Since I was old enough to float – I appreciated the impact that the YMCA had on families. My mother would attach a “floaty” (a belt with an oval egg shaped piece of foam on my back) while she and the other ladies did the 60’s version of water aerobics. Even as a youngster, I could tell that this was a healthy place of safety and joy. The YMCA instinctively reduced the stress of our little Pastor’s family.
It’s no wonder that as an adult church planter, I see the potential beauty and synergy of a Dinner Church meeting in a YMCA.
THE INGREDIENTS OF A DINNER CHURCH
The name Dinner Church suggests exactly what you think it does. It’s church that meets around dinner tables. There is food – lots of it! Dinner Church doesn’t skimp on the dinner part. The food isn’t just plentiful, but fresh, beautifully presented and healthy. It’s what you might think a dinner in heaven would be.
Dinner Church doesn’t skimp on the “church” part either. There is live music, an artist painting a picture that supports the message, a gospel story and plenty of time for prayer.
Dinner Church is unique in that community develops quickly, providing healing, hope and encouragement. In fact, the atmosphere seems to “ooze” out of the space being used, creating an awesome environment for everyone in the building.
A typical Dinner Church evening lasts one hour and 15 minutes, and includes a short art project for the kids. This might be the secret sauce. While the kids are engaged with the gospel story and dinner, the adults get a brief rest from childcare, allowing them to enjoy lively discussion, Q & A, and opportunity to enjoy quiet. Plus, the kids come home with a cool piece of art ready to hang on their bedroom wall.
One more thing, Dinner Church seeks to make this gathering open for any and all who would want to eat. So, the price is always the same: FREE.
WHAT DINNER CHURCH LOOKS LIKE IN DETROIT
The Harbor: Detroit Dinner Church is part of a national movement of feeding people amazing and healthy food, along with serving them the bread that lasts forever: Jesus Christ.
In Detroit, we have three weekly sites, and more that are in various stages of birth. We aim at “sore” neighborhoods – and provide awesome community for people who for many good reasons, would not likely go to a typical “proclamation” style church. We typically meet in existing community centers – neighborhood “hubs” so to speak. We’re eager for YMCAs to be long time partners with Dinner Church.
A TYPICAL DINNER LOOKS LIKE THIS
4:55 – Live Music begins
5pm – Serving line opens
5:20 – Bible Story begins
5:32 – Bible Story ends
5:32 – Dessert
5:40 – Art project for kids (Adults and teens get uninterrupted discussion time)
6:15 – Cleanup and Dismiss
Because we typically host many children at our sites, we provide art instruction, and other high-energy activities specifically for children.
Dinner Church is unique in that it embraces well the lower third, socioeconomically speaking. This is NOT a “feed”, but a “Dinner with Friends,” complete with cloth tablecloths, live music and lots of laughter and community.
As I look for community centers where Dinner Churches can meet, I often think of my involvement at the Francis Family YMCA, serving greater Toledo. While this was before my involvement with Dinner Church, I’ve realized that in many places, this would be a “hand in glove” connection: simple and natural.
Dinner Church is a ministry that builds community. Two stories: One of our Dinner Churches has worked alongside our community center and local police department to host a “marshmallow drop” for the whole community – with the Police Helicopter dropping the marshmallows and everything! The whole community came together, because we worked together.
And then, “Sheila” who kept her back turned towards all of us at Dinner Church, one day decided to come just for the food.
After she was served, she took her food and left. She repeated this for several weeks. And then one day, she stayed and ate with everyone – and then left before the story. Again, she repeated this for quite a while. And finally one day, she ate her food, and stayed for the story. Since then, she’s received communion, been baptized, dedicated her baby to God, and serves as one of our best “greeters” and helpers. Dinner Church builds community!
PULL UP A CHAIR TO THE TABLE AND GET INVOLVED
- Serve at a local Dinner Church site (Opportunities include being a table host, food server, musician, artist, etc.).
- Help start one in your community. The Dinner Church Collective and Fresh Expressions US offer support, resource to learn more and training and coaching opportunities.
- Plan a visit (a servcation kind of fitness retreat) to stay with us a few days and experience it first hand. One of the best ways to see Dinner Church in action, is to connect with one of our training houses in Seattle and Detroit. Who knows you may even want to move to Detroit and help us as we aim at starting a Dinner Church in every one of our twenty-six zip codes and ninety-six named neighborhoods.
We do dinner in Detroit. Wherever you live you can do Dinner Church. Contact me and let me help you get started.