I think there’s a place both for elegant and scruffy hospitality. But I think hospitality is more concerned with the guest than the host. In a Christian view of the world, that makes me look towards guests who have not been invited and welcomed into community. Could it be that in our fast-paced culture that a simple invitation to eat together is elegant itself?

    • When we took a week to build houses at a village inland of Ensenada, Mexico I learned what scruffy hospitality looked like. We were invited into the small shack of a home for cafe de leche. As we entered we noticed the dirt floor of the living room and the chickens that ran through it. The hospitality was among the richest I had ever experienced as we enjoyed the warm, humble, gratitude-filled fellowship despite the language barrier. I have never forgotten this.

    • I absolutely get you’re point as well, Timothy. It amazes me how sloppy and a mess people are these days. Just go to the grocery store and look around, don’t they have any pride or self worth for themselves?

      But this article was written for people like me, who can’t have guests because I have to have perfection if someone is going to come into my home. Since I’m not a great homemaker or cook I tend to stress out too much to enjoy friends, so why bother?

      I recently had a birthday party for my son and spent a month agonizing over it and a week frantically getting my home to perfect standards. Even an hour before guests arrived I was in panic mode, literally insane with anxiety over what people would think of me as the homemaker of this horrible home instead of enjoying the milestone birthday and loving my family. The party was a raging success and when it was all said and done my house looked like a bomb went off but in a good way: plates and cups everywhere, wrapping paper spilling onto the floor, chairs moved together so people could talk and I looked around wondering what I was so worried about. No body was concerned about the perfect house, they were there for my son and to see each other.

      I know this comment is huge but this article really touched my heart. It’s something that has been on my mind lately and I will continue to work on. Thank you for writing this article, it’s nice to know others are working on this too.

      • My mother was always an obsessive perfectionist about company, so we rarely had it, and then only after a multi-week ordeal of windowsill waxing, refrigerator coil vacuuming, and so forth. In addition, I work full-time and am a complete introvert who goes blank in social situations. As a result, I’ve had that same preparation panic experience, Jae, and found having people over to be horrendously stressful.

        Now that my children are grown and gone, the house looks relatively fine most of the time (though my mother would not think so, and I don’t either if I look through her eyes), and I’ve been trying to learn a bit more about hospitality, as opposed to entertaining. I think that the key to the few times I’ve been able to have someone without (much) panic is when they were a) needy or lonely people, or b) a childhood friend. It almost always helps if I don’t know what their homes look like;-).

    • While you make an interesting point, Timothy, I think there is a difference between a sloppy home and a “scruffy” home.

      More importantly, I think that we need to consider what makes a HOME and not just a house. A home is the people in it, not just the structure or contents. I don’t know about you, but I have been to many elegant, well-kept houses that are far from homes (the term “whitewashed tombs” comes to mind). I’ve also been to many “scruffy” homes that are “gracious and inviting” first because of the people in them (who are not tired and stressed due to keeping up their homes) and secondly because of the life and personality that abound in their homes through the way that they decorate and maintain them.

      • I agree with your comments Paige. If anyone is struggling to maintain a simple routine that will not overwhelm them, yet keep their home functioning, I recommend they go to Flylady.net and see what Marla provides (free), as it is very helpful and has brought hope to many busy families.

    • Thanks for this! It’s all about the fact that people are more important than appearances. If we wait till our appearances are spit-shined then we miss out on the relationships. I’ve missed out on more relational moments because I was judging me thinking I would be judged because my ‘shine’ wasn’t on.

    • I would LOVE to be able to host an elegant dinner party but that is 100% out of reach for me. I’ve purchased lace at the thrift store and tried my hardest to put together a nice table, but the idea of my home being fancy, the food intricate and the atmosphere elegant…. well, I would spend 100% of my energy and all of money and time and still not be able to host, so I would be alone. I think that is what he is addressing here. If you’ve got your house and life in order and can do that, awesome, if you absolutely can not do it (2 young kids, depression, ADHD, low income, etc as barriers) then you should still host, and let good enough be good enough.

