54. Meals Inside the City are Rarely Shared

My visits to several inner city churches revealed a universal focus on feeding ministries to the homeless and hungry, where programming ran the gamut from on-site meals to delivered meals, to organizing and sending church members out to already-established citywide programs as volunteers.  If you saw the photo posted with this post of a charitable serving of a Thanksgiving meal, you will notice what I have seen nearly everywhere I go: Servers are never eaters.  They are happy and smiling and gloved and “protected” from the “other” by keeping a physical barrier (usually a table or counter) between themselves and those accepting a meal.  And this is what a shared meal would NEVER do.

One large church of 800 members in metropolitan Washington, D.C. had multiple ongoing food ministries, many in partnership with established, reputable city social programs. Each was organized by different church lay-volunteers. For example, this church participated regularly in the interfaith SOME (So Others Might Eat)[1] ministry in the city by distributing a single casserole recipe once a month in an empty aluminum baking pan. Church members took home a recipe and pan, bought the ingredients, and assembled a casserole to deliver to church the following Sunday. The SOME ministry van picked up the casseroles to take to their dining room for feeding the homeless.

The church’s multiple youth groups and other adult small groups each took one Friday night (about three times per year) to prepare a hot meal and sack lunches for the homeless. The cost of the food is a line item in the church budget, and volunteers do the shopping and cooking. Once all the food is prepped, volunteers join a Grate Patrol[2] van and are driven to assigned intersections in the city to give the homeless one hot meal for the night and a sack lunch for the following day. This too was not something developed and run by the church-they simply tapped into the existing secular feeding infrastructure in the city. And although the church has its own large kitchen, its membership size makes on-site meal sharing challenging (not many churches have a dining area that seats 800). The church sponsors one banquet a year, at Christmastime, for its members. Seating is limited, and people have to sign up to reserve a seat.

When I asked why the church participates in different food ministries, the answers were fairly typical. One teen volunteer shared,

“These are people, just like us, so we talk to them. And sometimes they tell us their stories, and we just try to be kind to them. Respect their dignity, and all that. I would say that there’s more to it than just handing them food and giving them a bag lunch.”

An adult volunteer agreed,

“I agree. In my experience with GRATE Patrol, we still get to know the people because folks are at the same spot every time you go around. You begin to recognize faces, and they begin to recognize you. And they interact.”

This statement made me wonder; if you only participate three times per year, how are real relationships built?

In the end, hungry people eat, and the volunteers are a blessing in their own city.

The teen told me,

“We get a lot of ‘God bless you and thank you for what you are doing.’ Actually, at one point one fellow, who we recognize, we were going out around Christmas, and we were giving him his food, and he reaches into his pockets and says “Merry Christmas”, and he hands two of us candy canes. I got this great sense of gratitude. I get the great sense that they are… grateful.

But then she went on,

It’s really poignant, … we were driving down yesterday, on Great Patrol, and right there is the Capitol building, and we are literally serving these meals in the shadow of all these monuments, and art galleries, and everything, and it makes me think that, you know, we’re a first world country, and we can’t take care of our poor. It’s hard.”

In these ministries, food is shared. But the meal itself is not. One point that consistently came out in these interviews was the feeling amongst volunteers that this food is precious and needed by the homeless and hungry. Volunteers almost universally felt it would be like taking the food out of a hungry person’s mouth if they sat down to eat together. In essence, it was as if they thought, “I am not hungry. But, I can help feed the hungry with my care and time.”

This is where a faithful understanding of all the ways a SHARED meal as a Christian practice can make a significant difference in the lives of everyone involved.  Is it logistically difficult?  Yes!  Is it time-consuming?  Yes!  Is it personally risky?  Yes!  Uncomfortable?  Yes!   But it is the right way to eat.  We need to eat together.  And often.

In the next post (#55), we will take a concerted look at a church-initiated inner city meal program for the homeless.

Please leave comments in the Leave a Comment box.

~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

[1] So Others Might Eat. http://some.org/   March 31, 2016

[2] Grate Patrol. http://virginiasalvationarmy.org/ncac/files/2014/04/Grate-Patrol-One-Pager.pdf   March 31,2016

Photo Credit:  http://charity-matters.com/2013/11/25/the-opposite-of-full/#.WPYSlRiZN-U

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53. When your church building is used for the community meal-but you can’t say grace.

