Adventist Potlucks: Where Food and Friendship Meet

One of the best parts about getting together with a church family on Sabbath is the fellowship we can experience. 

The word “fellowship” may not be used very often in everyday conversation, but it has special meaning in a church setting. It’s about spending quality time together with the intention of building and deepening friendships. 

Adventists value fellowship as an integral part of their faith community. And what better way to help make that happen than bonding over food. Adventists often “break bread together” with a fellowship lunch! 

Every so often, usually on a schedule ranging from once a week to once a month to once a quarter, an Adventist church will have one of these “fellowship dinners,” often casually referred to as potlucks. 

During these potluck Sabbaths, families bring all kinds of different dishes, and we will all share a big meal together. 

But let’s go through the details together:

So if you’ve been invited to a potluck, want to go to a potluck, or just want to know what it’s all about, here’s what you’ll want to know. 

What is church potluck? 

Dishes of vegetarian food surrounded by green vegetablesPut simply, a church potluck is a meal gathering when individuals and families each bring a delicious dish for everyone to share.

You might see this potluck meal called “fellowship dinner” or “fellowship meal” on church signs or bulletins, or on their social media or website announcements.

Often, people bring their dishes in the morning before the church service, placing them in the kitchen or meal area. Then, after service is over, volunteers will set out the dishes on large serving tables, along with plates and utensils.

And because our congregations are often diverse and full of people from different cultures and ethnicities, the recipes and dishes often reflect that. It can be a real treat!

What else should you expect from an Adventist church potluck in terms of food?

Dishes are often vegetarian, to make them as inclusive as possible. Some might also bring vegan dishes to the shared meal.

It’s also normal to have many different types of dishes. Some people will bring a home cooked meal or a family recipe, some will bring dinner rolls, some will bring frozen lasagna to heat up in the church kitchen, some will bring salad or soup, and some will bring dessert (Yum!).

All of these are welcome and necessary! Variety and community are crucial parts of church potluck.

But food isn’t the only thing that makes church potluck special.

There are a lot of reasons churches host fellowship dinners, so let’s explore some of those reasons.

Why do churches have potluck? 

Every church potluck is going to look different. Some congregations are small and might share potluck every week because they are so close-knit. Other congregations are larger and might only have potluck-style gatherings a few times a year. But whatever the size of the church, most Adventist churches have potluck for similar reasons:

Let’s talk about each of these.

To cultivate relationships

People in line to get food at an Adventist potluckHave you ever been in a situation where you see people repeatedly—say at a job or in a class—but you never really truly get to know them?

In fact, you might recognize their faces but not even know their names

Trust us, you’re not alone.

It’s easy to show up to a gathering, spectate, and then leave. Church can be the same way. Especially if we’re feeling more reflective than social.

Potluck is a means to remedy that!

Sharing meals with one another ensures that we can slow down, sit down, and talk. Or even just be together, regardless of the depth of conversation.

Not only are we able to reconnect with people we haven’t spoken to in a while, but we are also able to connect with people we don’t know well or don’t know at all.

People might come to potluck physically hungry, but by the time they’re done eating and it’s time to go home, they’ll have been physically, emotionally, and spiritually fed.

Coming to potluck is an opportunity to feel that kind of fellowship and connection.

To follow Jesus’ example

The importance of gathering for a meal comes from the example of Jesus and the early followers of Christianity.

Much of the gospels is filled with stories of Jesus sharing meals with people. All kinds of people: Pharisees, tax collectors, adulterers and adulteresses, even the disciple that would betray Him to the religious leaders, leading to Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 7, 19, 22).

When we gather together for a meal, we have the opportunity to forget any differences and simply share food with each other.

After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return to heaven, the early Christian church kept the tradition of sharing meals with each other. The book of Acts tells us that as the Church was growing, they continued “steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42, NKJV).

A growing church needs to grow in community! “Breaking bread” is one of the ways the early Christian church developed that kind of community.

When God’s people practice fellowship meals, we follow the example of Jesus and of the apostles of the early church.

To exhibit hospitality

A man putting food on his plate at a potluckPotluck is a chance for an Adventist church to not only welcome people to a place of worship, but also to make people feel truly at home.

Spirituality and church can be sensitive topics. And for many, church could even be an uncomfortable place based on their past experiences.

By opening up church doors to share a meal with whoever would like to join, Adventists want to make church welcoming and comforting. No intimidation or gate-keeping.

And of course, there is nothing like a huge table of food to invite people to enjoy.

But you might be wondering, “I’ve never been in an Adventist church before. Can I still come to potluck?”

The answer is a resounding “yes!”

Let’s talk a bit more about who can come to church potluck.

Who goes to church potluck? 

Anyone can come to church potluck! Even if you didn’t know it was happening or didn’t bring a dish. Seriously. Adventists desire to show hospitality, no matter the situation, whether it’s to families who are visiting from far away, former congregation members, or first-time church-comers.

Hands laid on top of one another to show unity and fellowshipPotluck is an event where people from all different walks of life come together. They have different backgrounds, incomes, opinions, traditions, education, and vocations.

And all are welcome. No one is turned away.

Adventist church potluck is also a great opportunity to provide a meal for those who are visiting, for those who are out-of-town guests, and for church members to fellowship with these guests and with one another.

The people are what make potluck special. Even more than all the great food (which is saying a lot, because there is usually a ton of good food).

And if you’re wondering how you can participate in a potluck, we’ve got you covered.

How can you participate in a church potluck? 

A great way to find out when church potluck is happening in your area is to check out a local Adventist church. Check your preferred map app or yellow pages to see if there’s one close to you.

The church bulletin, a piece of paper you’ll probably receive upon arrival, usually lists church events, including potluck.

Greeters at the door of an Adventist Church welcoming peopleThis will also give you a chance to ask the greeter what the potluck schedule is like, as different congregations have potluck at different times or different intervals.

You might also be able to look online at that church’s website for an online version of the bulletin or for a potluck schedule posted on their calendar.

Whatever works for you, know that you are always welcome at an Adventist church. Whether you’re coming for the church service, the potluck, or bringing your kids to Sabbath School, we’re glad to see you!

It’s not necessary to bring anything, and you don’t even need to already know someone or already know anything about Adventism.

If you want to know more about what it’s like to visit an Adventist church, check out our page that describes what Adventist church services are like. 

Questions about Adventists? Ask here!

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