This article originally appeared in our July 2014 Connections newsletter. Read the entire newsletter here.
Sunday, June 22 was Food Truck Sunday at First Baptist. Hundreds of us stayed after worship to enjoy lunch on our front lawn provided by several local food truck vendors. Stamey’s, Taqueria El Azteca, and The Ice Queen provided lunch, but that’s not all. They also provided a metaphor.
Long a staple of downtown street corners and urban construction sites, food trucks have gained wide popularity in the U.S. over the last 6 or 7 years. Part of this trend is due to economic realities – a truck is a cheap alternative to a conventional restaurant. Additionally, however, the popularity of food trucks is a reflection of some deep cultural trends with which any healthy organization – whether culinary or religious – seeks to be conversant.
Churches can learn a lot from food trucks. Churches like ours have traditionally had what might be called a “cafeteria” mentality. Like any K&W, you can come and find a variety of options for a variety of people, with seating enough for all. What can a cafeteria church learn from a food truck?
We can learn about mobility. Food trucks go to where the people are, not simply waiting for the people to find their way to them.
We can learn about focus. Due to their size, food trucks don’t try to match the scope of a full service restaurant. They typically have a limited menu, or “niche.” Instead of trying to do everything, they do certain things with excellence and distinction.
Food trucks teach us about quality. With limited offerings, every ingredient counts. Often food is locally sourced, with attention to sustainability and other ethical concerns that surround food growth and production. While concerned with quality of taste, these rolling restaurants also give attention to the aesthetical and ethical quality of the food.
We learn from food trucks about collaboration. As we learned in the process of planning our Food Truck Sunday, the truck operators and chefs know one another and are accustomed to working together. They don’t mind being parked next to fellow vendors competing for customers, but instead act as though their individual success is tied together with the success of the whole.
Food trucks teach us about adaptability. They can (quite literally) turn on a dime. They can shift to new locations. They can experiment with new recipes or new preparation methods depending on the present need. They can even change their Sunday lunch plans to park at 1000 W. Friendly Avenue.
Food trucks, finally, initiate new community. As a recent LA Times article describes, “The trucks have become a sort of roving party, bringing people to neighborhoods they might not normally go to, and allowing for interactions with strangers they might not otherwise talk to.” We sensed this energy and community across the First Baptist lawn as people clustered together in pods of lawn chairs or on shared blankets, strangers became friends, conversation lingered, and children played until they left with grass stains on their church clothes.
It was a great lunch. But that’s not all. It was a reminder of some of what can characterize our life and ministry together at First Baptist. I don’t think we’ve seen our last “Food Truck Sunday.”