One of the most interesting models I came across was a semi-rural church of less than 50 members struggling to remain vibrant and relevant in a town in the throes of significant economic decline. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to maintain its 500-seat building, this small congregation sat squarely in the middle of a town with an increasing need for food ministries across the local population, most especially among the elderly and developmentally disabled. The church had a large institutional kitchen and dining capacity for 250, but, by themselves, they did not have the human or financial capital to begin and sustain a food ministry. So the church successfully partnered in plurality with others across the county- a local college, the Girl and Boy Scouts, the local home for disabled adults, and other churches (to name a few), today providing a community-wide free and shared meal twice a month supported by donations and grant monies, and directed by part-time paid personnel who are not church members. It has become quite a social scene. Meals are cooked by a chef, people get a plate of hot, home-cooked food served through the kitchen window. They eat together around beautifully set tables. Beverages and dessert are served by volunteers who also eat after everyone else is served. At the meal I attended, the mood was buoyant-people had come to eat, but, perhaps even more importantly, they had come to be together for an hour. In informal conversation, diners shared how much they look forward to getting out for this meal, for the companionship, hot food, and warm welcome it entails. They remarked that it was like eating a meal with a big family. And, the food was exceptionally good-nothing “institutional” about it.

But, by definition, this was not a shared meal as Christian practice where people eat around the table together in God’s presence giving voice and assent to that presence.  This is because the plurality of the partnerships essential for the program to survive also necessitated that all faith-based activity, including grace before the meal and a sharing of the gospel were unacceptable to most of the sponsors. So, it is a meal that is shared by the community in a beautiful old church building where explicit references to the coming kingdom of God are muzzled, and the church members can only hope that coming to the church for a meal will encourage more people to investigate the church itself. An organizer, who is also a Christian but not a member of any church, said that religion is off the table at the meals because,

“I don’t want to exclude anybody. I don’t want the conflict. And it hurts me to do that, but I’ve seen it before. I have to pick sides. There’s people who told me, this is the first time they have been inside of a church. Could that be a start?”

Another interesting phenomenon at this church is that most of the church’s members do not really participate – they don’t support the program as volunteers, they don’t come to share the meal, and they are somewhat threatened that “outsiders” are using “their” church. One significant reason is that they are elderly themselves. But, the real threat is that the church membership has dwindled from 500 to 50 since its heyday in the 1960’s.   It is easy to see how these elderly members conflate the two issues in their minds- that their own congregation faces extinction, and that the hospitality of a warm and sincere welcome to the “other,” including the developmentally disabled, the poor, and the non-Christian elderly, always has an element of “stranger danger”.   They would very much like to grow their membership, but not necessarily if it threatens the church’s historical way of life.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for members in established churches to oppose opening the door to people considered undesirable in the world’s eyes. Such hospitality is viewed as a threat to the shared history and family-like “feel” within the congregation. The assumption is that needy outsiders will never be able to contribute to the larger community, a belief sown in our human refusal to recognize the dignity and worth of all people made in the image of God. But, as Christine Pohl graciously reminds us,

“[People] not valued by the larger community are essentially invisible to it. Hospitality can begin a journey toward visibility and respect… Deep sensitivity to the suffering of those in need comes from our ability to put ourselves in their position, and from remembering our own experiences of vulnerability and dependence… If, when we open the door, we are oriented toward seeing Jesus in the guest, then we welcome that person with some sense that God is already at work in his or her life.”[1]

It is difficult for many of us to even think of sharing a common meal with people on the other side of our doors, people with whom we can’t conceive of sharing the Lord’s supper, people that we, if we are honest, don’t want around our children. We must overcome our fears. If we truly understand the depth of our own sin, the magnitude of God’s mercy in Christ, then we cannot help but become merciful to others. It is the way of the disciple outlined by Jesus in the Beatitudes. We don’t feed the needy stranger out of our own moral superiority, but out of our poverty of spirit. It is our own bottomless neediness for God that should drive our desire to share His kingdom with the stranger.

In post 54, we will begin looking at some of the shared meal practices of the inner city churches I interviewed.  Stay tuned!

