Friday, August 6, 2010

Food as Ministry

When you read the title to this post, are you automatically thinking of places like a homeless shelter / food kitchen or a food pantry?  Good things and obviously related to food as ministry.  But the focus of this post is going to be about hospitality and fellowship as a tool for ministry.  And the idea that Jesus saw fellowship (i.e. “breaking bread” together) as essential, not just a side benefit.

A couple years ago a good friend and mentor suggested that perhaps my love of hospitality could be a ministry in and of itself.  I’ve always had a hard time fitting myself into normal church ministries like “children’s ministry” or “women’s ministry” and finding a perfect fit.  But equally so, I’ve always loved having people over to our home and serving a good meal.  Thankfully, I also have a husband that enjoys this as well (possibly because he’s a homebody and prefers to be at home more than anywhere else – this we do not have in common!).  It was pretty difficult for us when we lived in someone else’s home and didn’t have that opportunity.  So we were very excited to move into our home and begin to have people over!

But I think so many of us have a hard time seeing things like having people over for dinner as a “ministry”.  If it’s not church-sponsored, then it’s not really a “ministry”, right?  Unfortunately, that’s a very short-sighted view of ministry, but that’s something I had to overcome myself.  I’m so grateful for friends and mentors that have opened my eyes to this reality. 

Jesus understood the importance of food and fellowship in our lives.  At a recent staff meeting where I work (Nebraska Christian College), David Huskey presented a devotion about just this topic.  (Dave and his wife, Jill, are serious about food as ministry.  They regularly cook for Northeast Iowa Bible Camp as well as New Way Singers and CIY groups that are held on NCC’s campus.  And they are diligent about opening their home for food and fellowship.)  Dave pointed out the many times in scripture – the Gospels specifically (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) – where it’s mentioned that Jesus broke bread with people, went to someone’s home for a meal, or even performed a miracle with food (or wine!).  The feeding of the 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and some fish is a famous example.  As is the story of Zacheus, a vertically-challenged and hated tax collector, whom Jesus picked out in a crowd and then proceeded to invite himself to Zacheus’s home for a meal.  The Last Supper is a well-known story of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples right before his death.  But the Bible is filled with even more such accounts of Jesus fellowshipping and breaking bread. 

So in this age of watching our budget and thus limiting our eating out, I’m pursuing this ministry of hospitality even more by inviting people into our home.  I still remember conversing with one of Jake’s co-workers at StoneBridge Christian Church when he first started there and having them recount to us how privileged they would feel when someone would invite them to their home.  It speaks something to people to be invited into one’s home.  So if you offer to go out to eat with us and we turn that offer into an invitation to come over to our house instead, you’ll take us up on it, right?!  Having the opportunity of opening our home as a hospitality ministry to you is our pleasure & privilege!


  1. I love this. I especially love your point about ministry not needing to be church-based. As a new mom, I have to daily (and sometimes hourly) remind myself that my ministry right now is as a mom and a wife. I love having people over, too, but I'm embarrassed by our house. So, recently, I've just taken to randomly making meals for people and taking them to their homes. SInce people brought us meals when we brought home Nathanael, I will never again underestimate the blessing of someone else making a home cooked meal for me!

  2. I agree - I've taken to just telling people I'm bringing food over instead of asking if I can. I find people hate to ask for help (myself included!) but are often appreciative of such gestures. But, Rachel, my friend Kayla has a great blog where she posted about the clean house epidemic. I really thought it was a good take on the matter: You should check it out!

  3. I love this!! It is so true that having people over for a meal is a ministry...altough I hadn't truly thought about it that way until I read this. Thank you for sharing Cari. And by the way, I always felt so privileged and loved when you would have us over when you still lived in Cincy. :)

  4. Here's what Derek and I have decided about our home/food as a mininstry. Through our jobs as teachers, we are connected to literally hundreds of kids who have never or rarely experienced a family unit functioning around a supper table. By asking the young men of Derek's soccer team into our home for meals, we are modeling things they may have not seen before: a family sharing a meal together, a family prayiing together, a husband and wife working together to serve others, a husband and wife parenting their children together. The meal is the centerpiece but it's really a bait and switch. (At least we hope so.) We hope the kids walk away seeing an authentic Christian family who is not perfect but who bases their life on a desire to live as God would have them live.

  5. Apparently my good friend Justin had a hard time posting a comment (which is frustrating to me!) so I'll post it for him:

    the last part of your blog is great. we (cristin and i) have been talking about this a whole lot lately. we have had a bible study at our house for two years now, and the whole thing exists and revolves around food. we read the bible, and that is well and good, but the best part of what we do is share a real meal together. it sounds silly, but its the most powerful part of our group. we have another group that orders pizza every week and their meal time is just to fill their stomachs... their experience is way different than ours. cristin always makes the meal, and its always something amazing. its the only ministry cristin feels she has at the church and because of that, anyone can come to our bible study once, and immediately they are a part of this church. all because of the power and the importance we place around the meal. good blog, good thought. someone should write a small group book about it. wink wink.