Eating, especially snacking, is deeply ingrained in the American culture.
It's also a part of church culture. Rarely is there a social or fellowship event at church in which there is not some form of food. When I started the new Wednesday program at Riviera Baptist Church (RK2), I had to make a decision as it relates to food: Do we or do we not have food available for the students? All things considered, it was decided that we would have a snack as a part of our events.
Let me walk you through why I decided to have a snack rotation - and why I think you should consider having it as a part of any children’s program you create or serve in!
According to The United States Department of Agriculture, 13.1 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. Chances are, there is at least one student in your church program who has only had the food that the school provided for them. Being able to help provide them with a nutritious snack or dinner can help them get the food they really need.
Choosing whether to provide an entire meal or just a snack depends on the time of the day that you are doing your program. If there is a part of the program that happens during what would traditionally be a meal time - or so close to a meal time that it would be hard for parents to provide the needed meal - it would be best for your program to offer a meal.
When making this decision for RK2, I looked at our schedule: 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. This time frame could be when a family would eat dinner. However, there is still enough time before 6:00 that parents could provide their own meals for our students (given that they get off work around 5pm). Also, our program takes place on a Wednesday night. The local school districts have an early release day, and students are out of school by 1:30 p.m. This larger time gap allows parents even more time to make adjustments for dinnertime. Thus, we only offer the students a snack.
I could have made the decision to not offer any food for the students. It is, after all, late enough to be considered "after dinner." However, there is more than just the food to consider when taking the time to enjoy a snack.
Fellowship is an important aspect of this decision. Usually during a program, the teachers spend most of the time instructing the kids and managing behavior. While that does give the teachers and students time to interact, it is not as meaningful as it could be.
Snack time is a great time for teachers and volunteers to sit down next to each other and enjoy a conversation. It's a chance to check in on the students, see how their lives are going, and talk about what they like to do. This a time when deep relationships can be formed.
That does mean that snack time is not going to be a quiet time. Students can still be encouraged to use their inside voices, but talking is going to happen - and should be!
At RK2, we start our night with snack. We do this for two primary reasons.
First, it makes check-in go smoother, as our check-in happens in the same location as the snack. It also allows for students to arrive late and trickle in without missing out on any major Bible study moments that will happen later in the evening.
Second, it allows for teachers, leaders, and students to interact with visitors right at the beginning of the night. I have found that if you're able to greet students and get them acclimated in an atmosphere that is less intimidating, they are more open to participating in more difficult portions of the evening. For example, if I'm able to greet and acclimate a student over sharing a love for cheese sticks or popcorn, when Bible class comes around later in the evening, they are more willing to ask for help when they do not understand something - because I have already developed a rapport with them.
While the ultimate goal of any children’s ministry program is to introduce students to Jesus and to help them know, love, and accept Him as their Savior, that's not all that goes on - and many times, it doesn't come easy. There are many students today who have a hard time trusting adults. Taking a time for a snack can not only help the physical health of the students, but it also creates the emotional foundation for trust to be built upon - and that can be the open door for students to take their first steps to knowing Jesus.
Children's Ministries Director
Riviera Baptist Church