~J.A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

[1] Pohl, C. Making Room, 1999. pp 62, 65, 68

 

 

52. Food Ministry: what do other Churches do?

As I introduced in Post #51, I set about to interview several churches to determine some common denominators of typical church food ministry, and if any of them “fit” the definition of the Christian practice of a shared meal. It was revealing to study the people involved in the food ministries, most easily categorized as lay/volunteer vs. professionalized. These factors regarding who is planning and implementing each program, who is serving and sharing meals, how the programming is funded, the number of person-hours required, and the ownership and sustainability of such endeavors are complex and all overlap, as the following diagram illustrates.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 11.34.58 AM

As you can see, Christians engage in a multitude of food-related programs that are all motivated by a sincere desire to help others and their community. Let me emphasize that these are all good things born out of our love and compassion for our neighbors. Each type of food program has a common set of characteristics that include type of program, its ownership, delivery, general acceptance and sustainability within the congregation, and its basic organization, either as specifically Christian, a plurality of faiths, or a partnership with secular organizations in which Christianity is not the primary driving motive of the service.

According to the interviews, food-related ministries can be codified into one of four basic types: served (SV), shared (SH), a combination of served and shared (S&S), or other (O). The following table illustrates what I found.

                                                                                                                                   

     SH

       SV

    S&S

       O

Food Pantry, Food Truck, Freezer Ministry– food is distributed on site to take home           x    
Meal Ministry-a hot meal on site         x         x        x  
Food Delivery– a meal, sack lunch, or grocery bag is delivered               x    
Gift Cards for Food           x    
On Site Garden or Urban Farm or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)              x
On Site Farmers’ Market              x
After School and Summer Child Nutrition           x    
On Site Food-related Education/Job Training              x
Small Group Meals Ministry         x      

Many churches I visited had multiple food ministry activities going on. An in-church potluck or picnic, and meals amongst the small groups formed out of the membership (e.g. a small group or Bible study) were common. But, it was rare to find a church in which members and strangers actually sat down and shared a meal on a regular and frequent basis.       

Most of the programs I studied began with one person’s vision. As programming is wont to do, a visionary sees a need and has an idea, then seeks support, both in human and capital resources, and, before you know it, a program is born! After initial growth and success, sustainability is threatened if the original stakeholder fails to organize and nurture reliable and committed human resources (i.e., if there is insufficient buy-in and ownership amongst a majority of the church’s members), if the vision becomes stagnant, if the need declines, if the original visionary burns out or leaves, or if the financial means of the originating church body declines.

At this juncture, I observed two different paths most churches take. In the more successfully sustained programs, there was a natural evolution from volunteer visionary, to paid part-time oversight, to the creation of a full time paid director, a difference I labeled as lay-volunteer vs. professional-paid oversight. We have all witnessed the other path in which the visionary leaves or burns out, and the program is left withering on the vine without a champion.

In Post #53, I will begin to describe some of the churches I interviewed along the way. Stay tuned!

~ Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

51. Reaching In, Reaching Out: Meals, Food, and Church

I have taken a long hiatus from the blog to relax, rewind, refresh, and rest in Scripture this winter.  Thanks for sticking with me!  Here is the beginning of the final chapter of this e-book about shared meals as a Christian practice.  This, and the following weekly posts can help nudge you to think about the food ministry at your own church.

There are multiple approaches to food and hunger through food ministries in the North American Church. All do good things. Some give out food from a pantry or a cash gift card to a grocery store. Others prepare or organize a meal to feed new parents, the ill, the grieving, or the aged. Still others use a meal for evangelical purposes, always letting participants hear that God loves them. And some intentionally create a formal atmosphere more similar to the original practice of marrying the meal with worship and teaching. Some churches work alone, others together, often in partnership with local secular organizations.

I interviewed stakeholders from multiple and different ministries in an attempt to describe the scope of mission and vision where meal ministry is concerned, and to get a sense of how that is working out in practice.[1] Certainly, feeding the hungry is an action believers are called to do, no strings attached. But my visits were predicated on the desire to know if feeding someone a meal rather than sharing one around the table together were practices with different motives, possibilities, and results.

Going in, my intuition said that feeding people can become a community’s collaborative way of loving neighbor without necessarily bringing Jesus and the kingdom of heaven into the shared conversation. And this phrase shared conversation is critical. If the shared meal as a distinctive Christian practice was and is always about being around the table together in God’s presence, and giving voice and assent to that presence, then programs in which one can stop in to pick up some food (no shared meal), or come in and be seated and served by church members (a meal served but not shared between visitors and believers) is fundamentally different from the shared meals of the first century church.   The people providing the meal go away feeling good about themselves, about having met the physical needs of their neighbors, but with little to no acknowledgment that we are all hungry and in need of God’s grace-filled presence and provision, no different than my experience in Seattle with the unnamed and hungry homeless woman. (see post #18)

In essence, it is a fulfillment of the second commandment that may give little or no regard to the first, and as a practice it is not distinctively Christian because it misses this point: we should know the names of the hungry and share with them a meal and Jesus’ favorite mealtime teaching that the Kingdom of God is at hand. We must remember that a Christian practice is only a practice when it is done together, regularly, and with a focus on the presence of God and his kingdom. The meal, then, is meant to be an intimate shared practice, one which most of us must admit is an uncomfortable proposition because adding strangers into the mix intrudes on our personal space and plays on our insecurities.

