Jesus ate with all types of people. Many gospel stories start with Jesus around the table and talking with sinners, outcasts, tax collectors, or his disciples. Breaking bread together is a story right out of the Exodus story to the last supper and Acts 2. This makes Dinner Church a trinitarian approach to ministry! (Haha!) But if you are interested, here is what we did:
Step 1. What is Dinner Church & Story Swap? Create a working definition; here is the one I wrote for Bethlehem.
An experiment! First we share dinner and church around the table. We hear God’s word, share in table preaching, and enjoy in a meal together. A story swap is a time to exchange stories of faith, life, and family together in a safe and loving environment. When the days are cold and the light is dim, we will gather together in the season of Epiphany and enjoy the warmth of fine food and loving stories. This was open to all ages.
Step 2. Find a hostess. We had around 30 people each week; some who returned each week, and some who were new. We had one hostess that helped set up tables, welcome people, got their names tags, and serve coffee. This freed me to do pastor stuff.
Step 3. Decide about Dinner. Plan for vegetarian and Gluten Free, and make sure you are aware of all allergies. We had chefs’s that made the meals, and they were delicious. Next time, we might try catering!
Step 4. Visual Faith. We used Visual faith as a tool for sharing stories on the topics below. People love to talk when they have something in their hands and something to refer to.
Step 5: Light Candles. I love Lyle Griner’s Candle Time!
Step 6. Make a Menu. Below are the menus that I followed for our 4 week experiment. In the menu, we had a candle lighting time, dinner menu, dinner questions, text, meditation, and closing prayer. I also offered holy communion after the meditation.
January 15: What is Dinner Church & a Story Swap – Welcome
January 29: Dinner Church & why your story matters – Belonging
February 12: Dinner Church & Practice Telling Your Story – Connecting
February 19: Dinner Church & Holy Spirit Nudges – Love
Step 7. Evaluate. We asked people their thoughts of dinner church and would they be willing to do it again?
“Great! It was more casual than I thought it would be which was perfect since I am uncomfortable speaking in a large group. I liked the small group format.”
“It was a fun and interesting way to get to know some new people. It turned out a bit differently than I expected. For example, we ended up sitting, more or less, with the same people. This limited the number of people that we got to meet, but also allowed us to make a stronger connection with those at our table. Over all, I would say it was a smashing success.”
“I expected a larger group, not that it really matters becuase it’s really about the people at your table. I’m not sure I had an expectation, anything led by Heather will be lively.”
“It was what I expected!”
“There was alot more work and structure put into it than we anticipated, which is commendable.”
“It was a good experience…I think its a great way to connect to others in a small group format and sharing a meal together is meaningful. I think it is mainly what I expected, maybe I thought there would be a little more “church” to it.”
“It was nice. Relaxed yet meaningful.”
“It was better than I expected!”
“The experience was great!”
Most everyone agreed that they would like to do it again once a month.