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  5. Hi there!! I so enjoyed this article! My husband and I are in our 70’s (just barely!) and live and host in Oxford, Ms. We entertain all the time and so agree with you! I spoke at a weekend retreat not too long ago, and based a lot if my messages on the book A MEAL WITH JESUS by Tim Chester, which is available on Amazon. I shared your article on Facebook! Blessings!!

    • A fellow Mississippian! We’re in Southaven:) Hospitality should come easy for us Southerners, but I have a hard time having people over if I’m not prepared. Definitely something I’m going to work on.

      Thanks for the great article!

  6. My three teens and I weren’t getting together with friends nearly enough. I decided to host a game night several times a month. Despite the messy house, the unfinished chores, the lengthy to-do lists, we just went forward with hospitality. I’m so glad we did. Their friendships have deepened as a result.

  7. A friend posted this on FB. I do not host friends often (I have 3 kids ages 4, 6 and 10), but when I do host, I make a special point to not clean beforehand or waste time/energy on matching paper plates, etc. It stresses me out too much and is less important than the act of having people over. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has decided that hosting doesn’t have to be a competitive sport.

  8. well said! while I will go through the lengthy to-do lists for larger occasions/parties/etc it’s not uncommon for us to have a friend or two over for dinner or to sit by the fire in the backyard as a more informal thing. It’s certainly more comfortable and affordable than meeting out at a restaurant or bar and it helps to make our house feel more like ours.

  9. AMEN! I’ve got 7 kids, ages 5-18 and I’ll never forget when I learned this lesson. It was way back when I had only 2 kids, and we invited friends over for a spontaneous dinner. The menu? Macaroni – store brand from a box- and hot dogs. I know, not a balanced meal, but a fun one! Kids were happy, grownups happy, and my friend and I looked at each other and realized that true hospitality should bless, not impress.

  10. A month ago I agreed to host the 2nd gathering of a new book club, this Saturday morning. Since then I strained my back – twice, broke my left big toe, was diagnosed with a hernia & had surgery for it. Yeah, it’s gonna be a scruffy book club this month, & I’m really looking forward to it! Thanks for this great article!

  11. It’s been great to hear all the different ways that everyone here is pressing through life’s obstacles and challenges to move towards friendship and hospitality. Thanks for sharing your stories and experiences.

  12. SIL posted this on FB…My motto, ‘Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy.” Having said that I have to work at not being uncomfortable if the condo is not a neat as I would like it to be.I am not a natural a place for every thing and every thing in its place personality.” I do know my gift is hospitality and people feel free to stop in if in need of a hug or cup of coffee. Come are you are and it is what it is. 🙂

  13. I agree. Our dinner table is always open to friends and family. If they don’t appreciate us with toys on the floor or chairs snuggled around the table to make room for everyone that is their problem. No invitation necessary. Drop by anytime.

  14. Thanks for the thoughtful post. As a pastor, I find that the temptation to ‘keep up appearances’ when you host to be particularly strong. If we, as pastors, are unwilling to be scruffy and honest about the mess of our lives (physical and spiritual), we should not be surprised when no one comes over and no one opens up. Thanks for the reminder of the importance of friendship and hospitality.

  15. For the past nine years my husband and I have hosted a weekly fellowship and Bible study in our home. Over the course of it we’ve had two children and significantly downsized our home. Needless to say, I’ve learned to be okay with scruffy.

    It’s been a gradual change for this Perfectionist and one I’m still trying to fully embrace. But I can attest to the level of comfort both my guests and I enjoy when I’m not frazzled and exhausted upon their arrival.

    This weekly open house event requires forethought and effort, but I don’t do it alone and I don’t try to do everything. When cleaning, I hit the high traffic areas–kitchen, dining room, bathrooms. Meal planning is done with other girls in the group. We divy it up and each prepares part of the meal. We use paper plates and cups and invite as many people as we can.

    Tonight we had 15 adults and 5 kids. 🙂

    The past nine years have taught me to loosen up and literally let people in. Because of this, I’ve been honored to witness God at work in others lives–and in my home.

    (Today’s post echoes this thought…letting go of perfectionism. )

  16. Well said. And I like the label–it denotes real life in all its complex glory. Take the work and people seriously, but not yourself, and certainly not the vacuum cleaner!!

