Your Life Begins When You Know Its Purpose

How to Host a Gathering

By Joanne K. Helfrich

Host a Gathering! We enjoy a wonderful virtual community, yet sometimes want to connect with others in person. Getting together, especially when we share food and common interests, is as vital to us human beings as breathing. So why not invite folks over and host a gathering in your home? Because many of us feel daunted at the thought it. Just the word“entertaining” conjures anxiety and expectations of having to be some local version of Martha Stewart.

But there’s no need to be afraid! Here are a few points to get you started.

1. Have focus. Start with a purpose or subject that will interest people you want to attract. Maybe it’s books, crafts, or common themes, such as channeled information or other exploratory ideas. You can even invite people to speak. Some years ago, every two weeks or so, Paul and I hosted Dinner & A Dead Guy, our focus being a speakerphone conversation with Kris, channeled by Serge Grandbois. We’d invite people who are interested in that and related subjects. When we got together, we spend about a half an hour getting situated, then participate in the session. Afterwards we share our thoughts and recent experiences—many of which uncannily had to do with the session’s content—and eat! (More about that in a bit.) If you don’t have a speaker in attendance, you can read passages aloud, or experiment with psi-exercises. The point is to have a focus while allowing people to share and discuss whatever they’d like.

2. Have facilitation. Some degree of facilitation is always needed, even if it is just starting on time and ensuring everyone can hear and be heard. Some groups have a very specific purpose or scope of discussion and require a greater degree of facilitation. If you’d like to have this kind of gathering, and perhaps even create an ongoing group, say, to discuss only the work of Seth, Elias, Rose, Kris, or another author, you will need to facilitate that. Plan on an initial free-form sharing period when folks arrive, then when it seems like a good time, direct the conversation and activity to the group’s purpose. Continue to do this whenever the group diverges. Facilitation is an important function for both in-person and virtual groups because without it, groups with a specific purpose usually lose their focus, provide less value to participants, and die.

3. Have a good invitation. Whether it’s by email, posting on a discussion forum, flyer, classified ad, phone, or engraved parchment, your invitation should clearly state all the important facts: the focus of the gathering, date, arrival time, event/session time (if different), fee (this is important if you’re charging for the event, and don’t be shy about collecting), anything they should bring (i.e. a potluck dish), name/address/phone, directions, and link to your address if you’re communicating electronically. You may want to request people RSVP, especially if you’re planning food, and ask about any dietary needs, like vegetarian or food allergies. Some people have a tough time committing in advance, but you can get a rough count and prepare for a couple more people than have RSVP’d. If inviting strangers, you can keep your address private until they RSVP.

4. Have food. Nothing bonds people more than breaking bread together, and it’s a lot easier to manage than you may think. At a minimum, provide somewhat healthy snacks—like cheese and crackers, nachos and salsa, potato chips and dip—and beverages. Most people like water, juice, or soda and sometimes wine and beer. (As hosts, we need to make sure people drink responsibly.) You can also have a potluck, where everyone brings something: a cooked dish, a bottle of wine, a dessert, etc. As the host, you can coordinate what people bring so you don’t end up with six cheesecakes. (This can be fun too, but not always the most satisfying.) I would sometimes cook a simple vegetarian dish, like a crockpot stew or lasagna, and ask people to bring salad, bread, dessert, and beverages. 

5. Have ambience. If you want to embrace your inner Martha Stewart and coordinate your table decorations and make napkin rings out of pipe cleaners, great, but for the most part, this is where we must ask our inner Marthas to please pipe down. Now listen. It is not important that you live in a mansion or have a lot of fine things. What is important is that you are sharing what you have with others. Don’t worry if your home isn’t spotless. Just make it nice. Show that you care. Light some candles. Buy or pick flowers and display them in a vase. As you do these things, bless your home. Tell it how beautiful it is, how happy you are living there, and how glad you are that you can share it with others. 

6. Have fun! The secret to entertaining others is so that it is the most fun for you. Why do you think Martha does all those cool things like making candied violets and forging her own serving utensils? Because that can be fun, too, if you approach it as such and not as an obligation or with fear of failure. (The Spider Web Cheesecake I made this Halloween looked like the spider was on acid, but may become a house classic.) The trick is to take care of yourself first so you can take care of others.

So relax and have fun!

© 2005 Joanne K.Helfrich, All Rights Reserved.

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