It might be easy to become defensive at this point and insist that the shared meal of the first century church was shared among believers. But scholars contend that although the early church did meet for worship and teaching and the breaking of bread together, all were welcome to eat and hear and see God’s goodness, believers and unbelievers, Jews and Gentiles alike. These meals did feed the hungry, but they were not focused first and foremost on that goal. The emphasis was (and still should be today) on Christ and the kingdom.

Moreover, the distinctive Christian practice of hospitality is at play in the shared meal. The four components of hospitality outlined by Amy Oden elegantly describe how these meals should proceed. First, the greeting and welcome. Second, nourishment and dwelling together (food and Word). Third, a challenge to know God and live a life which pleases him (this is a most important component of the practice that is usually missing when a meal is not shared). Fourth, the sending back into the world fortified with Word and prayer as well as a full stomach. And so I set out to do this research because I wanted to find out what people and programs are doing and why.

Over the course of two years, I met with stakeholders, visionaries, pastors, and lay members of various churches-inner city, rural ones with membership challenges, and suburban ones with lots of resources. Several overlapping program characteristics emerged from these interviews, including the type of program and individuals carrying out the programming, as well as the ownership, faith basis, and sustainability of each program. My main goal was to try and identify the commonalities and substantive differences across programs, and see if the shared meal-as a Christian practice- was an ingredient in the recipe of various church food ministries.

In Post 52, we will begin to survey the themes that arose from these interviews. Stay tuned!  As always, your comments are helpful as I continue editing the book.  Use the LEAVE A REPLY box below!

~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

[1] As part of the formal research process, interviewees were required to give written consent to be interviewed in exchange for guaranteed confidentiality.

50. Too busy to eat, pray or love?

When we become overwhelmed by the way life can steal our sense of peace, give some thought and prayer to ways you can reign in the overcommitment, and gather nightly as a family around a nutritious meal.  When we are just hanging on all the time, the REAL needs of our souls are ignored, which is the twin necessity for relationship and food.  It is all symptomatic of the SAME problem.

Relationships take time.  How are you doing in your daily relationship with God?  With your spouse?  Kids?  Neighbors?   What about food, both physical AND spiritual?  How’s it going getting healthy food in the lunch boxes and on the dinner table every day?   Are you feeding regularly on God’s Word?  Is your prayer life nutritious?

Don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, think.  Perhaps what are you doing now is just crazy.  Does your battle with the clock rob your family of together time?  Keep you away from church too often? Running through the fast food drive-through out of desperation?

DECIDE.  Begin to PLAN how this COULD all go BETTER if you made even a couple of small changes.  Enlist the family’s help.  Start small and work your way up.  And take pleasure in the results!

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is responsible for the food in your home?
  2. What are some of the food challenges you face on a daily basis?   (e.g., budget limitations, picky eaters, food allergies, wacky schedules).
  3. What are some ways your family meets the disparate food demands of the group?
  4. Who decides what to eat? Where to eat? When to eat?
  5. Where does the food in the house come from?
  6. Who prepares the table, the food, and the menus?
  7. What kind of lunch do family members eat on weekdays?
  8. How often do you eat out? Is eating out usually at a fast food place?
  9. What are your table rules?
  10. How is your lack of time related to your prayer life?  Your love life?  Your family life?  Are these issues really, at heart, just one problem?
  11. Let’s say that being organized is not your strength.  How DOES a family meal happen without good planning?  What could you do differently?
  12. Let’s say you are a hyper-organized agenda maker.  Does your attitude sometimes feel like tyranny to the rest of the family?  Is there a way to plan and be organized without acting like an Army drill sergeant?
  13. Make a table and put each family member’s name in a column across the top.  In the rows, list out meal planning and prep issues that need to occur, and place an X in each column if that issue is age-appropriate.  For example, you may place an X under Joe’s name for helping cut up veggies for lunches, because Joe is 14 and capable of safely using a knife.  You might place an X under Carlie’s name in the table setting row, because she is 6 years old, and this is an age-appropriate practice.  We KNOW you are BUSY, and that it often feels as if doing these things will go faster if you just do them yourself.  But, making a list, and posting it on the fridge can be a reminder that you are actually helping family member contribute to meals in wonderful ways.  Let them develop their talents as they help out!

