Marcus is Food Service Director at Ridgecrest Conference Center, Co-Founder & Executive Director of the GACHP, and a Contributor in the area of Food Service Ministry. This interview was originally posted in our April 2016 Newsletter.
Q: How long have you been involved with Food Service Ministry, Marcus?
A: I’ve been in the Food Service industry for 30 years; the past 14 years, I’ve been in church Food Service Ministry.
Q: How did the Lord lead you into Food Service Ministry?
A: In 1998, I was a restaurant manager for national chain and I was not a practicing believer. I was a young man going through a difficult time and realized I needed Christ in my life. For the next four years, although I grew passionately in Christ, I was still working in the secular food service industry and struggling with how my new values in Christ conflicted with the environment of secular Food Service. In 2002, I was able to get a job that allowed me to be off Sundays, so I was able to join a church, and began attending First Baptist Orlando. I went to a membership class that helped me explore my talents and gifts, and considered how I could get involved in serving. When I went to the Food Service Ministry Director to see how I could volunteer with him, he ended up hiring me for a job. Before that class, I had no idea Food Service even existed as an area of ministry and, when I went to the Director, he wasn’t looking to hire a new staff member. But God knew the friction I was feeling, being a Christian in the secular Food Service industry, and really orchestrated everything.
Q: What size church is ready for a Food Service Ministry?
A: It’s not really about the size of the church but the attitude and expectations they approach it with. To be effective, it’s important that Food Service is seen as a viable—and needed—area of ministry.
Q: What insight do you wish someone had shared with you when you first started out?
A: Going into ministry does not mean you’re going to work in Heaven. When you go from working in a secular job to a ministry position, the positives far outweigh the negatives. But people are people, and not everyone you serve is a Christian. At times, there will be difficult situations with difficult people…just treat them with grace, as Jesus would.
Q: What other advice do you have for new ministry leaders, just starting out in Food Service Ministry?
A: It’s important that you always begin by ensuring the Senior Leadership is aboard. I consult for churches around the country and always begin by asking to talk with the Senior Pastor, because he is the shepherd and the leader of that church. I can make all kinds of recommendations but if he doesn’t have the vision, then his staff–the Business Administrator, the Food Service Director, or others–will always be at odds because they don’t know the vision of the Pastor. Knowing what the leader has on his heart for the vision of the church really helps you support them in ways that help achieve their Food Service Ministry goals. Taking the time on the front end to understand your pastor’s goals and get his support pays dividends in the long run.
Also, as much as possible, try to hire people who are ministry-minded. Especially at the entry level, you can train the skills but I can’t train the heart. When the required skill set is more specific—like hiring a head chef—you definitely need solid experience and skills, but it’s very important that everyone in the ministry fits into the culture and buys into your mission.
Q: What are some of the challenges of getting started in this ministry and what advice can you offer for overcoming them?
A: In almost every case, there will initially be conflict with church staff and other ministry leaders who are accustomed to going into the kitchen whenever they want—to grab coffee and cups, or ice, or whatever they need. Often, these folks are the hardest to get on board. The way to resolve this is, again, to make sure the Senior Pastor is on the same page. Then you can explain that a closed kitchen policy is important, for safety and stewardship reasons, to the ministry and the overall mission of the church. You can also share with them the benefits to having a Food Service Ministry that can serve them, so they no longer have to spend their time planning their own departmental and ministry gatherings. You can show them how they can have a nice meal where you buy, prepare, serve and clean up everything and they can just show up and be a guest like everyone else. They can be a professional leader in their area and you’ll do that in yours and, together, you’ll serve each other in that way.
Q: What are some of the specific ways you have been blessed by serving in this area of ministry?
A: Since I began in Food Service Ministry, I’ve been on a path of learning that what we do really matters to the Kingdom. Specifically, I’ve focused more and more on the idea that being a Food Service professional is Biblical. I’ve really concluded that Biblical hospitality matters more to God than a lot of people think. If you look through both the Old and New Testaments, hospitality was the cornerstone of how people cared for each other. Most times, when Jesus did ministry, He did life—and most of the time in, or on the way to, a hospitality moment. So how much do we love others in the same way Jesus would have, while sharing the Gospel over a meal? I think, when we really get that, it’ll change our lives.
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