  17. I was raised in Puerto Rico, where friends and family will often drop by your home at any time, even if uninvited. And, you treat those who dropped by with whatever was made for dinner that day. In fact, in many homes, a bit extra is often cooked in case someone does decide to stop by. I value this cultural practice greatly. I learned to welcome people into my home, even if it is scurfy.

  18. Last week, we hosted a small group from our church. While our kids are grown, I still clean the house, plan the menu, shop for the food and wine and totally exhaust myself. But this time, I “Let it go,” and asked people to bring a dish to share and some wine. BEST EVENING EVER! You are spot on with the Scruffy concept! Thank you!

  19. Love this. I have found that the more you host, the easier it is to be laidback about the state of your house. I have grown a lot in “keeping it real”–have to constantly remind myself that the goal is to bless, not impress! Great article.

  20. Thank you so much for this. What a great encouragement, and it means even more coming from someone in the South (where we lived for a time and became well aware of Southern hospitality).
    P.S. I visited Knoxville in 2004 or 2005, and it remains one of the most lovely cities I’ve ever visited. Certainly had the friendliest people of anywhere I’ve traveled!

  21. I learned and taught this lesson several times during home renovations. “I’m sorry the ____ is being ___, but would you like to come over for hotdogs on the back porch?” It has opened us up to real community!

  22. Great article! I feel a little uncomfortable with the word “scruffy” because sadly it can be the norm as people love to get away with as little as they can. Hospitality is about honouring our guests, but if that is not coming from our hearts all hospitality – scruffy or extravagant – falls flat. I agree, hospitality is all about relationships!

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  24. I’m learning this as well, because community and companionship are so important for relationships to grow. Our small group came to hang at our house last night and about an hour before I rushed to Kroger for and assortment of snacks, crudités, and dips all from the clearance sections (because we’re on a budget). I laid everything out and picked up the clutter just in time. Sure, I cringed when my pastor open the microwave to reheat his coffee and he was overcome by the 2-day old smell of bacon, but hey, it just makes us more real.

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  26. Love this post! My spouse and I do long-term hospitality. We’ve had around 25 international students of different types (ESL, foreign exchange, etc) live with for weeks to months at a time. Some people wonder how we do this…because they seem to imagine we are always “entertaining” and putting on a show. No! We could not do it if that was the case. They enter into the “mess” of our everyday life and see the good and the bad. Humility is required…haha! But true.

  27. As my daughter wisely told me….”There’s a difference between hospitality and entertaining mom.” 🙂

  28. Once upon a time when I was a young mom of young kids attending a new church where I had yet to establish friendships, another young mom of young kids from church invited me over for lunch. My littles and I walked into a very lived-in house with crumbs on the floor and laundry on the sofa. As she swept clutter from the kitchen table, she remarked, “I hope mac and cheese is okay.” At first I was shocked and a little hurt. Had she forgotten we were coming? Didn’t she care enough to clean her house and make real food? But as the kids ran off to play and I settled in, it occurred to me that this was someone whom I could invite to my own house without worrying about what it looked like or what I had in the cupboards. This was a new concept to me, but I liked it. That mac and cheese lunch amidst piles of papers and laundry became the first of perhaps hundreds over the years, in both her house and mine (and that doesn’t include visits that were more about coffee and donuts than lunch).

    Alas, however, all these years later, I still fall into the trap of not having people over because I’m afraid the house isn’t good enough or the food fancy enough. We started making it easy on ourselves with a company-over standard of grilled burgers and chips on paper plates, and my house really isn’t THAT bad if you don’t look too hard, but I still find myself too self-conscious and stressed to have people over often. THANK YOU for this timely reminder. Everything you said I already knew; I had just forgotten.

    (Oh, and that mac and cheese friend? 24 years later she is still sweeping clutter off her table before we sit down for lunch, but now she makes me Thai food.) 🙂

  29. Thank you. The times I have done this have always created such vivid memories. Will start saving the corks since I never remember to take a group photo. Thanks again.

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  31. Thanks so much for this great article. I wish I had read it ten years ago. I’ve often wanted to have friends over but was embarrassed because the house the carpet needed cleaning or some other item on the to-do list needed doing before I felt “ready” to entertain. But, as you said, in waiting for just the right time, I missed a lot of opportunities for fellowship, growing friendships and support. I’m going to take this lesson to heart.

