Once I saw an interview with a top chef who had a secret for throwing fun dinner parties. The secret was greeting her guests in her bathrobe. As each guest arrived, she would tell them that she hadn’t finished getting ready, and for them to make their way into the kitchen to help prepare the dishes for the dinner party. She would then head upstairs and get ready.
While the chef got ready, the guests would figure out for themselves who was going to do which task to get each of the dishes made. She had the menu written out with the recipes. She had the ingredients purchased and laid out in the kitchen. Then, as one person stirred the pasta, another sliced the tomatoes, and another chopped the basil, conversations began.
Soon she would hear the sounds of voices and laughter in the midst of clanking pots and pans. Because they were working together creating the meal to enjoy together, they were engaged, feeling connected and purposeful.
This is the image I had in mind when I began thinking and praying about starting a church in my house. I wanted to call it…..The Generous Table. When you’re at a dinner party with friends there is lots of laughter, fun conversation, and the feeling of being known …
… and this is the atmosphere that I want to create.
The Generous Table has now been gathering 4:30pm every other Sunday since last September. We have a worship service followed by a shared dinner with good food and wine. I see myself as the dinner host designing the elements of a casual worship service, creating the hospitable dinner party setting, and encouraging involvement to make our time meaningful.
Taking a cue from my initial story, I shared at our first gathering an important value for The Generous Table…….contribution. Not only is everyone invited to bring a shared dish for our dinner, but everyone is invited to take part in leading different aspects of the service.
The amateur contributing to our gathering is valued over the professional.
One of the examples I shared in that first gathering was that I would be facilitating our discussion of the week’s Bible story every other time and that I would be looking for others to facilitate for the times in between.
One person who came, and has since come regularly, asked me afterwards if I really meant what she thought I said. She gave me a “not-so-sure” look.
Well, I asked her to facilitate recently and she hesitantly said, “Yes.”
Do you know that when she led our discussion time it went really well?
She shared with me later, “My fear of being in front of people was overshadowed by what I learned by reading the passage in preparation. God spoke to me through that passage in different circumstances of my week, and then, at The Generous Table, through the excitement of the people participating in the discussion. It was a surprising God encounter.”
With The Generous Table, hospitality, listening, and intentionality are emphasized in my pastoral role to guide people to God in their everyday lives.
From my time as a campus minister with Cru, I realized that my students learned more when I approached my minister role as “a coach coming alongside” instead of “a leader out in front” doing everything. When they led the event or Bible study, they owned it and got excited…it didn’t matter to me if it looked polished. In fact, the more unpolished it was the better, because out of it I would get more students saying, “I can do that!”
I want those who are part of The Generous Table to see my unpolished look in different things I do and then say to themselves, “I can do that!” I purposely want an unrefined atmosphere, whether it is the plain white order of worship handouts that aren’t perfectly centered to the kids poking each other before they leave for the kids’ time in the garage.
Tom Cramer describes his experience,
I like how relaxed the atmosphere is at The Generous Table. I especially like being together in a house, children and adults just being family together. Last Sunday, we even had a chicken walk in the back door (yes, you heard it right; the Schweizers participate in 4-H) and one of the younger children just got up and shooed it out as naturally as he eats potato chips. Another thing I love is being with people who haven’t gone to church and who have never read the Bible. It makes my faith feel so fresh and immediate just to hang out with them and to discuss what we are reading. There’s some really crazy stuff that happens in the Bible and it makes for great discussion starters for stuff that happens in our lives today. Lastly, it’s just fun watching God draw people to himself. Because God is so powerful we can just be ourselves and watch God do something beautiful in their lives—and in ours.
Everyone is welcome at The Generous Table!
I’m located in Mission Viejo and we not only have people from Mission Viejo coming, but people from a variety of cities as well. Let me know if you’d like to join us!
Also when you read this article and find yourself saying, “I can do that!” to starting a worship gathering in a home or other social setting, email me!