It’s not fun to eat alone.
When I went to college, I moved far from home to a school where I knew no one. Freshmen were required to buy a cafeteria meal plan, and I made a personal vow: Never eat alone.
The result was that I had to be bold. If my classmates or roommate didn’t eat with me, that meant I had to take my tray and approach someone at a table. Sometimes I had met the person before, and sometimes the people were new to me. “Mind if I eat with you?”
Not once was I rejected. And I made a lot of new friends by stepping outside my comfort zone. It turned out most of them didn’t like eating alone either. This led me to the conclusion: Everyone craves friendships and human interaction, but too many of us are uncomfortable with making that first step.
As I reflect on that experience, it makes me think of my experiences eating lunch after church services on Sundays. At most of my churches in the past, eating lunch together was just not something we did. And I wonder … why not?
Everyone needs to eat. Most everyone who worships on Sunday eats immediately after the service. No one should eat alone on Sundays.
We in the church are missing a crucial opportunity to minister to each other and reach out to visitors if we do not engage each other over Sunday lunch.
What good is it to go to a church worship service if you are abandoned after the last song to go eat by yourself? God hard-wired us to desire community and, in my opinion, meals are the times we best connect with each other. I’ve been to a lot of churches. We Christians are pretty terrible at having substantial conversations on Sunday mornings. It’s not all our fault. Traditional church services do not allow for much talking to one another. We listen and we sing and sometimes we read aloud together. A five-minute welcome time gives us a chance to say “good morning,” but not much more. That’s why we need to take advantage of the lunch hour.
Some of us find conversation and interaction in Sunday school or small groups. But the visitor – the friend of a friend – the person who has been checking the church out for a few weeks but hasn’t decided yet if she should stay … that person needs to be invited to lunch.
This happens best organically. It happens as we take the initiative and ask people we don’t know well to grab a meal with us. Together we can create a culture of hospitality and friendship … a worshipping community that not only sings and studies together but talks and laughs together. It’s a communion of a different kind.
If this sentiment doesn’t resonate with everyone, let me say that I think it matters to most young adults. Relationships are what matter to us. And relationships develop over food.
So do it. I dare you. This Sunday, with the closing of the benediction, as people are gathering their things from their seats, talk to someone new. Say you’re going to grab a quick lunch at the place down the street. Pick an inexpensive place. Invite a bunch of people to join you. They may politely refuse, but they may say yes. And if they do, I’m pretty sure the results could only be positive.