REFLECTION FROM PASTOR MADELINE BAUM: First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton began hosting a Dinner Church at Coral Sunset Elementary school in West Boca at the beginning of 2019. Pastor Rachel DeLaune headed up that team. They established a partnership with the school and hosted Dinner Church two Sundays per month. Of course, when the pandemic hit, dinner church was temporarily shut down. Shortly after the stay-at- home orders were issued the team began delivering meals to a few of the core Dinner Church families once per month in order to keep connected and provide a meal. This summer, Pastor Rachel was appointed to a church in Central Florida and I was appointed to FUMC Boca Raton as the Associate Pastor in July of 2020. Along with the team I continued to deliver to those core families for the first few months I was in Boca Raton.
In September we decided that we would try something different in October. We contacted everyone who had ever attended Dinner Church, Coral Sunset Elementary School distributed a flyer to all their families and we held our first Drive-Thru Dinner Church on our West Campus on October 25, 2020. We knew there were a lot of families struggling to make ends meet and we wanted to help. We also wanted to be sharing the Gospel and making disciples, so for October we handed out an individual Pollo Tropical chicken dinner for each person, family devotional materials and a Halloween bucket with candy and craft kits for each child. We served 23 families (127 people).
In November we moved back to the Coral Sunset Elementary School property. The school handed out flyers and our attendance grew. The team agreed that we were not ready to go back to an in-person format, so we agreed to continue the Drive-Thru format. We decided to hand out a Thanksgiving dinner in a bag. We asked for donations from our congregation of specific Thanksgiving non-perishable food items and $25 Publix gift cards which we loaded into canvas Publix bags. We continued handing our devotional materials and fun activities for the kids. We served 40 families (about 160 people) in November at Drive-Thru Dinner Church.
For December, we wanted to do something special for Christmas. The church had taken a special collection last year for Coral Sunset families so we had some extra money to spend. The school not only handed out flyers, they included our event in their email and text communications to families and began to refer to us as their “business partner”. Our registration exploded! By Friday before the event, we had over 300 people registered. So, on Sunday December 13, 2020 we served 300 Pollo Tropical meals to 62 families! We handed out a bag of treats to each child, family devotional materials for the month and a $35 gift card to Walmart! This month we also added a prayer station where almost every car stopped for prayer! We insist that all team members wear masks and wear them correctly. We wear gloves and change them often, sanitizing our hands in-between. We made sure that anyone stopping for prayer was wearing a mask to protect our pastors. We always follow CDC guidelines and in the midst of all of this, our team has been so blessed to help share the love of Christ with these families.
We plan to continue Drive-Thru Dinner Church until it is safe to be back together again face-to-face. We will continue to stay connected to all of these families in-between our events through email and phone calls. We have had a number of people who have attended Drive-Thru Dinner Church ask how they can get involved and help. Now that’s discipleship! When it is time for us to be back together again, we will invite all who have attended our Drive-Thru events. We hope that many of them will continue to join us.
I must say that none of this would have been possible without an amazing group of people who discerned God’s call on this church to start a dinner church a few years ago. They faithfully laid the foundation and sowed the seeds of God’s will. Pastor Rachel and the Dinner Church team are some incredibly faithful and dedicated people. The team continues to work hard today in this very difficult time. They have been flexible and adjusted by asking “what can we do to make this happen” instead of dwelling on the obstacles. I am very blessed to be a part of this team filled with servant hearts! I pray that God will continue giving us the opportunity to serve those in need and equip us for that call.