Free lunch brings kids to church and churches together

Hutchinson Ecumenical Lunch

It was 1999. A handful of youth pastors in Hutchinson, Minnesota, were taking kids to lunch, and some parents were opening their homes to serve a free lunch. However, it was a hard plan to keep going. Then, standing on the high school track, they concocted a crazy idea to invite high school kids to eat lunch across the street at Shalom Baptist Church. The school agreed. In September 2000, the first 36 kids sat down for lunch. It quickly grew to 75 and then to 200. Flash forward 15 years, and the lunch is still going strong.

“Every Thursday we have about 225 to 275 kids walk across the street, and numbers have stayed pretty solid over the years,” Adam Krumrie, youth pastor of Shalom Baptist Church, said. “We reach a lot of students, and they bring their friends. They hear the good news of Christ and they love an excuse to get out of school.”

The lunch is hosted in conjunction with nine churches, all from different denominations including Catholic and Lutheran. Two pastors from Youth for Christ say they focus on common ground, and don’t worry about denominational differences. The Ecumenical Lunch would not be possible without the school’s cooperation. It used to be an open campus years ago, meaning the students could leave for lunch. It has since become a closed campus, but the principal made an exception to the rule. The lunch has survived three principals and administration changes over the years.

“We don’t try and promote individual churches. So together all of the youth pastors host events throughout the school year for all of the students,” Krumrie said. “We invite them to come to those, and individually we encourage them to get involved with a youth group, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. We want them to have a relationship with Christ.”

The churches rotate providing food, and the youth pastors rotate giving short devotionals. The last lunch of the school year, May 28, saw over 350 students. Four pastors, including Krumrie, crafted the message on four things to keep the student's faith strong this summer.

“We told them to take time for God each day, find a church and be involved in the community, talk about your faith with others to help it grow and don’t forget God is always with you, even if you don’t feel like he is,” Krumrie said.

He notes this would never be possible without the great relationships among the Hutchinson churches. Shalom also helps the school by providing extra parking for sporting events. Krumrie has seen relationships strengthened in his own youth group and in the neighborhood.

“I’ve been encouraging the students to invite their friends,” he said. “This free lunch has given Shalom Baptist a good reputation in the community. We are seen as a church that cares a lot about our youth.”

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    Point - September 2018

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