Something special happens when people eat together. You relax and sometimes laugh. It gives your group something common to talk about so you can say things like, “Man, this is good, how’d you make this?” If nothing else, it gives you a way to hide awkward conversational silence. But, there’s no way around it, having dinner at small group is stressful!
I think it’s most helpful to remember that there are no rules a group has to follow when it comes to eating. It is helpful to offer something. People will relax and open up easier as a group if they’re holding tea/coffee/water or eating a snack. If you put a decorative bowl of M&M’s on a table in the middle of your group, even if no one eats them, it’ll help your group feel more comfortable.
Positives and Negatives of Offering Dinner:
- Gives people a chance to catch up
- Helps your group connect and get to know each other weekly
- Helps people relax and a group gel together easier than others things you could do
- Makes it easier for families to not have the added stress of eating before driving to group
- For most families it’s nice to not have to cook once a week (bonus of attending group)
- It’s fun to try different people’s food
- Gives people a responsibility in group
- It costs a lot for a family to prepare dinner
- There’s added stress on a family to prepare dinner
- It can affect the group’s flow if dinner shows up late or not at all
- If people hesitate to show up and the dinner burden falls to the same 2-3 people
- It adds time and group needs to end as early as possible for families with young children
- If a group is made up of mostly single people, it can be an even heavier burden to prepare dinner
- If a person can’t afford dinner, it can put people in an awkward position
Alternatives to Offering Dinner
Try having sign ups for snacks/dessert. It’s cheaper and can cut your group’s overall time down. You could do snack/dessert themed nights like, “Bring your favorite dessert, store-bought cookie, chip, fruit for fondue, or cheese, night.” You can simply have one person bring a snack or dessert each week. Anyone can buy a bag of chips or package of cookies for group.
Tips for Dinner
- Make it a group decision. Hear if the group wants to do dinner or not. If they don’t, it won’t help if you are constantly forcing them to sign up
- Talk about it on the first night of group. (Encourage everyone to sign up, if you can’t afford a whole dinner, sign up with someone else)
- It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. (Order pizza a few nights and collect money from everyone, have a few potlucks, or try a picnic night where everyone packs their own simple picnic-type dinner with maybe something to share)
- Host Home: Sometimes people don’t bring enough food. It’s helpful to have some peanut butter and jelly, or other food you could throw out just in case
- As a leader, remember that not everyone may be in the same financial situation or have the same time as you
Huge Group– Have 2 people sign up for dinner each week. One for main course, one for side dishes.
Small Group– Have each family sign up for dinner and then have one or two pizza/ take out nights.
Dinner Doesn’t Show– Send someone to pick up subs or something from a local restaurant (Culprit will feel horrible, don’t let them stay away from group out of shame.)
Dinner Goes Too Long– Group leader, this is on you. Give people a five minute warning. Tell them to bring their plates into the living room.
Dinner is Terrible- Casually bring out some salad, peanut butter and jelly, or something else you can find and not make a big deal about