Youth Ministry on the Cheap: Progressive Dinner

This one is an oldie, but a goodie.dinner

When I look to plan cheap events, the progressive dinner is foremost on my mind.  It’s easy to set up, easy to execute, cheap on the budget and gets people involved in your ministry.

Here’s how it works.  Find three or four people willing to host a portion of a meal at their house.  Assign each house a different portion: appetizers, salad, main course and dessert.  (I leave out salad and just do three homes.)  Then, have students meet at church and progress to each house until you complete the dinner.  Students (and adults) love the food.  Conversations ensue

Total cost of the event for your youth ministry:  $0.  All the food and prep and the hosting is done by church members offering up their homes.  When the night is over, you simply head back to church, hand off the students and go back home.  No rooms to sweep, no dishes to clean and no doors to lock.

Not only is this a cheap youth event, but it’s a great way to involve non-youth parents and workers in your youth ministry.  When I select homes, I always try to find people not associated with our ministry.  If you’re a youth parent, youth worker or youth Sunday School teacher, you don’t make the host list.  Instead, I purposely seek out host homes with little or no ties to our students.  I want to promote cross-generational interaction and I want other adults in our church to participate in our ministry.  These adults may never be able to attend a mission trip, youth camp or overnighter, but they can host the students for an hour on a Saturday night and feed them.

As a bonus, I always grab enough thank you cards for each home.  As we travel from house to house, I have students sign the cards.  A few days after the event, I mail the thank you cards.  It provides a neat keepsake and also lets them know you appreciate their sacrifice.  That gets remembered when you need help again or want to do something that needs approval in a church business meeting.

All in all, the progressive dinner is an affordable, easily executable event.  Planning is done a few weeks before the event, so on the day of the dinner, you simply show up and load students into vehicles.  No cost.  No clean-up.  Lots of relationship building.

And feel free to shake up the format.  You can do them in reverse (Life is short, start with dessert first), mix them up (Salad, Desert, Appetizers, Main Course) or go the traditional route.  I sometimes offer door prizes and I always make students pray before each course (and no student can pray twice).

Try this oldie but goodie.  I think you’ll like it.

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