  32. Pingback: Opening my home in scruffy hospitality | soulmeetsbody

  33. The best advice on scruffy hospitality I’ve heard is “If you’re coming over to see my house, give me three-days’ notice. If you want to see me you can drop by now!”

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    • Nanette,

      I love that series title! And I’d love to have a look at your book. Thanks for sending the link. Please let me know how the book study goes. I hope you have good conversations that lead to good meals and gatherings with friends. Peace, Jack

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  36. Thank you for this much-needed encouragement. It’s hard to let go of self-imposed standards and enjoy the fellowship.

    Last year we hosted our pastor and his family for dinner. I had a long-to-do-list and worked furiously on getting everything ready. But with four little ones everything took longer than expected, of course. When they rang the doorbell, I had just barely fixed my hair and there was still laundry on the couch needing to be folded. It was a nightmare come true. Then they stepped in and I realized IT WAS OKAY. They weren’t here to inspect how well I’d vacuumed beneath the couch. They were here to fellowship.

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  40. Thank you for writing this, it was encouraging and refreshing to read. I think it’s such a needed word and reminder for many. It has continued to come to mind months after reading it. Thanks again!

  41. I love this! I have been saying this for years, I feel so much more welcome in a home that doesn’t look perfectly organized and I appreciate that the other person is willing to let me see a less than perfect side because it is more real.

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  43. Excellent piece and a good sermon in itself. Although my hubby’s definition of scruffy is much different than mine. I am not sharing this to his Facebook page.

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  46. Over the last ten years, we’ve enjoyed the hospitality of Turkish Muslims more frequently than that of fellow Christians. Hospitality is definitely a virtue in short supply in contemporary America, I fear. KUDOS to the author of this article!

  47. So true! Hospitality is all about friendship, not perfection. I know for a fact than when Jesus was offered hospitality there would have been no chance of anyone being able to provide a level worthy of God.

    I love the idea of the wine corks, problem is, here in Australia it’s now very hard to find a corked bottle – they’ve all gone screw caps.

    I hope I can convince my wife that scruffy hospitality is a goer!

  48. My disabilities make it difficult for me to do things like scrubbing baseboards and dusting the fan blades regularly. I was born and raised as a Southerner, so it’s very difficult for me to be comfortable with people seeing my home in less-than-perfect conditions. So, I fall into the trap of just not having people over. That’s much worse because my disabilities already leave me isolated from many of the social activities that others can easily participate in on a regular basis. I need to get better about accepting my life and limitations as they are. My loved ones know my challenges and I believe they are not the sort who would judge me adversely for things that I can’t even change. I think they’d rather see me than spend time running their fingers across my baseboards.

    Thanks for writing this. It is truly encouraging.

  49. I love this! I offer scruffy hospitality and encourage drop-in company. It keeps us real. And there’s something about being a guest in a scruffy home that makes us feel comfortable.

    Btw…I’m stealing your wine cork idea.

  50. I loved your article! Scruffy hospitality is a safe haven for friendships happening in the trenches of life. Thank you for encouraging all of us to be welcoming, which is the better and truer road to excellence!

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  52. We’re a family of five – we all work at home, school at home, live at home – so our house is very lived in. But we were tired of being people who waited for perfect to happen to invite people over, and instead decided we wanted to build community, every week, right where we’re at. So each Friday night, we open up our home to whomever would like to join us. We’ve been doing it for about a year and a half now, and it’s changed our lives, the lives of our kids, and touched the lives of those who come to our house for tacos, laughter, love, and community. We’d love to see this scruffy hospitality message spread far and wide. Lots of people lament “the village” that it takes to do life, but the village just needs a few welcome mats thrown down to become a reality.

    • Great thoughts and ideas here Amy. Thanks for sharing your experience of welcoming friends into your home.

  53. Heart motives matter. If one is working to offer elegance with a prideful heart, or out of fear of judgment, I may be offering a white-washed tomb. If I am creating an environment where people feel welcome, loved and cared for, there could be fine china and sparkling glasses, or there may be Dixie cups on the table with chickens running through the room. Widows mites are as welcome in the Kingdom as any wealthier man’s gold; God looks at the heart.

