Dinner Church

When people hear the word “church,” they often think of pews and 75-minute services designed with a certain feeling of coming, receiving and going, all in quick succession. 

But what if church looked differently? A small band of INUMC leaders is dreaming of something new, expressions of church that still center on the Gospel, still take interest in life transformation, and to see the hungry fed. Except they’re not only interested in spiritual hunger, but physical hunger, as well. 

Dinner Church is an idea put forward by Dr. Verlon Fosner who believed that perhaps there was a different way of doing church in the midst of a fast-changing world. While some traditional church models are in decline, Dinner Church is a fresh expression asking for new movements of the Holy Spirit. https://dinnerchurch.com/about/

Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development, leads a Dinner Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Attendees share a meal together, then someone tells a five-minute Jesus story. The same four questions are asked every week, providing an opportunity for personal reflection upon whatever Jesus story has been chosen that week.

“Our zip code has the highest poverty rate in the state of Indiana. When we offer a free meal, it’s a bigger deal than if we were doing this in the suburbs.” Ed’s hope is that “unchurched people become hosting and serving, so that they take ownership and feel like it’s theirs” and that this model stretches throughout Indiana. 

This model, however, seems to work whether a community struggles with physical hunger or not. Ron Marcoux pastors in a community where physical hunger isn’t as much of an issue, and Dinner Church is equally popular.

At pastor Ron’s church, Dinner Church is music-focused. After sharing a meal and announcements, musicians (who are always paid) play for almost an hour. While Christian music is always part of the set, pastor Ron also allows musicians to include other music (as long as it’s clean). 

Darlene White, Administrative Assistant to the Bishop, attends a Dinner Church in Indianapolis that acts more like a small group. They eat together, share prayer requests, and listen to one another’s concerns. After experiencing this community, Darlene said, “If I can do this for this small group, I can do this for my other neighbors.” She believes that this model can not only change how we do church services but how the Church reaches beyond its own walls. 

The Church continues to evolve and change; The United Methodist Church is grateful for its leaders that are willing to try new things to reach more people in the name of Jesus Christ. 

Photos shared with permission by Pastor Ron Marcoux.