Stacked plates and punch are staples of church dinners.
Stacked plates and punch are staples of church dinners.

Sharing a meal together is a common custom for congregations in many faiths. Church dinners provide the opportunity to celebrate a special event or anniversary, acknowledge those who contribute to the life and work of the church and share fellowship with church friends and family. Whether a themed event or a traditional potluck, they offer a relatively inexpensive way for large numbers of people to enjoy both a meal and each other's company.

Church Anniversaries and Events

Special occasions are often cause for large church dinners. From solemn occasions such as funeral meals to more joyous events such as wedding meals and receptions, groups of church members gather for buffet-style meals. These are often prepared and served by groups of church members, including bereavement committees or other ministry groups. When the church itself is the focus due to an anniversary or milestone for one of its pastors, the entire congregation is invited to join in a celebratory meal in the fellowship hall. Chicken or spaghetti dinners are also a common fundraising option for churches, with the proceeds supporting youth groups or a building fund, for example.

Volunteer Appreciation

Churches often host large gatherings to honor volunteers or others who serve in the church or contribute to its ongoing ministries. A dinner in honor of mission volunteers or Sunday school teachers, for example, gives the congregation the opportunity to acknowledge large numbers of individuals in a single event. It also provides recognition to those who serve behind the scenes. These people are essential to the successful functioning of most churches, so a church-wide dinner accompanied by small gifts or cards for the honorees is a common way to express the congregation's appreciation.

Seasonal Celebrations

Holidays and seasonal events provide another occasion for church dinners. Many churches host a Thanksgiving dinner prior to the actual holiday, to enable church members to share this special time together before they scatter to their own families' homes. The kitchen ministry or men's group often provides the meat or turkey, while attendees are responsible for bringing side dishes and desserts. Valentine's Day is an opportunity for a lighter meal. Youth groups often prepare a simple meal with special desserts for couples in the church. These "sweetheart dinners" celebrate the couples with decorations, small treats and entertainment.

Traditional Potlucks and Weekly Fellowship

Sunday worship in many congregations is followed by a potluck meal in the fellowship hall. Church members bring a favorite family dish, which is added to a groaning buffet table for participants to share. Certain dishes become crowd favorites without which no potluck is considered complete, and these dishes are the basis for many church cookbooks. Modern-day Christian churches have added weekly dinners, often on a Wednesday, to provide a night off for family cooks and an opportunity for fellowship, followed by children's programs, choir practice or adult classes. Churches often charge a nominal fee for these meals, and a group of church members share the weekly kitchen duties.