BIG DAY – A Hungry Teen Is An Angry Teen

When I worked in Stillwater, planning the Men’s Advance meals was like planning for a World War II battle. We had charts and graphs, purchase lists and runner routes, restockers and servers galore. It seemed like every man in our church was enlisted on the food team.

And it worked. It worked well. It worked efficiently.

The guests ate hot, good food.

And it was fast. Really fast.

Have you ever tried to herd 1,700 men? Even if there’s food at the other end, it still takes a lot of time to move that many people anywhere! One of the most amazing feats of all the Men’s Advance planning is the speed of the food line.

All 1,700 men were dismissed, served, and seated in 17 minutes. You do the math. That is 100 men per minute (which is a LOT!).


Dismissing For Meals

Seeing how efficiently the Men’s Advance food lines ran, I wanted the same for our Preaching Rally. Overall, I wanted hot, good food, and I wanted the people to be served fast.

Over the years, we have developed a system that runs as smoothly as possible. Our biggest hindrance is the exit doors–double doors at the back of the sanctuary–which creates the biggest bottleneck.

To relieve the “hurry up and wait” problem that the bottleneck creates, I dismiss churches one at a time through a game. It might be sword drills, a “Simon Says” variation, or a “Bring me _____ item,” and the first church that wins might be dismissed to lunch first. Or, I may use that time as a chance to introduce each church, dismissing them in the order that they pre-registered.

However they are dismissed, one church is sent through the doorway at a time.


Inside the Gym

Once they leave the sanctuary, people are directed down the front steps and toward the gym, a walk of about 100 feet. Any bit of walking distance will instantly spread out and speed up a crowd. People walk quickly when there is open space in front of them.

The guests enter the gym to walk through four lines of pre-plated pizza. They grab a napkin and a plate, and continue through the line to where cans of soda and cups of water are laid on each table. Every table contains every choice of chilled soda and water, so guests do not have to choose a table or overlap each other to get where they want to go.



We place rows of back to back chairs in the gym so people can sit and eat, and we have our picnic area and courtyard area open for anyone who sits outside. As long as it is not raining, we put rows of chairs outside, and the young people sit there, or in the grass to eat.


Food Chief

After designating the food chief, he or she takes the previous years’ notes and coordinates the workers and the day’s meals. The general guidelines I try to reiterate are:


  • Make it fast. Get people through the line as quickly as possible.
  • Make it smooth. Remove as many decisions as possible. Keep people moving.
  • Make it good. For teens, pizza is our go-to food. It is filling and appeals to the largest number of people. Make it hot and ready to eat.
  • Make it plenty. Order enough pizzas that we do not run out. Put contingencies in place in case more people show up.


The food chief makes the following plans:

  • Setup. The chief coordinates and sets up all tables and chairs. For us that means feeding and seating about 400 people, and arranging the tables so that the lines flow smoothly. We have table diagrams from previous years, and on the Wednesday before the PReaching Rally, volunteers from the church set up according to the diagram.
  • Team Meeting. The chief coordinates his teammates into various jobs. Each person has a job, and each job as a person (or two, or five), listed below:
    • Napkins – restocking and straightening
    • Pizzas – plating on tables and restocking supply
    • Drinks – restocking tables and running to refrigerator to restock supply
    • Taking out trash
    • Handing out chips (not letting them choose. They can trade later.
    • Traffic – directing the crowd to know where to go, making sure no one returns to the sanctuary with food
  • Food and Goods Purchases. The food chief coordinates with the pizza places (we use Little Caesar’s) to schedule 100 or so pizzas to be delivered on time. The chief makes drink purchases in bulk and plans out the paper goods that will be used.



Our Schedule

We have three sessions with breaks between each. The first break comes around 12:30 pm, so we distribute one bag of homemade cookies to each young person. This tides them over until lunch at 1:30 pm. This break should include tables with water cups, and trash cans spread around.

Our workers are dismissed after the preaching and Plan Page time is done, but before the church dismissal times start. Our workers need only a few minutes to get in their places. The food chief and a few adult workers might miss some or all of the sessions to prepare for the break times, but the teen workers do not miss anything at the Preaching Rally.


Preparation Timeline

Our general timeline is as follows:

  • 2 months. Review food notes. Communicate with chief about upcoming Preaching Rally.
  • 1 month. Church meeting signing up food volunteers.
  • 1 month. Also at church meeting, sign up volunteers to bake cookies (2 dozen each line they sign up on).
  • 3 weeks. Cookie postcard sent to all volunteers reminding them about how many they signed up for, and how to bag them.
  • 2 weeks. Purchase drinks and paper goods. Schedule with the pizza place.
  • 1 week. Set up gym. Collect cookies. Meet with food team.
  • Day of. Execute food. Fill everyone’s bellies with good food! Clean up.



Our Food Notes

Here are our exact notes from one year’s Preaching Rally food team: