Previous years we would just set the food on a long table along the wall, and everybody would come up and serve themselves, but that creates a huge line in the beginning of dinner that takes about an hour for everybody to get food. What would be ideas to avoid that?
By Gulyana from FL
Let the people who are bringing the food of their nationality bring some decorations from that country. Have them write their names on the bottom if possible and then they can be returned to their rightful owner.
Another way to avoid lines is to designate tables where people sit as a different country. For example, a table from Mexico, one from France, etc. You can either let people sit at the country of their choice, or you can give them a paper as they come in with the countries name and they sit there. People don't get to sample other countries, but it sure helps in the long lines. The food is brought to that table and served family style.
Put food on one table and have people serve themself from both sides. Put two serving spoons in each dish to speed moving down the line.
Have everyone take a seat before serving starts, then designate which table gets in line at what time.
For decorations, visit the Dollar Store in the teacher section to see if there are flags of the nations borders for bulletin boards. Use this to "frame" a large world map. Then use stickers or self-stick marker tabs (the ones that look like a small arrow) to post peoples names and their country of origin (since it sounds like you have lots of people from other countries). If there are not a lot of countries represented by families, what about an "I've been here!" map with name tabs for places people have visited. It will surely fill up fast as some people travel a lot and others don't. Several markers on one area will start discussions.
As for the food, why not arrange it by local or type on tables around the room: South American dishes on one table, African on another, European, Asian, and American. This way people can either try something new and adventurous or safe and familiar. Labeling all of the dishes with dish name and country of origin helps too.
Is is possible to put the food along two walls. People could start at side of their choice, then go to the other. Would help divide up the time used, and get through quicker.
For decorations, why not just make printouts of all of the flags of the world's nations? Do a full-sized one of any that you choose on a regular 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper, and either attach them all onto string with bits of tape, or just attach them to the walls? The world's a big place- and you can always repeat a few, to honour ethnic groups that are more prevalent in your church.
Tennesue is right- we use the "age first" technique at our family reunions, although with a twist- those of the "most golden ages" first, followed by those who are pregnant, then those with small (ages 1-3) children, followed by the rest of the crowd. This sort of forces the Moms to come into play, and creates instant order- the moms and dads have to split up, and Mommies will make sure that Dads keep the older ones in check! The teens and twenty to thirty crowds will fall in line, automatically. Yep, some will miss out on some choice tidbits- but, if only one line for food is available, it organizes it well.
Another great thing you can choose to do, if you have a fair-sized Youth Group- recruit those teens to 'hop tables'. Encourage your congregation to prepare enough food to divide between the tables that are planned for people to sit at, and have your Sunday School or Youth Group class wait tables- they deliver the foods in serving dishes (can be bought cheaply, at dollar stores), each dish getting a good pass around each table. People will probably eat less, this way (it's easier to pig out, when you serve yourself, not so much when someone is offering the food to you!), so your church can do double duty with this meal: donate the leftovers to the local men's, women's, and homeless people's shelters, after the meal- and teach your teens what it means, to serve others, in a direct fashion.
Good luck- sounds like a lovely event!
1. Two lines with identical food on each or similar food on each. This cuts down on line length.
2. Ask for people to line up by age; oldest first, then when they have their food, have the rest of the guests line up. Maybe have a separate line with kid-friendly food for the under and teen guests. They won't like a lot of what they take and it will be wasted, unless you have exceptionally culturally aware teens.
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