Imagine never having stepped foot in a church, never hearing Jesus’ name spoken in your home, never opening a Bible and reading the Word of God. For some of us, that can be a difficult idea to wrap our brain around. ...
Since the first Christian gatherings described in Acts and even long before that, “breaking bread” has been an integral part of the gathering of God’s people. At Faith Bible Church, some sort of food and drink is almost a given for any gathering of any size, from communion on down.
That means the church kitchen affects every member of the body, whether or not you’ve ever been in it.
Jenn and Mike Bothun have served many years in the kitchen for events of all kinds, from weekly Sunday worship to weddings, dinners and memorials. If you haven’t worked on their crew, you’ve still probably drunk coffee they made, a communion cup they filled, or water they poured.
They want to train more people to share the work and carry it on.
The Bothuns started serving nearly two decades ago, shortly after they put their faith in Christ. Jenn says, “We got baptized in April 2005 and we were trying to figure out where we wanted to serve, and the kitchen came up.”
At first, Jenn came in every other week to deep clean the kitchen, sharing the task with another woman. Their job was to get it ready for the Sunday workers, and Jenn was happy to work behind the scenes to serve the church body. “I have the gift of helps,” she says.
But as she got more familiar with it and Mike began helping with events, they discovered their complementary gifts worked well for supervising the functions of the kitchen before, during, and after events.
Mike is good at overseeing a room to anticipate needs during an event, so he’s the one you might see walking the aisles with a water pitcher or coffee carafe. But long before it starts, Jenn has been planning, recruiting, and making lists of details to check off. When the event starts, both of them have already been at church for at least an hour to prepare the kitchen for setup, prep, and service to groups of up to 500 people.
Mike’s leadership role started a bit rough, when he bit off more than he could chew as coordinator of what used to be a women’s Christmas brunch (now an annual dessert) about 15 years ago. “I was way over my head. I was involved in kitchen, setup, tables … I was stressed.”
But as they worked with other ministry leaders who coordinated weddings, memorial services and other things, they learned by trial and error the habits that worked best.
For example, they try to divide the work among as many people and separate areas as possible. They create manageable shifts of 2-3 hours for volunteers. They use word of mouth, Facebook, free pizza, and other means to recruit people to serve in each shift: Generally, the coffee people are first; then, the prep people, the service people, and finally the cleanup crew.
And they value service by people of all physical ability levels – for people who can’t be on their feet a lot, they’ll find a seated task, such as filling cups with ice, scraping plates, or sorting out coffee creamer and sugar packets to put away.
Jenn wants to train whoever is interested in using or serving in the kitchen, whether they ever take a leadership role or not. “I want people to be comfortable in the kitchen. Because it's everybody's kitchen. I want them … to be able to use it and not worried about if something's going to get broken. We've broken plenty of things. I think we hold the record for breaking things here at the church.”
That makes sense considering how many hours they have put into serving in the kitchen. Jenn no longer does the weekly deep cleaning, but she still comes in most Mondays to wash the nursery toys. While she’s there, she sanitizes high-use areas and the scoops for the ice maker – “I don’t know how many people have touched the ice scoops!” – and puts things away from use on Sunday.
“It's not about cooking. It's about coffee and cleanup really.”
It might seem strange for someone often called the kitchen coordinator, but “I don’t really cook,” Jenn says. The Faith kitchen isn’t licensed for outside caterers to prepare meals there, but she still prepares and sanitizes the area for whichever groups will be cooking or bringing food in.
Jenn says no prior knowledge is required to learn the two big Cs in the Faith kitchen. “It's not about cooking. It's about coffee and cleanup really.”
The appliances related to those needs, the coffee makers and the dishwasher, can be intimidating because they’re bigger and different from what people have in their home kitchens. But the Bothuns point out that the church has an “event” every Sunday. Those who want to try it out can learn a lot in a few weeks serving on the Sunday donut crew.
“The place does run on the donuts and the coffee,” Mike says.
While he jokes that the Bible doesn’t have a command for people to serve in the kitchen, Mike quotes 1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
He wants people gifted in serving to understand it’s all connected to the overall mission of the church. As their crew takes care of kitchen prep, setup, and cleanup, they are removing a burden or distraction from those who are sharing the Gospel with the event audience.
“With the joy of serving comes the knowledge that you may be one small part in God’s plan to bring a new believer to Christ,” Mike says.
Jenn also sees their event service as Gospel work. The women’s Christmas dessert, while it is the biggest and most work-intensive event of the year for them, is also the only church event her unbelieving family members have been willing to attend. “So I would really like to see that one continue.”
“With the joy of serving comes the knowledge that you may be one small part in God’s plan to bring a new believer to Christ,”
The Bothuns are starting to feel the passage of time and admit there are ways they can no longer keep up the level of time commitment, strength and energy they did in years past. “You don’t realize that you can’t do what you did (before) until you’re in the moment,” Jenn says.
Some of their most experienced volunteers have gone to recent church plants, and they see a need to build up the number of trained members who can step up to serve for events. They are praying God will call new individuals or couples to be trained and eventually be able to share their responsibilities. They’re hoping to spread the joy of serving Christ’s body.
“If you think you want to do it, you probably have the gift to want to do it,” Mike says.
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