This outside the box approach may seem strange, at first, but it has clear benefits.
I know some readers will balk at this idea. It’s different than the way most churches think, and it’s certainly different from the way “we’ve always done things.” Nevertheless, my suggestion is this: for at least one church fellowship meal each year, assign seats. Tell members where they need to sit. Here’s why I think this approach matters.
1. It can bring together the generations in your church. It wouldn’t hurt some older folks to share a meal with teens and young adults—and vice versa. We need each other, but our tendency is to hang out with only people our age and in our stage of life.
2. It can bring together people who’ve worshiped together for years, but who don’t really know each other. They pass each other in the worship center, wave politely or shake hands, and then move on. They’re in the family of faith, but they don’t know their family member’s name.
3. It can bring together long-term members and newer members. Maybe you’ve seen a church that divides along the lines of the “old vs. new” or “older vs. younger.” It’s easy to see others as the problem when we don’t really know their names or their stories. Spending even one meal with them, on the other hand, can remove the “threat.”
4. It can bring together couples that can learn from each other. Imagine how the conversation might go if a newly-married couple are seated at the table with a couple married 50 years. The newly-married couple might gain wisdom they would never have gained hanging out with only their peers.
5. It can bring together members from different backgrounds. Members who grew up in other parts of the world often have fascinating stories to tell—but nobody’s asking them. A fellowship meal is a good place to have this conversation.
6. It can help grow your church’s small groups. In the seating plan, put members not attending a small group with members who love their own small group. A personal invitation from an excited small group member might be all it takes to get others to attend.
7. It’s just good for your church to know each other better. Too many of us never get outside our own relationship bubble–and we miss the opportunity to really know others God has placed in our church. Consequently, we miss the blessing of knowing more of God’s people.
Again, I understand that “assigning” seats seems strange. If we help members understand why this approach can be helpful, though, I’m convinced a good leader can sell this idea—at least for one fellowship meal each year.
This article originally appeared on ChuckLawless.com.