  54. Spoken like someone who doesn’t have more than 2 kids in the home. I have 6 – we have more than a bit of the scruffy here, I’m afraid. We’ve had several people over, but I would never invite them without doing a bit of housekeeping first. Who wants to stare at a sinkful of disgusting dishes or dirt on the table while they eat?

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  56. A friend posted this on facebook and it really resonates with me.
    I was raised in a way that often focused on appearances, and i still find myself apologizing if my house is not perfect. But as a good friend pointed out: anyone who knows and loves me doesn’t expect perfection. If someone is focused on the status of my home, they are missing out on whats important-enjoying time with family and friends.
    Total game changer.

  57. Thank you for this. As a fellow blogger I had just written something called Blessed are the Guests- a lost beatitude. The only time I am motivated to dust and organize is when guests are coming for dinner. Thank you for helping me ease out of that mentality and just have peeps over amidst the chaos. My new phrase is Scruffy Hospitality. Love it.

  58. Hello from Cleveland OH! We have Monday night supper and Thursday Lunch Bunch. Both are potluck style rain or shine kind of affairs. Totally scruffy!

  59. This was very interesting and I’ve enjoyed reading the many replies. I appreciate unicycle granny’s reply because God does look at the heart no matter if you are a scruffy hospitality person or one that has a clean, organized home. I thouroughly enjoy both kinds of homes, but for myself, I can relax more if the home is tidy and things in place. I remember my kids saying that they liked bringing friends home because the house was warm, cozy and inviting as well as tidy. Something to be said for both sides, wouldn’t you agree?

  60. I absolutely looooved this post! I felt as though you’ve been a fly in the wall in our own home. It also came at a very timely moment. Yesterday, at church, there was a student who seemed lonely. I was tempted to invite her for lunch, but remembered that with our 5 children our house was in a bit of a state, and I couldn’t face her seeing it… I have felt sooooo guilty since… I realise now that she would have appreciated being with people more than she would have minded my untidy home!

    Thank you for putting into words what so many of us have suspected for a long time, but never gave ourselves permission to execute!

    God bless you!

  61. Oh wow! I just realized you are a Samford and Duke alum! Me too (the Samford part anyway)! I was an English major in the 90s and then went to UNC-Chapel Hill to get my PhD. I’m a professor in the process of becoming a bi-vocational priest in the Diocese of Texas. Glad to know other Samford Alums who are worshiping in the Anglican way….

    • Hi Nandra, thanks for your comments here! Go Bulldogs! Our parish administrator at Apostles is also a fellow Samford alum. By the way, I really enjoyed learning how you and your family are observing the feasts and fasts of the Christian year. Thanks for reading here and also for sharing your own project. Blessings–Jack

  62. I just saw this on my daughter’s facebook page. I love this. After many years of marriage, I finally hung a sign on our entryway wall: (it fortuitously came out of the printer askew as a bonus!) “A messy house is a happy house, and this house is delirious!” Scruff on!

  63. YES, a thousand times YES> only a friend and I call it Crappy Dinners. (your title is more… appetizing) The intent is to eat whatever we scrape together, or frozen pizza, but to get the family together and EXPECT the kids to tear apart the toy bins.

  64. This topic has weighed on my heart recently. My husband and I used to have people over regularly, but since moving south it’s been a challenge. People here keep themselves so busy. Their kids have sports every week night, go on expensive outings on Saturday, and then do all their house work and yard work on Sunday. For every 20 people we invite, maybe 2 will say yes. Then those people refuse to hang out again because it’s “their turn”. Of course their turn never happens, so we just can’t hang out. I think people don’t want to come over because then they feel obligated to invite us back. Not only does that mean typical cleaning but we have a large family to feed. So they offer to go to a restaurant with us instead, which we can’t afford with five kids. We thought if we just invited them over for “scruffy hospitality” (great name) they would relax and know it’s not a big deal to invite us back. Instead we just got judged for being scruffy. Anyone overcome an environment like this?

    • Brandie, I showed my wife your comment and she said, ‘I want to be friends with them!’ You raise some really good points here and I think this is an important conversation, especially among people who live in the South. I don’t know if you blog or write anywhere, but this would be a good topic to explore further. Codes of courtesy can be good when they don’t restrict relationship, but when they present barriers to a relationship, they become a problem. I hope you’ll keep this important conversation going.

