Over the past few years, our church has developed connections with a number of vulnerable families in our community. These connections have come through specific support groups such as our Autism Support group, the Vulnerable Parents Nurture Group and our Centre of Hope café. We found that many of the parents we work with feel isolated, particularly around meal times. One main cause of isolation is financial – they don’t have the means to host or go out for meals with other families. For some parents they find that their children’s additional support needs make it challenging to go out in public together because an unfamiliar environment can bring out challenging behaviour and they find it difficult to relax for the duration of a meal. Some single parents in particular find meal times lonely without other adults to talk to.
In response to this, we began hosting family meals in the church hall. Each month our hospitality team provides a three course, freshly cooked meal to which we invite families from our various support groups. This has become a really valuable way to develop our relationships with each family. It allows us to spend some quality time with them and it’s a relaxed environment where the kids can play with extra supervision, so that the parents can enjoy some adult company. The families really enjoy these meals and have expressed their gratitude for what we provide. It’s often in our time together at the table that they share more of their stories and unload some of the burdens they carry from week to week. The first Christmas dinner we hosted took our hall to maximum capacity and each family received a small gift from the church. We pray that our hospitality will express our love for them and give them a desire to know more about the God who loves them even more.