We used to really hate pot lucks. Trying to get a table, stand in line, load plates for a bunch of kids, carry drinks through lines of people, and then because we are a large family, not having anybody fit to sit at our table with us. What's the point of staying for a church potluck if all that happens is my kids eat 6 desserts, and we get stressed out and feel lonely??
On one of my egroups recently, the subject of potlucks came up and I shared some information about ways that our church does these dinners in a much more family friendly way. It is so much nicer and we like it so much that I thought I would post it here for anybody who might benefit from the ideas.
In our church we now usually have a few different tables set up around the room. One will be the main pot luck type stuff. One will be a small tablethat is more "kid friendly." It will have things like already-cut
sandwiches, cookies, and individual bags of chips, bottled water and Capri
Sun type juice drinks. Plenty of napkins and child size plates as well.
There is sometimes also another small table set up someplace else that has
munchies on it such as veggie trays, bowls of pretzels or chips, etc. With
the way this is set up, it is really easy to come into the room, quickly
make it over to the kid table, and get the youngest ones set up with the
things they most like to eat. For adults that are waiting, they can get
something from the munchy table. Plus, having the 3 tables makes the crowd
dissipate somewhat so that it doesn't feel like you have to wait and wait
forever to get food. They also do almost entirely bottled or canned drinks
now, which just cuts down on having someone need to fill cups, spills on the
way to the tables, etc. They usually have a table set up with 3 colorful
tubs with ice and drinks in them, grouped according to type. Very easy!
When we just have one line to go through, I have a
stack of plates for however many young ones I am getting food for, and I
just use the top plate or two to put larger amounts of the things I think
they will like. I do not even try to get some of everything I think they
would want. I just get 2 or 3 tried-and-true items that I know they will
like, and that is that! When I get back to the table I fix individual
plates for the children.
Now that we have some older and responsible children, we often have the
older children watch the younger ones at the table, and my husband and I and
the middle children go through the line together.
One thing that I love is when people who do not have little ones to help
come to offer assistance. I have seen Mennonite churches do this in a very
sweet way. They had teen girls stationed near the head of the line, and
when a family with many youngsters came along, a girl would come alongside 1
or 2 of them and help them get their plates filled and back to their seats.
I plan to teach my older children to do this sort of thing as they get old
For food to bring, I find that it is smartest for me to bring the kind of
stuff that will make my own life easier. :) If your children like a
particular type of sandwiches, bring enough for all of them plus a bunch
more. Sandwiches always seem to go fast at potlucks. Cookies are also very
good since they are "grab and go" and so much less messy than trying to give
little ones something gooey or sticky or needing to help them cut something.
Finally, I now try to choose a table that is a size that allows us the
possibility of visiting with other people. We let our older children go off
to sit with friends, and we try to pick a big table and put ourselves in the
middle, hopefully encouraging others to join us. Sometimes the church
has little kid-sized tables and chairs set up in one area, with colorful
plastic on the floor, acting as a "splat mat" sort of thing.
Some other things that our church does for pot lucks that I will just share
since we are on the subject include having a child-friendly activity
available for the children to do when they are done eating. Sometimes it
has been a big long sheet of paper (like you cover banquet tables with) on
the floor, with little packs of crayons here and there. This is placed in
an area that is not near any entrances or exits, such as in a corner of the
room where we are eating. There is usually an adult or two that has
volunteered to hang around that area and make sure everything is going ok.
This past Sunday it was the church's birthday and so there was an area with
helium balloons with curly string. The balloons were just on the ceiling.
The church had used those cushiony interlocking primary colored floor pieces
to create an obvious area for the balloon play. The balloons really added
to the atmosphere, and it was an easy and fun thing for the children to
wander over there after eating and grab a ribbon and jump around with their
balloon in hand. :) They also had an adorable centerpiece idea, which was
helium balloons tied onto the pull tab of soda cans. Those were on the
tables. Very festive and simple! Then the families got to take a
centerpiece home with them.
We just love it that our church is one that thinks outside the box, with the
goal being to break down barriers to people actually getting to fellowship
and build relationships. They have some great people on their committee
that come up with simple, good ideas that really help make it pleasant and
easy to be a part of what's going on.