How to be a Pastor at a Potluck

Pastor Potluck Rules: go last in line, take most of what people took least, and sit with people no one else sits with.



My dad was a pastor and I learned these rules from him. He never told me these rules; he just did them. I was routinely amazed at his ability to be last in line. As a kid, I was top ten every single time! How can you not want to get in line for food?

Then, the stuff he took! Man, I stocked up on desserts and jello salad and cheesy casseroles. My dad would take all the gross stuff. He did that because he knew people would be offended if no one took their food. If it was particularly ignored food, he’d make sure to thank them for bringing it and tell them how much he really liked squid. I kid you not. One time we had a missions potluck and someone made squid. He and a junior high boy ate it.

My dad was a friendly guy and people liked talking to him. He had people in church who were his friends and he’d more than likely enjoy sitting with them and yucking it up. Instead he’d sit with that one family who was a little annoying and difficult to talk to. He’d sit with the old people who could hardly hear. He’d never take much food and he’d eat it quickly so he could make the rounds and sit with people who no one else was by.

My dad was a true servant. He always looked out for other people. Part of this was his inherent nature. That’s who he was. Part of it was actually pride on his part. He was a people-pleaser to the extreme. He pleased people so much he did not get much enjoyment out of life.

But he was still right in much of how he did his pastoral ministry. His potluck etiquette was impeccable.

Not long ago I thought of my dad’s potluck rules during a potluck. A new guy had been to our church for about a month. I think he had some mental issues of one sort or another, something was a little off. On top of that; he talked. I mean, this guy talked. Unbelievable amounts of words and had no social awareness that no one was listening or wanted to hear more. He cornered me every Sunday for ten minutes or more and just talked and it was awkward. People avoided him. It was weird. I felt bad, but yeah, he was tough to deal with.

During a potluck, a kind woman was there with her three little girls. Her husband was unable to be there that day. She was dealing with her kids, and they being kids, of course went first in line. So she was sitting with her kids and this guy sits at their table. I noticed it right away. I knew this would be one awkward meal for her and her kids.

I did not know this guy real well either, I had no idea what his background was, if he was creepy on top of everything else that was just off. Warning bells rang in my head. I hoped that other board members or people would go intervene, but no one did. No one wanted to deal with the guy. So I got my food and went and sat at their table.

I deflected the conversation and sat with the guy for an hour, hearing all his words. The lady and her kids were allowed to escape without incident or awkwardness shortly after they were done eating and were able to fellowship with other people.

I continued to sit with the guy whom no one else spoke too. In one sense, I was disappointed in my church. Grace means putting up with awkward people. At the same time, it was the worst potluck I’d ever been to, so I know why no one sat with him. But I was not going to subject this woman and her three little girls to this guy.

The guy did not last long in our church. From what I’ve heard, he doesn’t last long in any church and has been to about all of them in town. In the midst of his talking, he somehow finds reason to be upset with stuff. I see him occasionally. He makes me think of potlucks and of my dad.

Be a servant. Potlucks are a way to serve the people and show them what loving service looks like in real life.



So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
–Luke 14:21-23

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