Meal Trains

A few weeks ago I got an email from a fellow parishioner inviting me to sign up to bring a meal for a family who’s little one was deathly ill. I chose a date from the online calendar and waited for my turn to come up a few weeks later.

Between my signing up and my day coming, their little one passed. This is a tragedy I can’t imagine. I didn’t know what to say or do, to be quite honest. All I could do is stick to my signed up time and drop off dinner.

So when my day came up, I made a batch of my favorite Instant Pot Chili, rice, and alphabet short bread cookies before packing up and dropping off the meal. I gave the woman a hug, handed her the meal, advised about salt and spice levels, said “and alphabet cookies for dessert, hope they’re fun for your little boy” before hoping back in the car to head home. It took all of 30 minutes to drive there and back.

Sometimes that’s all that’s needed. A little care and a little help with a soft smile. That’s what families do for one another. Again, I’m sure you’re asking, “What’s this have to do with Transforming My Parish?”

It matters because it’s the little things that make a family. These moments are what created community. Does your parish do this? And not just for tragic happenings, but for happy ones as well? I think this could be a really transformational ministry for your parishioners.

So how? Pretty simple to be honest. Establish a coordinator that would be contacted with the family’s information (this could be someone in the office or a volunteer), dietary restrictions or allergies, and dates they want meals. You could have a standard such as: meals twice a week for eight weeks. Then share the online calendar with an email list, in the bulletin, or on social media depending on the wishes of the parishioner in need. The first few might need a little special attention to set up, but after that it should roll out pretty easily when a need arises.

What a help for the family to have dinner prepared a couple times a week for a few weeks. The cost for the person making the meal would be time, driving it there, and probably less than $20. You could even build a “favorite parish recipes” blog on your site for inspiration to create a bank of great recipes. Honestly, I make the same thing every time. Why? Well, it’s delicious for one thing, and it’s simple and easy for another. My desserts tend to vary depending on my mood.

There are a few sites online to help you organize the meal train. The site sets up the calendar, keeps track of who’s coming when, and sends reminders. The one I’ve used most often to set up meal trains for friends is Take Them A Meal. It’s not flashy, but it gets the job done and doesn’t cost a penny. Users can also sign up to have a meal sent through the company if they aren’t able to make and deliver something themselves but still want to help.

I really love how Kendra from Catholic All Year talks about delivering a meal in honor of the Feast of the Visitation.

Helping people in times of need is a Corporal Work of Mercy. Having a ministry at your parish to help your parishioners do this on a regular basis brings parishioners together, builds community, and transforms the lives of your parishioners (those being served and those serving).

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