Monday, December 14, 2009
Food:An Old Way to Grow Your Church
I gained fifteen pounds after coming to pastor my present church. There are a couple of reasons: There are lots of meetings in which we eat and the food is great! Our church has employed an old method of reaching people and growing the fellowship of the church.
The first Sunday of every month we have what we can Mega-Sunday. We invite everyone who has visited and those who drive by our church (We have a large HD electronic sign which advertises to the people who occupy the 40,000 vehicles that go by each day. Its hard to keep going by pictures of pancakes each day and not want to stop in.) to join our membership for a buffet breakfast. We have a Wednesday night meal which is free for those who come for the first time. We have other outreach events, Sunday School events and even discipleship events where the food is plentiful and very good.
Our goal is to connect people with one another. They sit at round tables surrounded by members and other guests. They get to know one another a little bit better. They learn that the people who have been coming to the church are just like them in many ways. They have the same problems, the same struggles and the same interests. They find that they can fit in. They realize that we will try to help them if we can.
These meals also provide a really needed connection among members. Consistency in the Bible and prayer are keys to growing as a Christian. It is hard to remain consistent without a social network which supports you. The deep connection keeps the individual coming to their small group and worship. The result is spiritual growth that can be seen. Members understand the need to pray for one another and financially help one another when needs arise. Sure, people often help those they don't know but there is a deeper commitment when the person you help is your friend.
We have found that visitors are not looking for a friendly church. They are looking for people with whom they can find friends. These meals give them an opportunity to find these friends. The food provides a vehicle for conversation which often results in meetings outside the church. Men find themselves playing golf or going fishing together. Women find themselves making connections in shopping, mission studies and classes at the Y or other outside events.
Those who cook are volunteers. The church rarely gets a meal catered. These cooks have a very close fellowship. Each one knows that they serve the Lord whose chief emissary is "Admiral Carol." (They know that they follow her orders or they will be summarily executed. There is no trial.) This makes the food consistently great (not just good) and there isn't any bickering or trying to decide who is in charge. The fellowship among those who prepare and cook is very sweet.
Now, this is not a new idea. They did it in the early church. And I'm glad we are seeing our church grow even though I am now on a diet.
Acts 2:46-47 (ESV)
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.