How to organise a dialogue supper: food for thought

What better way to present and discuss the gospel than in a relaxed and welcoming setting amongst friends over food? A Dialogue Supper provides the opportunity for an hour-or-two of fun and conversation while the gospel message is presented in an ‘after dinner speech’ format. It allows non-Christians the opportunity to ask Christians questions about their faith and to see first-hand the impact of the gospel on people’s lives.

This evangelistic event can take any number of forms. However, there are three essential elements for any event. These are:

  1. A relaxed environment
  2. A simple, clear gospel presentation
  3. An opportunity for people to discuss what they’ve heard

A meal is perhaps the best way to provide the relaxed environment and opportunity to discuss. What type of meal and where to host it will depend again on those you want to invite.

You will also need to think about practicalities. These will include:

  • Whether the venue is sufficiently private and allows people to hear;
  • Whether it is appropriate to have alcohol and if so how much;
  • The time it will take to order food or cook it yourself.

Who to invite?

The number of people you invite depends again on the type of event. For a lunch or a dinner you would want between about four and eight people there. Too few and the non-Christians may feel pressurised, too many and things may become unwieldy.

You also need to be careful about the number of Christians present. It is good to have some other Christians present to help with discussion and give you moral support but too many and the non-Christians can feel outnumbered and intimidated. Christians should always be in the minority.

You may not feel you have sufficient friends at the right stage to do an event by yourself. If that is the case then why don’t you suggest the idea to another Christian and do one together?

How to invite?

When inviting friends, always do it verbally – it is more personal and therefore more effective. When asking them, be upfront about the Christian content and be enthusiastic and positive – don’t expect them to say no! Perhaps say something like, ‘I was thinking the other day that I’ve never really explained to you what I believe. I’ve invited some of the other people in the office to come to lunch on Friday where someone from my church will be speaking for a few minutes and then there will be a chance for us to discuss what Christians believe. Would you like to come?’

All we can do is pray and ask. The rest is up to God and we must just trust him. 

When inviting people, always try and get a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’; you can legitimately say that you need to know for catering purposes. If they say no, don’t be disappointed. All we can do is pray and ask. The rest is up to God and we must just trust him. Therefore it is important to be praying for those you invite.

At the event itself

Make sure everyone is clear on what will happen, so they know what to expect. In particular make sure you introduce the speaker.

The talk needs to be short – about 10 minutes is a good length – and it is helpful for the speaker to begin by saying how long he or she will speak for. Make sure the speaker knows in advance what you would like them to speak on. Whatever the topic, it should focus clearly on Jesus and the claims he made. It is worth remembering the talk should not be a complete explanation of every aspect of the Christian faith. Rather it should be a provocative introduction so as to get people thinking and generate discussion. We want to leave them asking questions and wanting answers. Having said that, the talk should not be confrontational – we don’t want to be saying at this point, ‘You must believe this’; rather, ‘This is what Christians believe, what do you make of it?’

Whatever the topic, it should focus clearly on Jesus and the claims he made.

After the talk there should be a chance for discussion. At lunches and dinners it can be good for this to be ‘chaired’ by either the host or the speaker. Once the talk has finished, give a few moments for people to gather their thoughts and if no one has spoken, ask an appropriate question to get the ball rolling. Make sure you wrap up the discussion, perhaps by thanking the speaker. People can always continue chatting if they want but it allows those who don’t to move on to other topics or leave.

It is important to remember the aim of the event is for your non-Christian colleagues and friends to hear Jesus’ words and discuss them. Therefore, it should be the non-Christians doing the talking with the Christians seeking to support and facilitate that, rather than taking the opportunity to ask the speaker about certain points of doctrine or to get into a disagreement with them.

After the event

Although you don’t want people to feel pressurised into making a commitment there and then, you do want to suggest some possible ways for people to continue thinking about things. You may like to advertise a Christianity Explored course or alternatively, you may like to have some books available.

The advantage of this type of event is that you already know all those coming and so it should be easy to keep chatting about things. It is also important to continue to pray for those who came, that God will open their blind eyes.

This article was originally published in 2010 for A Passion For Life’s Ideas for Mission.

Anon