Steve and I love having people from our church to our house for dinner; it gives us a chance to get to know them better and also lets them get to know each other better. Unfortunately, when most people think of having a lot of people over a meal, they get a bit panicked over two main things:
- Having enough money to buy food for a group.
- Having enough time and energy to cook and clean up for a group.
We have solved those two dilemmas with one easy solution: At our dinner parties, everybody is asked to contribute something.
Now that is not to say that I just call up a bunch of people and say, “Come over Saturday night and bring something.” No, that’s a bit risky—unless of course, we wanted to end up with four pans of brownies. (Which, come to think of it, I would be perfectly okay with.)
The easiest way I’ve found to be sure we get a variety of food is this: When I invite someone, I let them know right off the bat that it’s a potluck type gathering. Then I tell them we need two main dishes (one chicken, one non-chicken), a couple side dishes, and two desserts (one chocolate and one non-chocolate) and I let them take their pick. If I invite a single man or someone who isn’t big on cooking, I just assign soft drinks and tea for them to bring.
After everyone has chosen what they want to bring, I see which menu holes need to be plugged and that’s what I prepare—usually it just ends up being one or two items.
The great part about this is that it’s not a lot of trouble or expense for anyone, everyone gets to try everyone else’s cooking and it makes clean up a cinch because everyone takes their dish(es) home with them. We recently had a dinner for ten people and when everyone had left, Steve and I had the dishwasher loaded and the kitchen/dining room completely clean in less than fifteen minutes. (Our wonderful daughter usually does clean up for us but she was gone that night.)
The most gratifying part of this whole thing is watching people who have gone to church together for years say things like, “Really? I didn’t know that about you.” It’s seeing newcomers sit for a couple hours with good people over good food and start to feel like they belong. It’s being able to give people the increasingly rare experience of spending time together where conversation is the only entertainment.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me in the days following a dinner,”We just had such a good time at your house. It was so relaxing and refreshing just to sit and talk; we hardly ever get to do that anymore.”
In short, that sort of evening is a win win, all around. We absolutely love doing it and highly recommend it!
As a variation on that theme, over the past two years that Steve has pastored here in Manteo I’ve been wanting to find a way to get the women of the church together for some “get to know you” time without making it a lot of work for any one person. I finally came up with a simple plan and named it Chick Chat. Here’s a little ad I put together that I run in the church bulletin and on our church website.
The concept is beyond simple. Everyone shows up with food for themselves. That’s it.
The only prep involved is spreading out a plastic table cloth, lighting candles, starting a CD, putting out name tags, and laying out some chocolate. (Those are my only non-negotiables for each evening: name tags, chocolate, music, and candles.)
Some ladies bring leftovers from home (that’s what I do) and others grab something from a drive through. (This was taken a few minutes before starting time; the table ended up being packed.)
It never fails to amaze me how much fun it is just to sit down with a bunch of women--we represent a fifty-year age span--and just enjoy simple (non gossipy) conversation.
We have chortled and laughed and we have listened to a cornucopia of stories—some from younger career women, some from busy housewives, some from single women and newlyweds, and some from the older ladies reminiscing about life on the Outer Banks back in the day. (May I just say that we have some really funny women at our church and the older ones are the funniest!)
In a world that is aggressively interconnected by Facebook, blogs, social networks, e-mail and cell phones, I think that people are more hungry than ever for simple conversation and simple time spent together, bypassing altogether the electronic connections that so often pass for relationships.
So tell us—is there anything you do to make entertaining a bit more simple? To encourage conversation among your friends and family? To make non-technical connections between the people around you?
I think this is an increasingly important topic in an increasingly lonely world and I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
I posted this picture last week and got several queries asking what it was.
And in fine, helpful blogger fashion, I told you that I didn’t know.
While I was not able to venture a guess, my helpful blog readers jumped in with some great ideas:
Becky said, “I think it is one of those big birds tangled up in a net.”
Nancy Irving said, “The objects in the picture look like some kind of buoys.”
Anonymous said, “Could it be some kind of strange jelly fish that washed up? I know when I have visited Hilton Head (forever ago) and other places with large beautiful bodies of water they would wash up on shore, dead, and then someone had the job of "Official Removal of Dead Jellyfish" would come by and dispose of them. That's all I can think of by what I can see in the picture? All I can say is Google images of dead jelly fish on the shore??? Gross, yes, but maybe the answer. How about showing the pictures to one of the "locals" from Church and see of they know?”
(I actually posted the picture on FB no one has yet come up with a definitive answer.)
A few days ago, I was at another beach area and saw more of these “thingie,” this time with stuff growing out of them!
When I get it figured out, I’ll let you know!
I also got a comment/question in regards to this picture I posted yesterday.
Becky M said, “Just trying to understand more, what were they dancing about? That is the best way I can think of asking.”
Hi Becky, thanks for your great question!
I guess the best answer would be that they weren’t really dancing “about” anything; they were doing a choreographed dance as an art form and using that creative art form as a means of worship, just the way music and singing are used in church as part of a worship service.