The Lost Art of the Church Potluck

My favorite memories of growing up in a small church are of the church potlucks. And that church still puts on awesome potlucks.

I expect that many of you have similar fond memories of church potlucks. Jana does. This last Sunday I was guest speaking at the East Side Church of Christ in Snyder. Jana was weighing if she wanted to go with me. Jana is a high school drama teacher and she was tired because her show just wrapped up and we'd gotten to bed late after striking the set.

I told Jana that after the service there would be a potluck.

"I think I'll come," Jana said, "there might be banana pudding."

And there was!

I don't know if it's a regional thing, but banana pudding is a staple of potlucks in Texas churches. And it's one of the best things you'll ever eat.

And yet, while it breaks my heart to say this, I think the art of the church potluck is on the decline.

We recently had a discussion about this with some friends at church, that potlucks are happening less frequently and, when they do happen, they aren't done very well. A symptom of a potluck gone bad at our church is when the potluck has to be supplemented by Little Caesar's pizza.

So I have to ask, is the Golden Age of the Church Pot Luck over?

It seems so.

With our friends we floated two hypotheses about the decline of the potluck.

The first was church size. It seems that churches are either very big or very small, making it harder to achieve the sweet spot for a congregation-wide potluck.

Our other hypothesis was about a loss of generational skill. The consensus was that our mothers and grandmothers really knew how to do a potluck. And the main thing was that they brought to the potluck a ton of food, enough for their family and many, many more.

And that, we all know, is the secret to having a good potluck. You have to have a critical mass of people bringing more food than they or their families will eat. A lot more food. And our mothers and grandmothers had go-to pot luck dishes to help produce this abundance.

But today the exact opposite happens. When people under forty go to a potluck most everyone brings a small side dish, not even enough for their family. And you don't have to be a resource allocation guru to know that if most people bring less than what they themselves will eat then that potluck is doomed. But more and more often that's what happening with church potlucks, people bring less than what they will consume.

It seems like an entire generation has forgotten the Golden Rule of the church potluck: Bring more that what you will eat. A lot more.

Because it's that excess and abundance that makes the hospitality of a potuck possible, allowing the spontaneous invitation to the visitor who comes empty-handed to be an experience of gift and grace.

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