Magazines 2018 Mar - Apr How to do a great church dinner

How to do a great church dinner

18 March 2018 , 2018 Mar - Apr By Amy McLachlan

Over the last several months, I’ve spoken with many people who are doing food ministry a bit differently. Out of those conversations I’ve noticed some common ideas that result in stellar suppers.

By Amy McLachlan

Over the last several months, I’ve spoken with many people who are doing food ministry a bit differently. Out of those conversations I’ve noticed some common ideas that result in stellar suppers.

“We are more human when we share a meal.”
  1. Welcome everyone.

“I think the central thing of sharing food with other people, and in particular people who are strangers to you in one way or another, is it’s a way to see God,” says author Sara Miles.

  1. Serve food family-style.

Bringing food in big bowls directly to the table and letting everyone pass them among each other helps create feelings of connectedness.

  1. Use a collaborative approach to cooking, setup and cleanup.

“What makes it a living place is the sense of full participation,” says Miles of the meals her church in California puts on each week. “That’s what makes it a beloved community.”

  1. Prepare delicious, beautiful food.

“The food has to be good!” says Stevie Cameron, journalist, member of the Order of Canada, and the person behind the Out of the Cold program at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian in downtown Toronto. Still going strong for more than 20 years, the program welcomes homeless people into the church every week for a meal a chef prepares. “I think this is really important. Why shouldn’t they have food that’s as good as what we eat? And so many other programs came out of the food. Out of a meal. It’s miraculous.”

  1. The food is the main event.

Church suppers are not an opportunity for evangelism or enticing people to come to church on Sunday morning. They are about the meal. It’s not true generosity if we do it with strings attached, and it also reduces the enjoyment and blessing for people who are eating. “Food has the potential to be a miracle,” says Miles. “It always involves that sort of reciprocal exchange which is what the nature of God is – it involves our hunger and our ability to feed others. So there’s always this energy that moves through you, this connectedness when you’re feeding or being fed.”

  1. Serve homemade bread, if possible.

“[The bread was] made by people who are now offering it to each other,” says Miles, whose church bakes the bread right in the church kitchen while other things are going on. “It’s a way of putting flesh on the phrases we hear all the time. Things like, ‘These are the gifts of God, for the people of God.’ ”

  1. Make it interactive – singing, passing around a common loaf of bread, questions during a pared-back sermon, etc.
  2. Involve children whenever possible.

At Knox, we’ve had older kids read a poem or say some of the prayers; younger ones pass around the juice or other simple tasks. They know they are important members of the Body of Christ.

  1. Abundance – make food beautiful and plentiful, pointing to God’s overflowing, abundant love and generosity.

Amy MacLachlan is a food ministry volunteer and writer of the Mar/Apr Faith Today cover story “The Healing Plate.” She is  guest on the EFC webinar “How to create a great food ministry.”