Friday, July 18, 2014

A Few Simple Small Group Meal Ideas

This is a guest post from church member Jennifer Rodriguez who has been helping to make small groups happen for many years.  She is especially skilled at feeding large groups of people quickly, happily and simply.  By the way, her chocolate chip cookies are to die for.  

Our small group meets late Sunday afternoon 4 - 6 pm.  Right after the meeting we eat dinner together.  To get a hot meal we have adopted a basic two meal rotation.

Our two basic meals are Spaghetti with Sauce (meat optional) and Potato Bar.  The cost for these meals is easily under $ 40 - estimating 10 adult servings for each meal.  The estimated food cost is divided equally amongst all the families.

In our situation one family always prepares the meal.  This decision was made because we have a person who really likes to cook as well as having several families with small children who enjoy getting a night off from cooking.

Spaghetti Set-up
Before the meeting I cook a large pot of  spaghetti & drain it under tap water.  The spaghetti rests on the counter in a cover bowl during the meeting.  Meanwhile I heat sauce in a crock pot.  When we do not have vegetarians we add meat.  If you have extra sauce it can easily be frozen & used later.

I also prepare a basic salad.  Once again it rest covered on the counter until meal time.  Just as we are eating I toss the salad with dressing.

We also have sliced French bread with butter – not heated or made fancy with garlic.

Potato bar Set-up
One hour before the meeting I cook potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil.   Once kinship starts I turn off the oven – the potatoes tend to stay hot if left in a closed oven.  If you need to transport them or take them out of the oven you can wrap them in a large towel & keep them in a plastic “ice-chest.”

At meal time for toppings I set out sour cream, chopped green onions, grated cheese & butter
In the crock pot I heat canned vegetarian chili.  (For my crock pot I have to fill it 2/3 full to heat something which means I often have left overs & so I freeze it for future use.)

During the potato bake time I also steam a head of broccoli – after cooking it I drain it & let is rest covered on the counter until meal time.

I also prepare a basic salad.  Once again it rest covered on the counter until meal time.  Just as we are eating I toss the salad with dressing.

Kid-snack time
We have several toddlers in our group.  And so as a group we decided that feeding the kids snacks was OK even if that meant they did not eat as much dinner that night.  We set out string cheese, baby carrots and pretzels as well as juice boxes for kids to “graze on” whenever they want to.  The cost for these items is added to the nightly food bill.

As you can see our meal plan involves preparation before the meeting & then letting food rest at room temperate during the meeting.   If someone really wants their food hot they can always use the microwave – otherwise we enjoy room temperature spaghetti with hot sauce or a warm potato with hot chili.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

How to Stay Connected Over the Summer

"I miss school" my daughter told me with a sigh this morning.  She's totally enjoying her summer with it's requisite BBQ gatherings, swimming and other relaxing, fun times.  But I think she's feeling a little out of sorts at not having her regular routine and the regular relational connection that comes with it.  She misses her teacher and all of the students that she appreciates but doesn't know well enough to initiate a playdate with.

I think that the same can be true for our small group communities.  In our church, most of our small groups take a break or meet less regularly.  It's nice to downshift or take a rest from our regular meeting schedule (especially for the leaders and the hosts) but after a few weeks, I find that people can start feeling lonely and disconnected.  We miss each other.

How can we stay connected with our smaller "tribes" within our church when you are not meeting as regularly?

Here are a few suggestions:

1.     Initiate some short email connections.  Ask people if they would email out any quick prayer requests for this month or any encouraging things that have been going on.  You might want to kick it off by sharing a prayer request or a testimony yourself.

2.     Make something spontaneous happen.  We encourage our group members to just let people know if they are going out to ice cream or to a movie and invite whoever is available to come along.  Not everyone will be able to go but it's nice to have the opportunity.   Lunch after church is a great idea since people are there already anyhow.  You just have to let people know a restaurant and a time.

3.     Let people know now when things are going to start back up in the fall.  I find that it helps people to know that, even if they are less connected now, that regular routine of meeting will come back soon. People can put it into their calendar and look forward to an actual date to begin a more intensive time of community.

4.     Be thoughtful.  Take some time to think about what your small group members are doing or going through this summer.  What did people share about before you took a break for the summer?  Is someone going on an exciting vacation?  Is someone going through a difficult time at work?  Is someone's health an ongoing issue?  Ask people when you see them (or by other means of communication) about specific things in their lives.  It is a great blessing for people to know that you are thinking of them and remembering what they have shared about their summers.  This will help them (and you) to feel less disconnected.

5.    Finally, a little hunger for community can be a good thing.  It's great to say, "I miss seeing you" to a fellow small group member and to look forward to more regular connection together.

Do you have any other specific ideas about how to stay connected.  Please feel free to add your ideas and comments below.