Prove you’re not a stick in the mud when the parish priest comes to your house. Provide a fast paced, heart-pumping, interactive evening that will really give him something to preach about on Sunday. Sure, he may have plans for a house blessing, so you might be inclined to say to yourself, “Between the blessing and dinner, there should be plenty for us to talk about and do.” Don’t fall into this trap! Dinner conversations with priests you barely know can be very, very awkward. Our house, in fact, is scheduled to be blessed on Thursday, by a priest we’ve only met once. From what we’ve seen, we like him and we think we want him to come back again and again. So here are some ideas I’m considering in order to keep the conversation going:
1) Set That “Anything Can Happen Tone/Mood” with upbeat music, playing in the background. In order to explore this topic further, I “Googled” the following key words: “music to play when the priest comes over.” This search resulted in over 9 million results yielding the answer: You’ve Got Another Thing Coming by Judas Priest. So, I listened to the song and, while there are some positive messages like “You’ve only got one life, you’ve got to live it” there’s also a major confrontational threatening tone that just takes over the whole song. So, no. I completely disagree with Google on this one. Instead, I did another search, which took me to a site called “Festify.” It’s a free, downloadable app that lets guests choose what music they want to listen to on their own Smartphones. I really like that idea. This way, guests are in control. Or, if all else fails, Hipster Cocktail Radio on Pandora can be hip and swanky. We also like Cape Breton fiddling music by Natalie MacMaster, so that might just happen, without warning. We’re simply the kind of family that changes the station often.
2) Take the House Tour Up a Notch. “Would you like a tour of the house?” is almost always accompanied by an enthusiastic, “Yes! I would love to see the rest of the house!” Your guests might not really want to see the rest of the house, but they just walked through the door and they’re willing to say, “Yes” to anything because they’re hungry and they haven’t had any cocktails yet. Instead of taking them on a boring house tour, make it more exciting.
Boring Version: This is the kitchen. As you can see, there is a gas stovetop and double oven for baking pies AND roasts!
Livelier Version: This is the kitchen. Live prawns once bit me right there, where you are standing. Watch out!
As you can see, the livelier version might make your guest jump with excitement and remember exactly what your kitchen looks like later on. Isn’t that the purpose after all of a house tour? To help guests remember what your house looks like well after New Year’s? As you approach each room in your house, think of a funny or scary story you can tell your guest. In this manner, your floor plan will remain vivid in your guest’s imagination for years to come.
3) Resort to Board Games, Only if Necessary. “Therapy” is the name of a board game invented in the late 80s by a psychiatrist, journalist, and psychologist. In the late 80s, my parents discovered this game and we spent many a wonderful evening playing it together—until we invited the parish priest over. That night, we all ended up in psychosis and the priest got all the sex questions. Very awkward! Instead, stick to things like Charades and Pictionary.
4) Provide Icebreakers. According to Jackelyn Martin of the Michigan State University Extension office, icebreakers for youth play an important role in a group setting. I think the same is true for adults. Icebreakers can, “relieve tension or mutual shyness among a gathering of strangers, build connections among participants, minimize barriers, maximize commonalities, and build a sense of community.” Nate, Alex, and I will probably all be shy around the parish priest, so if we take him on a whirlwind house tour and then involve him in a few games, he’ll hopefully feel right at home. My favorite icebreaker games involve getting up, moving about, and sharing new, personal information with others. That’s what makes a gathering fun. The following activities should do the trick:
Scavenger Hunt: I will give Nate, Alex, and our new guest index cards and I will tell them to write down something interesting about themselves on each card. It could be something funny, embarrassing, a secret hobby—anything at all. I’ll do the same. We can’t put our names anywhere on the cards, though. I’ll shuffle them and, while Nate, Alex, and our guest distract themselves with punch and appetizers, I’ll hide the cards in various rooms and perhaps in the backyard. Then, I’ll ask them to find the cards. Once all of the cards are collected, I’ll read them out loud and we can have fun guessing whose card it is.
Human Knot: Oh, how many happy memories come flooding back from my youth group days when I think of the human knot! This game is deceptively easy. All the members of the group stand in a circle and reach both hands into the center of the circle. They should randomly grab the hands of others to form a knot. The idea is to become un-entangled from the knot without letting go of anyone’s hand. This game will reveal who the most bossy AND intelligent person is in the room. That’s the one you’ll want with you on a sinking ship, for sure. I wonder who it will be Thursday night. The suspense is killing me!
The Habits We Juggle: Who doesn’t love a game that teaches a solid moral lesson? Find 5-10 tennis balls or soft, foam rubber balls that you could write on. On each ball, write one bad habit or vice you or others may have, such as nail biting or swearing. All members of the group should line up facing one another, but they should not be standing in a circle. Then, one group member could throw the ball to another group member, who could be standing anywhere across the way. Once that member catches the ball, it can be thrown back across to someone else. Once the ball is up in the air and going around, someone can throw in a second, third, or fourth ball. The trick is to see how many “bad habits” we all can juggle at once. I suspect we can’t juggle many, so we’ll learn that we need to curb our bad habits before they become overwhelming—or something like that.
5) Send Guests Home with A Thoughtful Gift. Snap plenty of pictures of your evening together and quickly print them out on glossy pieces of portrait paper. Action shots might make the best portraits. Choose the scenes in which you and your guest wriggle out of the human knot or juggle the “bad habits.” Have plenty of frames on hand, so that you can slide the portraits right into them.
6) Rethink the Entire Plan Several Times Through. Our lovely parish priest might be pretty tired from his long day, so making him run around our house as we desperately attempt to entertain him, might not be the best idea. Perhaps we’ll just stick to dinner, the house blessing, and some conversation ideas outlined in this fantastic website I found called Conversation Starters World. Here’s a question from that site that I think I could work with:
What’s your favorite way to waste time?
Your Turn: What are your favorite party games or tips for avoiding awkwardness at parties?