A View from the Pew: Eating at Church

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It’s known by a hundred different names—potluck, fellowship meal, church social, Wednesday night supper. But no matter what you call it, eating a meal at church is special.

My kids love it. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or supper, they relish the ability to load their plates with their own choices, which are mostly bread and desserts.

Adults gravitate to the social aspects, catching up with friends and enjoying the company of people they only see once a week. But if truth be told, they make one-too-many trips to the dessert table themselves.

What’s often lost in the frenzy of food and fellowship is the effort required to pull off such an event. Many churches have a formal hospitality committee that is called upon to set up, serve, and clean up from every church luncheon, baby shower, or wedding reception. They are often unrecognized and under-appreciated.

But they don’t do it for the glory. At least not for their own glory.

At our church, Margaret has led the hospitality committee as long as I can remember. Not only can she prepare a beautiful spread with the help of a dedicated group of committee members, but she knows what and how much to purchase for each event.

She has kept meticulous notes over the years on the occasion, attendance, menu, and shopping list for every gathering. She knows who has the best prices on hamburger patties in bulk, and she can stretch a budget with the thriftiest penny pincher.

Margaret serves us with a smile and ensures every dish is washed, every tablecloth folded, every crumb vacuumed after the rest of us are well into our Sunday afternoon naps.

I didn’t use to think much about what went into eating at church until one particular missions pancake breakfast. I was chairing the missions committee at the time, and the committee agreed cooking pancakes would be a great idea to draw a crowd to learn more about our church’s mission partners.

A few days before the event, Margaret unsolicited sent me the quantities and shopping list for the last pancake breakfast. I honestly hadn’t thought of things like orange juice and butter. I consider myself pretty good at details, but without Margaret and the hospitality committee, I would have presided over a genuine fiasco.

I’m always careful now to be sure to post pictures of the hospitality committee to our church’s Facebook page, pick up a trash bag on my way out, and offer a heart-felt “Thank you.” But I’ve noticed something about this committee: they appreciate my gratitude and pittance of assistance, but they don’t need it.

Those in our churches with the gift of hospitality are happiest when they are serving others. Their smiles aren’t forced. The quick pace to and from the kitchen isn’t prompted by a Fitbit. The laughter and witty banter from the kitchen aren’t a put on. They love working in this way for the good of the church, and they enjoy each other’s company.

Maybe they are on to something. Instead of leaving the church regretting that third dessert, they go home satisfied that they have followed the example of their Lord, who wrapped himself in a towel and washed his disciples’s feet. And they definitely got their steps in.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA, does media relations and issues management at his day job, and blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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