Getting Families to the Dinner Table in Michigan

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The “Around the Table” ministry of Monroe Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., attracts members of the neighborhood to eat dinner together as a family.

Twice each month, the church invites families who live nearby for dinner, worship, a Bible story, and a family activity. Anywhere from 30 to 80 people have attended during the three years this ministry has been offered.

“Sometimes with my schedule, I don’t always get to have dinner. It means a lot to [my kids]—they always look forward to this,” said Stella Vander.

“Many of these families don't eat dinner together every night, which studies show contributes to a greater likelihood of drug use and gang involvement,” said Amy Schenkel, a ministry associate for Monroe.

Kayla Vander, 13, enjoys attending Around the Table. “It’s a good way to spend family time. It’s good to have fellowship together,” she said. The Vander family began attending services at Monroe through the Around the Table ministry.

Members of the neighborhood help plan the dinners. “At our planning meeting this year, half the people were from the neighborhood,” said Schenkel.

The church received a health-and-renewal grant from Sustaining Congregational Excellence, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church that gives grant money to small churches. Using this grant, a local nutrition agency focuses on supplying healthy food for the ministry.

“Our goal is to get the families together around a table, to encourage their conversation, and to introduce to them the thing that will really change their lives: a relationship with God,” emphasized Schenkel.

About the Author

Ryan Struyk was a former Banner news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids South and Thornapple Valley. 

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