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Episode Shownotes

How did a struggling 100-year old church grow into a network of over a dozen Dinner Churches, and go on to inspire the 300 new dinner church plants? 

In this first episode of the Dinner Church Podcast, you will hear about that journey firsthand from Verlon and Melodee Fosner. This episode is packed with wisdom, stories, and practical advice, perfect for anyone learning about Dinner Church for the first time or trying to start one.

Verlon and Melodee Fosner have been in church leadership for 35 years. They are founders of Community Dinners, a network of Dinner Churches in Seattle and Dinner Church Collective, a movement of Dinner Church practitioners across North America. Verlon is the author of books like Welcome to Dinner, Church and A Trowel and a Sword. When not traveling to train dinner church leaders, Verlon and Melodee can be found with their grandkids in Seattle and Nashville.

Get to know the Dinner Church Collective at dinnerchurch.com and join us live in person for the inaugural Dinner Church Summit, November 9th-11th in Orlando, Fl. Details at dinnerchurch.com/summit.

Interview Summary

A Holy Desperation

The Fosners explain that they were driven by a “holy desperation,” recognizing that their traditional church was becoming increasingly disconnected from their secular city. Melodee shares vulnerably about entering a “burned out, broken place” before dinner church brought healing through more authentic, familial relationships.

Powerful Wins and Divine Encounters

In dinner church, Verlon discovered a “sweet spot” aligning with the natural expression of the early church. He highlights the “shock” of experiencing God move powerfully at the table with new friends and neighbors. Melodee recounts specific stories of divine moments with visitors.

“I had come back from a day of ministry and not be absolutely exhausted and depleted. Dinner church I always come home refreshed and recharged and sometimes like healed.” – Verlon

Challenges in Transition

The Fosners are transparent about the personal and leadership challenges in shifting toward dinner church:

  • Letting go of expectations around “best practices” and trusting the spirit’s leading
  • Moving from presentational to relational, conversational ministry
  • Shifting focus from numeric results to heart transformation

“Am I seeking results in this or am I truly seeking a relationship?” – JD

Cultivating Skills for Facilitating Community

Pastors must develop new skills to create welcoming spaces for introverts and extroverts alike. Setting time limits for sharing ensures all can participate. The “ministry of friendship” is nurturing authentic relationship, not forcing pre-planned agendas.

Discipleship and Prayer at the Frontlines

Doing life with skeptical neighbors mandates a vibrant devotional life, immersed in Jesus’ stories. Prayer must prepare pastors for spiritual battle at the “frontlines” of the gospel. Relying on the authority of Christ, not programs and strategies, is key.

Continuing Jesus’ Ministry of Welcome

Despite challenges, dinner church offers pastors a “recharge” by returning to the hospitable, inclusive ministry of Jesus. As Melodee says, “God has been so faithful to just the instant recharge, the instant reward of what you see God is doing.” Dinner church is not draining but life-giving.

In Conclusion

In the end, the Fosners’ wisdom offers encouragement, caution, and guidance for the journey of dinner church leadership. Their reflections reinforce that success stems from trusting the Spirit’s leading rather than relying on human strategies. Pastors are called to create spaces where strangers become friends, and friends become family in Christ.

Reflection Questions

  1. What resonated with you most from the Fosners’ experiences with dinner church?
  2. In what ways can we balance moving forward in faith while also “relaxing” our expectations?
  3. How can you cultivate the “ministry of friendship” in your context? What gets in the way?
  4. What practices help you experience God’s stories as life-giving rather than just informative?
  5. How can dinner church provide a “recharge” from exhausting ministry patterns? What needs to change in your leadership?
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