Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4 NKJ) Jesus was not saying bread was not necessary for living, but that the Word of God is even more important in order to have a thriving relationship with the Father. After all, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 NKJ) As the Bread of Life, Jesus is our sustenance and provision of spiritual life. Food is a good physical symbol of God’s provision of a spiritual provision.
Food is an important element of small groups. Food helps people see they have something in common – everyone has to eat. It brings people to a common level of need. Of course, some people have different preferences, needs and allergies, yet food is a mutual need of all people. What are several guidelines for food?
First, the food should be a treat, not a meal. The meal should be eaten ahead of time or outside the gathering. The purpose of the gathering is spiritual growth focused on God’s Word in relationship with other believers. The purpose is not to feed people. There is a place for that, but only on special occasions as noted below. A treat is something small like a plate of cookies, bowl of chips, pan of brownies or something similar.
Secondly, keep the treat very simple. The reason the treat should be simple is that if one host has an elaborate treat, then others will think the leadership is expecting that from all the hosts. Many hosts cannot afford elaborate treats, nor do some have the time to prepare elaborate treats. A simple treat recognizes our common need, but keeps the attention on the main purpose of the gathering.
Thirdly, the treat can be out before or after the meeting. People often have the treat out after the meeting, but if someone arrives a little early or the group is waiting on several people who have informed the leadership that they will arrive, but will a little late, the treat can be a good connecting link to facilitate discussion prior to the meeting. Simply stated, most people relax when they are eating.
Fourthly, have a pitch-in once or twice a year. A pitch-in allows everyone to bring in some food and the time is focused on fellowship and relationships more than on studying God’s Word. It oftentimes is important to allow take an entire meeting to eat and talk. That often bonds people more strongly so they will have a greater hunger for God’s Word.
Fifthly, recognize food may become messy if you have new people who are not used to respecting the host home. Food happens in relationships. Spills, crumbs and sometimes stains can happen in the process of discipling people to Jesus Christ (for that reason, avoid red foods or fluids or other products that easily stain). Hopefully, the host is in far greater love of Jesus Christ than he is in love with his carpet or couch!
The key is discipling people to become spiritual parents. It includes a Biblical foundation, intentional discipleship, relational environment and a reproducible process. Food just happens to be a good decoration and tool that helps the process. Food just happens to say, “I love you, and I want you to have a good time at my home.” Food should direct our eyes to the Bread of Life.