Fellowship dinners (or whatever your church calls "meet and eat" type events) may seem a holdover from days gone by, a non-essential, peripheral time waster. But are such simple events that bring people together really wastes of time?
Relationships and connecting stand at the heart of emotional intelligence.
The early church experienced fellowship as a central activity. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 21:42, NASB).
God created us for fellowship with Himself and other people.
Increased isolation plagues our society leaving many feeling empty. People crave and search for connection. Hungry for relationships, they sometimes turn to destructive substitutes rather than true intimacy.
The depersonalization of our digital age compounds the loneliness. Facebook and social media replace face to face conversations as we move further from the connection with others for which we were designed.
Fellowship dinners alone are not the sole and complete answer, of course. In fact, it is quite possible for people to attend a fellowship dinner and never really connect. The focus on setting up, cleaning up and getting home to the ball game on TV distracts believers from connecting with the body.
And sadly, it’s possible for people to attend our churches and still leave feeling lonely. Busy lives, busy schedules, short attention spans make mid-week activity attendance spotty.
However, helping people connect deeply through all the means available to us matters very deeply at every level: socially, psychologically, emotional, physically and yes, especially spiritually. Relational connection within the body of Christ constitutes a central rather than merely peripheral activity.
The challenge for pastors in fostering genuine connection and true discipleship lies before us. People need it and want it. God created us for it.
Fellowship dinners are not time wasters. They matter to the extent that we use them to foster genuine connection. Multiple means to foster greater connection exist. Some churches utilize small groups, others have visitation teams, and the list goes on. Perhaps the most important thing is just to put mechanisms in place that help people connect with each more deeply and bring others into these connections.
So let’s not to miss an opportunity. Fellowship dinners should be designed more for fellowship than dinner. And true fellowship is a very important thing indeed.