When was the last time you went to a great party? I’m not talking about great in a worldly sense. I’m talking about a memorable party where you had fun and felt included. As I mentioned in my feature article, “How to Influence Culture Without Being Seduced by It,” one of the best ways to influence, and love, those around you is by throwing great parties.
Research shows that young adults are more lonely and disconnected than ever before. What’s more, we tend to hang out with the same people and miss out on interesting conversations that would broaden our horizons. There’s an art to throwing a truly great party. Here are three ways to pull it off.
- Gather the gatherers. You know who I’m talking about. Gatherers are people with unusually wide social networks because they love to build new connections. People are drawn to them because they radiate positivity and take a genuine interest in strangers. You need gatherers to create a buzzy, fun atmosphere for people to feel comfortable joining. Recruit at least 1-2 gatherers in your circles to help you build your invite list. (Just be sure to avoid gatherers who use their power to manipulate people and turn conversations into a sales pitch.) When its time to party, let them mix it up. Don’t overload them with behind-the-scenes logistics — let those who prefer to do the behind-the-scenes stuff take those jobs.
- Give them something to talk about. Add conversation pieces to your party — something to elevate the discussion beyond, “So, what do you do?” Display the work of local artists, or use the party to raise money for a cause that holds cultural resonance, like fighting human trafficking. Your party could be a screening for an interesting film, such as my friend Laura Waters Hinson’s Many Beautiful Things (featuring Michelle Dockery of Downton Abbey). Your party will also be more engaging with a fun theme, door prizes and some good old-fashioned competition. A little creativity up front will make it easier for your guests to relax, engage and have great conversations.
- Don’t skimp on the good stuff. As my friend Kevin Bruursema says, “Bad coffee makes for bad ministry.” The same can be said for parties. When you invite your friends and neighbors to share their lives with you, surprise them with quality. Don’t brew Folgers. Don’t serve grocery store cake. Have a friend who’s a gourmet cook? Let him handle the food. Purchase treats from a well-known bakery or appetizers from a bistro everyone likes. One way to make this affordable is to allow your guests to bring something they want to contribute. Meanwhile, you can serve a limited offering of food or drink that is of a higher caliber. Remember, your primary job is not to feed people, but to connect them.
If you can pull together gatherers, conversation pieces and a tempting menu, it’s more likely that people will be naturally drawn to come and stay. The investment on your part will translate into greater connection and less isolation for your friends and neighbors.
Aaron Damiani is the Lead Pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. You can find Aaron on Twitter @aarondamiani.