Using the Holidays to Host Singles
I love the happy and chaotic noise of my three children staging a morning “wake up attack” as they leap onto a sleeping adult to awaken them with pillow-blows, giggles, and tickles. I especially love the sound early on a holiday morning, coming from down the hall out of our guestroom while my wife and I contentedly pull the covers up to our chins in our own, locked bedroom.
Ah . . . the joys of inviting an unsuspecting single-adult friend spending a holiday with our family.
Over the years, we’ve become convinced of the value and joys of incorporating single friends into special family times, especially during holidays. And some of our motivations are not even self-serving. So here are a few comments intended to encourage you to fold single-adult friends into your special family events.
1. A little can mean a lot.
I’m not sure when we first started inviting single friends to join us for family events. It was probably to a child’s birthday party or a holiday dinner. But over the years a surprising number of our family traditions have grown to center around regularly inviting particular people to join us. But whether it’s a long-time family friend or a new friend coming to a first-time holiday gathering, it can mean a lot to them and our family. We all benefit from being a part of families and you don’t have to form a new family of your own to enjoy and profit from family relationships.
2. More is actually more.
And, frankly, having an extra set of hands around for birthday parties, not distracted by their own kids, can be a massive help. That’s why we do sometimes feel a little guilty that so much of our “service” to the single-adults in our church ends up looking a lot like help for us. But they don’t seem to mind. It’s a symbiotic thing. We enjoy the extra adult help, and they enjoy our crazy, fun household. And hopefully along the way, there are some good gospel encouragements that float in, too.
I know this from first-hand experience. I remember being single at 25, and at 30, and at 35, and even when 40 was growing visible in the horizon of my life. I eventually (and happily) got married out of the blue, it seemed, at the age of 37. But in nearly two decades of adult single-living, one of my fondest memories is a few church families that intentionally drew me into their lives—not just as a one-time guest at a holiday meal, but for birthdays, school celebrations, special outings, and even for family vacations. I think the parents valued me as an example of a Christian young man to their kids, and I got more blessings than they realized.
3. Traditions aren’t just a family thing.
This won’t be a hardship for your kids, either. Kids love traditions, at least our kids do. And some of the traditions they hold to most lovingly (or manically) involve friends who aren’t our relatives. Whether it’s having a long-time adopted Auntie at their birthday party, or the friends we’ve invited for years to help us decorate our Christmas tree, or the young woman and her widowed mom who are our regular Thanksgiving guests. If we do anything more than once it becomes “a tradition” in the minds of our kids. And we’re pretty happy about that.
We think it’s great that in our family now “traditions” tend to be largely about who’s joining us rather than specifically what we do. And news that a certain single person is joining us for an event almost always result in happy-dances from the kiddos. I’m delighted for our children to grow up thinking more about relationships than food—or even presents. Okay, they still like the presents more, but we’re making progress.
4. Not just Christian friends.
This isn’t just about time with Christian friends. Most every Thanksgiving, my amazing wife happily prepares a meal for more people than our ample house can really hold. In addition to our beloved “regulars,” we also try to fill a number of seats with international students. As we talk to our children in advance, they get excited to learn a little bit about the culture or language of folks that are coming. “How do you say Hello in Turkish?” our five-year-old asks for the twentieth time.
This opening of our home to strangers has become for our kids a normal part of what one does at Thanksgiving or Easter or Christmas. And the benefit of seeing a family organized around an overt love and submission to Christ has made deep impressions on a number of young adults from nations where such witnesses are rare.
5. Sleepovers aren’t just for kiddos, either.
But you don’t have to say goodbye after the plates are cleared off the table. A few weeks ago, my wife was away for a couple of nights. So, naturally, I took the time to plan a sleepover…inviting a 20-something family friend to come stay with us. The kids were excited, he seemed to have a good time, and I had an adult to help shape conversation during dinner and breakfast. And, of course, he got the benefit of the aforementioned “wake up attack” . . . while I got 15 more minutes of sleep.
6. Good things generally don’t “just happen.”
Having these kind of relationships takes some advanced planning and a small measure of commitment. In the rush and bustle of life, we have to decide this is the way we are going to live.
Opening your home to single friends may sound daunting. But try to imagine your home as a refuge from the outside world that is frankly pretty barren at times. Consider what it might mean to draw even one or two single friends into your family. Give it a try. You might be surprised how much fun, help, and fruitfulness might result.