 

A MEAL PRACTICE TO CONSIDER AND DISCUSS

  1. Set aside four days, on average, per week when every family member is expected to be present for an evening meal. Try to meet at the same time for each meal.

 

Shared Table Blessings posts will be on holiday hiatus until early 2017. Please use this time to enjoy your shared meals at home and with others!  Thanks for reading.

Blessings,

~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

49. Meals at Home: Plan, Prep, Prosper!

The Importance of Planning Menus

Ask people why their family doesn’t meet for meals around the table on a regular basis, and you will get a predictable litany about zany schedules. Because we all complain of being too busy, the practice of shared meals can only happen if you plan them well and develop a rotating menu that is both easy and affordable.  It takes an attitude shift.

The first rule of thumb for shared meals is that they be simple. If you have time and the inclination to experiment with complicated recipes, knock yourself out. But, if you feel pressed for time, the best palliative is a well-stocked cupboard, a dozen simple recipes, and a general plan for a week or two at a time. Well-planned meals always create leftovers for the next day’s lunches or for another meal. For example, when I make a pork loin in the slow cooker on Sunday, it’s a given that we’ll be having pork chop suey later in the week. If I need cooked hamburger tonight for tacos, I cook up twice what’s needed so that later in the week we can have spaghetti with meat sauce, or a quick beef stroganoff.

So, here’s a short list of easy suggestions to stretch meals, keep an eye on the family’s nutrition and budget, and make things as simple as you possibly can.

  • Learn to use a slow cooker like a Crock Pot. Prep the chopped ingredients the night before, and in just fifteen minutes the next morning you can have tonight’s dinner in the pot. (Because the pot gets quite hot, keep it out of reach of inquisitive toddlers).
  • Learn the value of homemade soups. Soups from scratch are far lower in sodium, and can be used to stretch expensive meats while greatly increasing your family’s daily servings of beans and vegetables. A large pot of soup made on a weekend afternoon can become soup for lunches later in the week.[1] Soups freeze well, and can be defrosted quickly when you have little time to get supper on the table. Serve soup with bread, cheese, yogurt, a green salad, or fruit and you have an affordable healthy meal.
  • Although we like to joke about our grandmothers’ casseroles, the “meal in a dish” concept is helpful when you are stretched for time, because casseroles can be made ahead of time. When following recipes, make sure to cut the fat, sour cream, cream cheese, shredded cheese, and sodium as much as possible, because most of your grandmothers’ recipes are not all that healthy. Casseroles also make good leftovers.
  • Depend on the baked potato. A baked potato is a hot, healthy basis for a simple meal. Top it with sauces like chicken ala king, chili, creamed dried beef, or stroganoff (all of which can be premade and frozen). Avoid the high fat toppings like cheese, bacon and sour cream. Be liberal in your use of colorful vegetables as toppings.
  • If you are not a vegetarian, it is still important to consider having a meatless day once each week. A “Meatless Monday” is a fantastic practice to undertake. Since most of us were taught that the meat is the main character of any meal, preparing meatless dishes takes practice. This is a good time to learn how to make quick and easy stir fry dishes.
  • Pre-prep as many of your vegetables as possible soon after grocery shopping. If your week’s menu of recipes call for things like chopped onion, celery, or carrots, chop and bag them up in quantity for later in the week. The same holds true for vegetables that will go in lunchboxes. It’s fine to purchase pre-prepped vegetables, but it is cheaper and more nutritious if you do this at home closer to the time you’ll need them.
  • When fruits and vegetables are in season and fresh, buy up quantities and freeze or can them. There’s nothing like eating your own spaghetti sauce made in August from fresh tomatoes and basil and sweet Vidalia onions in the middle of the winter! Taking advantage of fruits and vegetables in season means you’ll save money and have these healthy foods available year-round from your own shelves. This does take time and work and planning. Get the whole family involved.
  • When making menus, try to plan at least two meals in which one night’s food can become the basis for another night’s meal. Make a pot of chili tonight, have chili-topped baked potatoes another. Roast a chicken for tonight, and use the carcass to make soup for another meal. Make a meatloaf tonight, and crumble the leftovers to have with spaghetti sauce later in the week. You can find internet recipes and recipe books with a multitude of suggestions. Any leftover meats are useful ingredients in subsequent day’s salad, casserole, or stir fry.
  • Since bread is a basic ingredient in a simple meal scenario, consider using a bread machine. Although the cost outlay is significant, you will save a lot of money by making your own bread. Moreover, you can make breads that are healthier, fresher, and tastier than store-bought bread. If you have people in your family or circle of friends who are gluten-intolerant, you can find gluten-free recipes for bread machines.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the simple pizza made from scratch. Homemade dough is quick and easy (a few weekends a year you can even make pizza crusts in quantity and freeze), and pizza-making as a family is fun, allowing people to use toppings they enjoy. Leftover pizza is a great next day lunch too. Best of all, making your pizza from scratch allows you to make them healthy and nutritious, using less cheese, less fatty meats (sorry, but pepperoni, bacon, and sausage aren’t too healthy, so use with care),more veggies, and higher-fiber crusts.

