Meal ministries in unexpected places

On Thanksgiving weekend, an old school friend sent a message that stoked a thought I’ve been thinking for a while.

Ginny Fisler sent a screenshot of a social-media story shared by one of her friends, Roy Mesa. Here’s what Roy said:

What a great idea!

I wanted to know more, and sure enough, I found local media stories on this particular congregation and their Thanksgiving mission, which they’ve been doing for about a decade. Members of Salado United Methodist Church said they love sharing home-cooked food with truck drivers who have to work on the holidays and other travelers. About 500 meals are served each year.

From Fox7Austin.com: Salado church volunteers serve warm meals at I-35 rest stop.

This Salado, Texas, story reminded me of our own St. Elmo United Methodist Church, which served a Thanksgiving dinner on the streets in downtown Chattanooga on Nov. 24. “To be able to be the hands and feet of Christ is a wonderful opportunity,” Pastor Debra Dickerson told WDEF.

Excellent!

St. Elmo United Methodist Church serves Thanksgiving to the homeless in downtown Chattanooga. Photo courtesy of Amber Rice-Maynor

I’m grateful for these examples of Christians who take the message out of church and into the community in creative and fresh ways. We love our church buildings, but so many people are unlikely to join us in our sanctuaries or fellowship halls, even for a free meal.

I’ll be honest with you and say I know there are people who will not come to our Second Sunday Dinner Party because it is hosted in a church. I know because some of the people we invite tell me directly — or they tell my sons.

We can debate endlessly why some people won’t come to a church, and what we might have done to make church life and church members seem so unattractive. Deserved or not, we have an image problem. If you have a lot of friends who don’t go to church, it will be easier for you to understand that.

So when our Second Sunday Dinner Party recently celebrated its first anniversary, I asked myself yet again: Should we continue to offer this ministry inside a church? Or should we take it somewhere else, where people who don’t go to church will be more likely to join?

I have ideas on what we could do, but I’m interested in your thoughts and observations. I’m also interested in learning about other churches that take their ministries (especially food ministries!) to God’s people outside the church.

Please write to me at annettespence@holston.org.

Thank you, Ginny, for the idea! Ginny is a member at Wheeler United Methodist Church in Blountville, Tennessee.

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