The point of these events is that they are fun and non-threatening environments to hear the gospel. They work well by giving people the chance to chat about what they’ve heard over some food. To that end, they are best held at a neutral venue.
What works best is to have the main meal after the talk so that people can chat during it. To start with, let people find a seat and get a drink. A starter or nibbles work well, particularly if some people are late, you don’t want them to miss the talk and it gives people something to do as an ice-breaker. Poppadoms, samosas, pakora all work well, or something more elaborate depending on your budget, then the talk, then the main meal.
You need to plan this at least a few months in advance. First get your speaker; the event stands or falls by the talk. Then get your venue. Some restaurants are ideal but depending on numbers you may need to rent a room and bring in caterers. Takeaways are often happy to do this.
If you use a takeaway, order three main meals, hot lamb (e.g. Jalfrezi), medium and mild chicken (e.g. Bhuna and Tikka Masala), a vegetarian alternative, rice and naan and run it as a buffet.
If you are using a restaurant, negotiate a deal and be insistent that they will not be running takeaways that night (unless they have a separate door) as it interrupts the talk. You will probably have to guarantee a sell out, but whenever I’ve done this, we have. Don’t be frightened to barter and shop around! You can get a really good deal if you hold your nerve.
You need to make this a ticketed event, otherwise you may be turning people away on the night, have tonnes of unused food you’ve paid for, or worse still, can’t feed everyone. For this you need to get the tickets out pretty early. In your planning team, discuss price. You may want to give away tickets free or sell double tickets. Generally people are suspicious of a free meal, but also like a bargain. If you have got a good deal anyway, why not subsidise the event too; people can’t resist a two course curry for £5–6!
Particularly if you use a room in a pub this can make all the difference. Lay the tables nicely, get hold of some Bhangra music for the background, perhaps project a Bollywood film (with sound off, make sure you’re aware of content). A table quiz is a good opener, with pencils. If it’s an Indian meal make it Indian themed, otherwise general knowledge. Have response cards on the table. If you aren’t using a restaurant, have a clear-up team between courses.
Pizza, Fish and Chips or Pancakes
This format can be used with other types of food.
For faster food, have a quiz to start, then on to food. Takeaways can’t cope with big orders, so order in advance, or cook your own pizzas.
For Shrove Tuesday, have a meal, then the table quiz (or loop on screen), the talk after the meal, then the pancakes, then answers to the quiz.
This article was originally published in 2010 for A Passion For Life’s Ideas for Mission.