As Washington transitions to Phase Two, people are beginning to dream of ways to connect in-person once again. Small in-person social gatherings, which were out of the question only a matter of weeks ago, are becoming an option for us once again. But many people are having a hard time knowing what is okay and what is not okay as this transition is truly uncharted territory. Social expectations, legal requirements, and the practical ‘how-to’s are all uncomfortably vague. There is something deep within us that wants to be together again, but so many of us simply don’t know how- at least not well.

Here are a couple ideas on how to host a small (legal) gathering in your home that are both safe, and centered around making everyone feel at-ease.

(1) Shift your thinking from “Safe vs Unsafe” to “Levels of Risk”

Putting everything in a black and white context can be paralyzing. Safe vs Unsafe makes everyday tasks like going to the bathroom or dishing up a plate of food feel too dangerous to even attempt. But if you shift away from that dichotomy, you will find room to creatively problem-solve and make high risk activities into low risk activities through extra precautions. We’ll give some examples of how you can do this in the points below. Looking at the level of risk allows you to acknowledge that everything has some risk and empowers you to lower exposure through creative problem solving. In short, it allows us to be wise instead of driven by fear.

(2) Communicate expectations beforehand

While you may feel additional pressure as the host of a gathering, everyone is dealing with the uncertainty of this season. There is no expected social decorum because, simply put, none of us have done this before. Without the security of decorum, many are desperate for some guidelines. Whatever your expectations for your home, let people know before they arrive. Be ready to remind everyone of those guidelines as they arrive. Most will appreciate it and it will help avoid a “please don’t do that” confrontation.

(3) Let the outdoors do some of the work for you

A recent Vancouver Church survey shows people are comfortable with outdoor gatherings. The people coming to your house may also feel more at ease outdoors. Public Health Experts indicate the risk of transmission is lower outside, and it offers an opportunity to spread out. Take advantage of the summer weather!

(4) Use signs to empower your guests

With so many changing rules, it can be hard to keep track of all of them. Make it easier on yourself and your guests by posting reminders around your home. This can be a friendly “Don’t Forget Your Mask!” at the door, or a helpful “Please Close the Toilet Lid Before Flushing” in the bathroom. It may be too institutional for your hosting style, but may also allow people to navigate your home with a sense of more confidence and independence.

(5) Have grace with yourself and others

Remember, no one really knows the right way to host during a global pandemic. It’s likely to require some extra planning and effort, but it will be worth it! So many of us are grateful to have the opportunity to gather at all, so do your best, be wise, and be gracious. The rest will work out fine.

And after all is said and done, this too shall pass.