Every great gathering has a food component to it. Festivals, the fair, block parties, wedding and even funerals all have food components to them. Food played a major role in Jesus’ ministry.

  • Jesus fed the 5,000
  • Jesus had dinner with sinners
  • Jesus declared his new covenant over a meal
  • Jesus had a hard conversation with Peter over some fish

Food should also play a role in our meetings and especially when connecting with our guests.

Weekly Pre-Service

Food always played part in my weekly youth meetings. Whether we had a kitchen in our youth room or some make shift griddles on a table or the church serving a Wednesday night meal. There was always a pre-service meet, eat and greet time.

Here is how I stared up our youth cafe

One of the gifts I would give our guests is a ticket to get a free meal or free slice of pizza so they would hang around a little longer.

The more I could hand out and eat with our guests, the deeper our relationship went and the chances of them coming back went up.

Building your events around food

What if the big draw to your next event was the kind of food your were serving? What if you had Miss Grandma from your church bring in some baked goodies into your meeting once a quarter?

You don’t have to serve pizza every week. Why not have a salad bar or baked potato bar? What if you had a cookout or a cook off with kids making their favorite dishes? What if GrubHub or DoorDash walked in your meeting with a free meal for your guests?

The activities are important but it’s the conversation over a slice of pizza, a taco or just a cp of coffee that deepens the relationship with all your kids but especially with new kids.

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Yearly Events

One of my favorite food events was a Duck Dynasty Thanksgiving meal. When Duck Dynasty was a big deal I had kids come dressed as someone for the show, we played some duck games and then, like the show, had a big meal together.

There are many times of the year you can make food a centerpiece of a meeting or an event and not just for gross games. Christmas is a great time for a family meal or have black tie awards dinner to give out awards to kids for leadership or going the extra mile.

Food Post Service

If you don’t have a way to cook food in your youth meetings, try to connecting with your guests by inviting them to a youth group outing to Taco Bell, or wherever, after the meeting. Make sure you do it in groups so your guest doesn’t feel awkward

If the guest cannot come with you, have some raincheck cards to give them that so the next time they come they know the meal is free.

Students, and people in general, are more relaxed when they’re eating. They don’t feel threatened and conversation flows much better. Eating and community go hand in hand so find a way to get your guests around a table and watch what happens as they are drawn into your youth ministry.

If you want a wonderful show to binge about food, love, friendship and community let me recommend Midnight Diner on Netflix. Each episode is a mortality tale (some with adult themes, so beware) and how it’s connected with food.

Strategy #4: Conversations That Turn Youth Group Guests Into Members

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