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Beyond Church Walls: How to Start a Meals Ministry

  • Sandy Coughlin Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2008 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
Beyond Church Walls: How to Start a Meals Ministry

April 19, 2008

“He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.” Luke 24: 35b

Hospitality isn't just about fun and partying. A truly hospitable attitude touches the whole range of life experiences and emotions. And some of those life experiences and emotions come through challenging times: loss of a loved one, birth of a child, a sickness or surgery, to name a few.

I initially didn’t realize the impact one source of hospitality would have on others – it began with a seed that was planted years ago after the birth of my children. Back in the early 90’s, the meals ministry through our church was comprised of volunteers who would arrange for meals to be brought to the home of a family after the birth of a child or another challenging event.

My family was truly blessed by this act of love because after the birth of each of my children and after I had a major surgery, the meals came a-rolling in. I, in turn, started a similar ministry through a church that we attended just a few years later.

But, as the years have gone by, I’ve come to realize the ministry of sharing meals does not have to be limited to a church group. I was reminded of this last week when one of my close friends had surgery. It’s not just church friends we should look out for!

Here are some tips to make sharing meals easy:  

  • Determine who needs the meal, then call and ask if they’d like to be a recipient. If yes, collect names of their closest friends, neighbors, or family members.*
  • Arrange the date of the first meal with the family, and determine how long they’ll be receiving meals (I usually do 2 weeks for a surgery, and sometimes 3 weeks for a new birth).
  • Inquire if there are any food allergies in the family and what time of the day they would like the meal delivered.
  • Make up a calendar for a 2-3 week period, and start making phone calls.
  • Schedule meals for every other day. Every day is too much food.
  • Don’t worry about asking individuals what they plan on bringing. This question puts pressure on the cook to decide right away (and she may feel locked in). It doesn’t really matter if the recipient gets 3 meals of chicken in a row. The family is usually so thankful for whatever food is brought to them and the every-other-day schedule helps with variety.
  • It's very helpful to deliver your meals in containers that do not need to be returned, or in Ziploc bags!
  • Ask cooks to deliver their meals by a certain time (I usually say 5:30) unless an alternative time is arranged.
  • Complete the calendar for the time period, with full names and home/cell phone numbers recorded.
  • Email or mail the schedule to the recipient and let them know they should call if any changes need to be made.

Once the schedule has been mailed, I walk away from the job. As in, mission accomplished – the family is on their way to being blessed and there’s really nothing more I should have to do. I never baby-sit the schedule. I just let it flow and happen on its own. Yes, there are times when someone forgets, but that’s rare.

This is what I call having a hospitable spirit -- seeing a need and jumping in to help ease the pain of others. Who’d ever guess we could bless other bodies and souls in such a simple, yet meaningful way? If I hadn’t been the recipient of this beautiful act of love years ago, I would have never understood how nourishing it is – to the body and soul. And who knows who you will be able to touch when you reach beyond the walls of your local church?

*A church meals ministry is usually run by a church and through a list of volunteers.


Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mother of 3. She loves her family and loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. Sandy’s husband, Paul, (who used to be the reluctant entertainer) has come on board, and they often offer hospitality together. Sandy and Paul co-authored a book called Married but Not Engaged(Bethany House, Aug. 2006). It's written to women who are married to "checked out" or emotionally absent men and who want to create a more satisfying, intimate relationship. This article was adapted from Sandy’s regularly updated blog “4 Reluctant Entertainers,” which you can visit at www.reluctantentertainer.com. Get more information on Married but Not Engaged by clicking here. Visit Paul's website at: http://www.paulcoughlin.net/