Church: potluck or catering facility?


I’ve been thinking a great deal about the difference between potlucks and caterers – and how they relate to church.

Unfortunately, many churches in North America operate as a catering facility. People come expecting ‘the professionals’ to take care of the all the work and feed them. They pay their dues (the offering) in order for the experts to provide these services. When the experts don’t deliver how people desire, they simply go to another catering facility to have their needs met in order to “be fed.” This may sound well and good, but the problem is you won’t find this posture anywhere in the New Testament. 

Healthy churches have the mindset of a potluck. At a potluck everyone is expected to bring something to share. It requires ownership. Nobody comes empty-handed; nobody leaves empty-stomached. It can be a favorite family recipe passed down for generations or simply platicware or a bag of ice. Big or small, its all important. And at a potluck it is everyone’s responsibility. If everyone shows up empty-handed and expecting everyone else to bring something, you have a lot of hungry people and no food. Sure, its more work, more planning and much more effort, but when everyone participates the variety is fantastic and the food is amazing.

On the Fourth of July our church gathered in the backyard of one of our families to enjoy the national holiday, but more importantly to celebrate the freedom in Christ people were expressing publicly through baptism. It was one of favorite moments in the life of our church. Over 125 people showed up to eat, celebrate those in our church being baptized in the pool and watch fireworks to close out the day. You should have seen the spread of food everyone brought for the potluck. It was incredible. I saw people arrive with trays and bowls and platters in hand and lay them out on the numerous tables. People ate all afternoon. I overheard people saying, “Did you try her potato salad. It’s amazing!” and “That casserole was so good I went back three times.”

And I thought, when we all participate by sharing and receiving, this is what a healthy expression of church looks like!

[ – ] Is the mindset of your church around catering, where the paid professionals do all the work, or  around a potluck, where we all participate by both sharing and receiving from one another?

[ – ] How might you work to see your become more like a potluck, encouraging everyone to participate in the life of the church as the priesthood of all believers?

[ – ] What part are you playing in the potluck?

[ – ] Pastors: when and where do you long to pay the part of caterer in your church? What are the motivations behind that desire?