  65. I so needed to read this! Thank you for putting into words all the complicated reasons I don’t have people over, and all the important reasons I should. And for the word “scruffy,” which will officially become my entertaining motto.

  66. I needed to read this too and got the link from my cousin Marian (above). I will make an attempt to do something scruffy in the not too distant future… God bless 🙂

  67. I have been following this post for two years. For the last 6 years Thursday nights are for the “motley crew” We have friends, who are single, widows and widowers who join us for supper. Sometimes the house is more picked up than other times, but they come for the fellowship, not to see my housekeeping. We have all been blessed by sharing this time together. Oh and sometimes we include couples too.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Bea. It’s been so humbling and surprising to see the response to this post over the past few years. It’s stories like yours that inspire me, knowing the friendships and connections people make when relationships prevail over hosting customs. Thanks again for reading and sharing your story.

  68. We’ve been practicing this for several years now, and have had the delightful consequence of friends inviting us over to their place on short notice too. They feel more comfortable letting you invade their mess when they’ve seen yours

  69. I’ve learned over the years to keep the ingredients for homade pizza or a dessert always in hand and wine and coffee – I also try to only my house to only be a 20/30 minute clean away from company so instead of telling my daughter the day of company she has 2 hours to get her room in order I have her clean a little each day so there is not too much to do – it’s by no means spotless but at the very least I hope it’s comfortable and homey ❤️

  70. Why wasn’t this published 40 years ago? I wouldn’t be in the shape I am now; not able to walk without cringing from pain…yes, many surgeries…should have worked. No longer able to follow the labor intense recipes I made ever so frequently and on a minute’s notice.
    My house, passed down from my Mother’s house, who; did the same, had to be Southern Living/Martha Steward decor, although
    the latter wasn’t around then, but the same idea. I would have more friends now, more people over and certainly more vino tried. The cappucino machine may not be packed away either. This is sad to read so late.

    • This is wonderful! I used to do this years ago, but now being single, having 4 big dogs and a tiny house, it’s out of reach except for my bestest friends. People do judge and not everyone wants to eat with 4 dogs staring at them, or tripping over them. I’ve always been uncomfortable in picture-perfect home, like I’m afraid I’ll mess something up. Scruffy is the way to go!

  71. I love this!! I have four kids and it is impossible to get the house spotless! And I love celebrating conversation and genuineness and relationships instead of how high the lawn is!! I have missed having people over and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that! Thanks for writing this!!

  72. If all Christians were as good and friendly as this fellow, Christianity would regain its former high regard.

  73. This was really great. Thank you for posting it, though it took me two years to run across it! Would you be willing to permit me to post a copy of this on my parish’s newsletter? I would give attribution and direct people to your blog as the source. We’re a smallish Anglican Church in Ottawa, Canada. The newsletter is mostly for the benefit of our older parishioners who are less likely to notice me sharing it on social media, and I think our parish would benefit from them being more laid-back about inviting people over.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Fr. Stephen. I’d be happy for you to post this and I hope it will help your church connect more often over good food and conversation. Blessings to you!

  74. Great idea. Only question I have is where do you get wine bottles with corks? They’re pretty much all screw top these days!

  75. Thank you for this post. It only took me two years to see it! Lol – You’ve given me a lot to think about.

  76. This post made our evening! My brother who’s living out of town was visiting and staying the night, and we were planning a simple family meal when he asked why we wouldn’t ask our mutual friend to join us. First I was horrified (our friend is very tidy and her house is always perfect – she lives alone) that there’s no way we could invite her without scrubbing everything and de-cluttering the entire house! I was actually googling fast de-cluttering tips when I run into this post and I decided that a normal “fast cleaning” would be just fine, and the most important thing for everyone would be to enjoy some time with my brother. So thank you for this post, we had a splendid evening while having burgers and fries (kids planned the menu) around kitchen table laughing and having fun!

    • That’s a great story Tamara. So glad to hear how you enjoyed food, family, and laughter with your brother in town. That’s always what we remember, not how tidy the home was when company came over.

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