Saturday, September 10, 2022

What is the Dinner Church Movement?

What's the big deal about Dinner Church? The dinner church movement is growing across the country. It's simple, yet effective. Structured, yet chaotic. It's food, but more, it's faith.

Come to the table, that's the motto. Dinner church is simple: Sunday evening service, big meal, worship music and devotions, dessert, even a response time, and it's powerful. 

We've been doing it at our body of believers for a little over three years now. The biggest take away I saw was this: You see a lot of people who aren't comfortable walking into a church chapel who felt like they could come to this. That's a big deal.

But it was messy and challenging at first. Sometimes I could barely hear myself preaching over everyone talking at the same time. It definitely took time to make the model stick and make it work.

We would get a lot of people who were not professing Christians, or felt estranged from God. We would have a lot of homeless and low income people joining us. These are people who were often afraid of the Sunday morning chapel. Yet they felt comfortable in a dining room, or basement, or kitchen area, to come hear about God in that format. 

For me it echoed back to times of the early ministry of William and Catherine Booth, when William would preach in bars. He would get jeered at, he would have beer bottles thrown at him. And yet lives were being changed. People began coming to know Jesus. 

There were numerous times at dinner church when I would be preaching and people would sneer or start arguing or make rude remarks. It was really hard at first, but I began to see it as just the kind of ministry The Salvation Army has always been involved with.

To this day we love dinner church. We do worship, times of prayer and testimonies, devotionals, and lots of food. Just like the early church did, around the table, meeting together, feasting and talking about Jesus. After the sermon we have an open response time when people can raise their hands to give feedback and ask questions. 

Several who started with dinner church have joined our morning services as well, and several have become soldiers (church members). It's amazing! But to this day, we have people who attend our morning services, and an entirely different group who attend our evening dinner church. And it works. In both instances, people are learning about Jesus, and how to follow Him. 

I’m really grateful for dinner church it’s been a wonderful model to do church in a new way. We do it downstairs in our dining room. We got it started by putting up fliers around town, going door to door around the neighborhood, getting the word out at our daily meals at our corps facility, and by doing pickups around the community. We have a driver who will go to the local apartment complexes and trailer parks, and pick up people who want to attend. Many struggle with transportation in our area, so it's a great way to help people get there. We also relied heavily on social media platforms to get the word out, posting a great deal from our Facebook page. and Facebook group, as well as cross-posting to other local city groups for our area. And eventually word got around town and for the first year and a half we had about 25-30 people every Sunday. After COVID our numbers have dropped, today it’s more like 12-20, but we’re holding strong thanks to God’s grace. Truly Jesus is present when we gather around the dinner table to talk about Him!

The logo that we use for dinner church is Van Gogh's "Cafe Terrace at Night" with a close up on the cafe, with a man in white serving the tables. While I was still in seminary, at an internship in St. Louis I asked for the Lord's leading and he led me to a plate I found at a Goodwill distribution center with the image embossed on the plate. Powerful stuff! Maybe God is calling you to start a dinner church at your church? 

Wanna learn more? You can learn about it at

Otherwise the basic format we use is as follows: 
  • Welcome & Announcements
  • Opening Prayer
  • Time of Testimonies (people share blessings from the past week)
  • Time of Prayer (people share prayer requests, then we pray over them)
  • Praise and Worship (we lead the group in 2 songs, and a third reflection song)
  • Prayer over the Meal 
  • Dinner served Buffet style (we play Christian rock in the background as people get their food and eat)
  • Sermon Message (after people are done eating, we share a 10-12 minute sermon message)
  • Tithes and Offerings 
  • Dessert & Response Time (dessert is served and attenders are invited to ask questions and share what they learned from the message)
  • Closing Prayer