Monday, October 3, 2011

Food At Church

Recently, I discovered that I love bobotie, an African casserole, at our member-driven church (see the pic for an example of bobotie). That day, I also discovered that one of my fellow church members had her computer stolen by her adult son.

See, we eat meals as a part of our church gatherings every Sunday. We do this because one of our core values is developing Authentic Community and another is Growth Through Practice. If being the Family of God is important (the Bible's most common metaphor for the church) then we want to do more than talk about building relationships. We want to practice that during our church gatherings.

We believe that Authentic Community is a multiplier of all the other functions of a church. The more you know each other--really know each other as friends--the more effectively you can teach, encourage, serve, and give to one another. When  you don't really know the others in your church, you're forced to guess--or choose the lowest common denominator in hopes that most of the room will get something out of it.

Eating a "share-a-dish" or "potluck" meal at church every Sunday is a crucial practice for establishing Authentic Community in our church family. There are other ways to catalyze community, and we do those from time to time, but we schedule meals every week for three reasons:

1. Examples of this are all over the Bible, including a half chapter of rules on handling the meal portion of your church service (1 Corinthians 11.17-34).

2. Eating together is one of the most effective AND easy ways to foster relationships. God wired us to bond over food and every human culture in history reflects this.

3. It's fun! We name a food theme for each week and people prepare dishes accordingly (if they want to--no requirements). That's how, on African food day, I discovered that the unique mix of beef, scrambled eggs, fruit, curry, etc that is bobotie was a new favorite of mine. (I've made it twice so far.)

And, during the conversation over food, I was told about the adult son who had run off and took their property (again). That authentic conversation led to another family sharing their troubles with a sister, and another family with their in-laws. and in the end we chose our current teaching series on setting godly boundaries.

More and more churches I know are adding this element to their church, even if on a monthly basis. It's so easy to implement and makes a big difference right away.

Here are some creative meal theme ideas to make it interesting:
  • African
  • Finger Food
  • Red & Green: bring dishes that include one or the other color--or both colors
  • C-Food: bring something that starts with "C" (great choice if you want to make sure chocolate shows up)
  • Kid's Favorites: bring what your kids love most--or what you loved most as a kid
If you don't choose to eat meals at church, that's fine. Let's not confuse the method with the purpose. (I still recommend trying bobotie.) But if not food at church, what is your strategy for stimulating relationships in your church family? I'd love to learn what you are doing.

Whatever you do, don't just cross your fingers and hope something happens. Building relationships is far too important to leave it to the "leftover" time.

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