Post #50 will provide Discussion Questions for those studying this last chapters on shared meals at home, followed by a holiday hiatus.

Happy Eating!

~Julie A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

[1] We are typically microwave dependent for a hot lunch these days. But, you can still buy a high quality thermos which will keep hot foods hot for up to six hours. So, even schoolchildren can have a hot, home cooked lunch. The trick is to get the child to remember to bring the empty thermos home at the end of the day!

48. Lettuce & Ketchup Sandwiches

In this post, we continue the list of table/meal rules we began in post 47.  Once you have read them, write down the meal rules you followed as a child, and the ones you have instituted in your own family over the years.  Are there some that you would like to re-visit?  Begin to incorporate?

  • No talking with your mouth full or chewing with your mouth open.
  • No seconds of a particular food until what was served is eaten (or tried in the case of the ‘one-bite’ rule)
  • No trading foods at the table, or eating off another person’s plate, or sneaking food to the dog under the table.
  • No raised voices at the table.
  • Proper use of cutlery is expected (the knife is not a light saber).
  • Keep your hands to yourself and sit up properly in your seat.
  • Pre-determine who will sit where to avoid fights; a rotating seating chart is helpful, as is keeping track of who sits in mom or dad’s chair when a parent is out of town.
  • Everyone is expected to thank the cook(s) after every meal.
  • If you incorporate prayer and/or the reading of Scripture at a meal, decide ahead of time who will be responsible on a given evening.
  • No use of ugly words, inappropriate stories, gossip, or disrespectful tones at the table. Ugly words are just that, words which inflame, belittle, or create a vision of something too unpleasant to be considered acceptable at the table. In our family, this list includes words like hate, stupid, moron, pee and poop.
  • Involve all family members in the “making” of a meal, from menu planning, grocery shopping (and unpacking and putting away at home), meal preparation, table preparation, table service, saying grace, reading Scripture or devotions, and cleaning up afterwards. Encourage children to be in the kitchen- even small children can help put together a salad or stir the soup. Be ready for surprises like spills, cuts, or unusual menu items. The first meal our daughter, age six, proudly prepared for us, after shooing us out of the kitchen, was lettuce and ketchup sandwiches. We were compelled to pronounce every bite delicious!
  • Consider creating a useful rubric, or set of questions for guiding family meal conversation; here are just a few ideas:
    • Where did you meet God today?
    • Who did something nice for someone else today?
    • What’s the neatest thing you learned today?
    • Who knows why it’s good for us to eat this broccoli tonight?
    • If you could invite one other person, living or dead, to share this meal, who would it be?
    • If you could have a different first name, what would it be? Why?
    • What was in the news today? What should we pray about?
    • Did anything happen today that was unexpected or hard for you to handle?
    • Who remembers something from last Sunday’s sermon?
    • What two foods would you have to have with you on a deserted island?
    • What does it mean to be hungry?
    • What did Jesus eat? When he was a boy, do you think there was any food his mother Mary served that he didn’t like?
    • God gave the Israelites manna in the desert. What is that? Does God give us manna today?
    • With just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, Jesus fed over 5,000 people. What do you think it was like to be there and see that happen?
    • Where does hamburger come from? What about ham?
    • Why do lots of people decide not to eat meat? Dairy? Eggs? Fish? Poultry?
    • What are some foods we grow right here in our own state?
    • What makes a Happy Meal so happy?
    • If you made dinner for the family next Saturday, what would you cook?
    • Is there anybody at church, or school, or work you think we should invite over for a meal sometime soon?
    • If a total stranger rang the doorbell right now, should we invite him/her in for dinner?