There is just something about sharing a good meal with another person. I think, in part, it is because in this moment we are using all of our symptoms. We are listening to good conversation, smelling savory aromas, tasting a scrumptious bite, looking at beautiful plated foods and into the eyes of a friend or loved one. Even our sense of touch is engaged regularly… as we embrace as we meet up, feel the texture of the napkin we set in our lap, engage with the various food items, etc. I believe that when we are in moments where all of our senses are engaged simultaneously, and for a long period of time, it helps embed the moment into our memory.
In the Scriptures we see so many moments where people were breaking bread together as a community. Two specific moments to consider is the feeding of the multitudes (Matthew 14) and when Jesus washed the disciples feet (John 13).
When We Feed the Many
In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus had just found out about the death of John the Baptist and had withdrawn to a quiet place. But, the crowds followed. Even though he was mourning, he had compassion on the crowd. When evening was approaching the disciples suggested that Jesus send the crowds away to the towns so that they may eat. Jesus instead insisted they stay and that they would feed the crowd. The disciples indicated they didn’t have nearly enough for the thousands of people who had gathered. Jesus taking the humble amount of fish and loaves, raised them toward Heaven, giving thanks for the food, and instructed the disciples to distribute it among the people. There was so much that even after everyone ate and was satisfied, twelve baskets of left over pieces were collected.
As a Ministry we often will host small brunches and large events. Most often brunches are potluck where everyone brings a dish with them to share. But, with large events… we often do not consider the meal (unless it’s a weekend long retreat). I’ve been to conferences where meals were included, and to ones where we were dismissed to local restaurants. While I can understand the logistics of sending people off premises, I think we forget a few key things that make offering an onsite meal a blessing that outweighs any inconvenience.
- Single Guests – when a bunch of gal pals head off to an event together, they often don’t mind slipping away to a local café and having some girl time. However, this can be an uncomfortable and lonely time for someone who is flying solo. When there are tables set up and lunch provided on site, it is much easier for the single guests to mingle with others over a good meal. This is a very compassionate stance to take as we care for the guests that God has brought to our events.
- Budget Friendly – larger events will generally have a cost associated, regardless of the size or wealth of the congregation. If this is an event that is requiring travel, lodging, etc. then the budget for your attendee is affected. First, purchasing in bulk is generally less per serving. I’ve hosted events where lunch was just $5 per person due to the catering discount of a bulk purchase. Had those guests gone off site, their meal with tip would have been at least $10 and up to $15 per person.
- Warm & Welcoming – nothing says to people that they are welcomed into a space than allowing them to linger and connect with people. The cliché saying “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” shouldn’t be part of our ministry playbook. Just because an event ends before meal time, doesn’t mean you can’t provide a meal option. A recent event I attended ended just before lunch. Instead of ushering everyone home, they had an “after party” that included a free lunch and beverages and a fun market place we could walk through made up of local businesses. There were plenty of places to sit and mingle.
The example Christ sets for us in how we engage “the many” is exactly what we should be employing. Jesus said “don’t send them away”. If our event is at our church or under the banner of our church, do we really want people to feel unwanted or unwelcomed? If we have the space to host events in our own buildings, do we really want to close those doors and send our guests elsewhere? What if instead we invited them to sit down, rest, and break bread with us?
When We Feed the Few
In John 13:1-17, Jesus has gathered with the disciples for dinner. He knew that the hour of his return to the Father was approaching. It says that the evening meal was already in progress, when Jesus began washing the feet of the disciples. It was here, that Jesus would instruct the disciples to do for others what Christ had done for them… in his absence.
This meal, unlike a large event, is far more intimate. There are times, the Lord calls us to serve many at one time… and then there are times He calls us to gather our closest to us and to serve them directly and humbly. Who are our few? What if we have multiple groups that are close in different ways?
- The Leadership Team – the people whom you are serving with on a team are connected by how/who we serve. Getting together occasionally outside of serving others, to draw closer as a group will bless your ministry as a whole.
- Your Study Group – whether you make the meal part of your small group, or choose to spend an evening breaking away from the normal study and instead fellowshipping as a group, you are creating new connections. This could also be a great option for a small group that is for couples. What if the wife of the leader met with the women in the group for a meal, just the ladies? What if the men did the same? What deeper connections can be made as you break bread with one another.
- Your Mentors – there are those who are pouring into you, consider making a point to not only thank and honor them for investing in you but also connecting them to each other.
- Those You Send – perhaps you have had the opportunity to be a Paul to a few Timothys that you are preparing to release out into the world, gather and serve them one last time to set the tone for the leadership you hope they will share with those the Lord puts under their charge.
- The New Girls – what a great way to welcome women into the church by making a point as a Women’s Ministry leader to get together with new members of the church. Talk with your Pastors or Finance Committee about creating budget and space for a smaller monthly luncheon for new ladies. Take them on a tour of the church, answer their questions, get to know them better, and most of all make them feel welcomed and valued.
Breaking bread with others is about creating a moment that stands in memory, fosters community, and serves others well.