Dinner is served!


The word spread rapidly that we were serving a free spaghetti dinner in five of the dorm lounges on our campus. As hungry students feasted on our tasty spaghetti sauce, pasta and garlic bread, they wondered why we were serving them free food. “Is this a fund-raiser?” they asked. “Why are you doing this?” Many were surprised by our response… .

It was really quite simple. The students in our InterVarsity chapter at Minnesota State University, Mankato, were looking for a straightforward and practical way to care about their neighbors, as Jesus taught. Many people were genuinely surprised that we would just make them a meal with no strings attached, and they expressed their gratitude.

For quite a while our chapter had been talking about being a missional ministry on our campus, meaning we didn’t want to wait for people to come to us, but rather we’d find ways to go to them. We wanted to serve people and live the gospel among them, loving them in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

One of the students from the chapter said, “I never realized how such a simple act could positively impact others.” Our dinner was a safe and easy step for her to take in reaching out to others.

The person who thought of the idea was Steve Baty, InterVarsity staff intern. “We started by finding out what dorms our students were living in,” he said. “We made sure we served at least one meal in each of the three dorm complexes and targeted five of the floors that had the most students from our group — we built on the relationships already in place.”

The students who lived on the dorm floors worked out all the details with their Community Advisors (CAs) to make sure we had access to the five lounges and kitchens on the night of the event. We discussed a menu and picked spaghetti because it’s easy to make. Other students donated food and pots to cook with.

We chose to host the dinner in place of our normal Thursday large-group meeting. A few of the students went early to their dorm floors to start cooking. The rest of the chapter gathered at the usual time. We broke up into groups and went to the five different floors.Â
Many students returned to their own dorms to serve there, facilitating conversations and developing relationships with their neighbors.

We had a lot of fun serving people food and hanging out with them.Â
If they asked, we would tell them about our group, but our purpose was to care about them — not just advertise who we were.Â
After the dinner we invited people to a game night in the Student Union if they were interested in hanging out more. It was also a good way to re-gather as a group.

There have been a lot of positive results from our dinner. The Community Advisors were all very grateful and thanked us for cooking a meal for their students — and it served as a floor program for them as well. For many of the InterVarsity students, it was a simple, tangible way to express our missional vision, and they enjoyed giving themselves to this event.

Also, some of our weekly Bible studies have started to break out of their regular mold of just meeting together every week for Bible study. They are becoming more intentional about serving and reaching out to those around them. Our spaghetti dinner gave some fuel to these efforts.

Many in our chapter are excited about finding other ways to serve and love their neighbors this year. This semester we are planning two outreaches. The first is a broken bread poverty meal of porridge that focuses on those affected by poverty and hunger. We’re also sponsoring Do you see orange?, a campaign that creates awareness of the impact AIDS is having on children in sub-Saharan Africa.

From spaghetti in the student dorms to the porridge of African children, we want to care about those in our world, venturing to live out the gospel of Jesus among others.

—David Stene