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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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February 19, 2008

The changing face of potlucks

According to Religion News Service “nothing gets people to church like food.”

The article noted that few people are willing to devote “entire Sundays to church. Now in many churches, clergy say, some congregants don’t let the door hit them on the way out to children’s activities, movies, shopping trips or televised sports.”

So potlucks have changed to counteract this. Some congregations provide the main dish to allow “young parents to bring an appetizer or dessert, or even come empty-handed.” ELCA deaconess Judy Hoshek said “making sure people don’t have to worry about preparing dinner is one reason for the growing popularity of a weekly Lenten program that offers a meal beforehand. ... The meals are simple soup and a sandwich so they offer busy church members sustenance and the chance for fellowship and spiritual reflection without burdening volunteers with the responsibility of preparing something elaborate.”

The article states that “churches still offer meals to promote the joy of community, but they also have them as a means to evangelize, serve the needy and to encourage people to come to programs.”

It’s true. I’ve seen hot dishes (where the safe return of that casserole dish requires a name written on masking tape) replaced with aluminum catering dishes and sterno. Subway sandwiches tempt people to stay for the annual congregational meeting. At one new-member class I was treated to food ... but little else.

Is this a good trend? The churches in this article did report increased attendance at activities and more community involvement. But does anyone miss that homemade tuna casserole?

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