There are plenty reasons why pizza is an ideal food for youth groups. It arrives ready-to-eat; most people like it (vegetarians included); and it can be very cost effective, depending on the deal you have with your local pizza place.
But pizza can wear a little thin (get it?).
We asked Blake Woods* and Randall Curtis*, both experts with years of youth and young adult ministry experience: what are the other options for feeding a group?
Make your own tacos/taco salad
A little more time-consuming, but also a lot of fun. Make sure to offer both meat and beans, so that everyone can have sustenance. Ask your teens to bring a favorite fixing to share.
Buy big bags of frozen chicken cutlets or patties. Heat them in the oven, and then create an assembly line with buns, lettuce, and other fixings.
Blake says, "Food is important, but not when it results in missing time with each other. This makes casseroles and soups perfect group food. They are something that you prepare ahead and pop in the oven and then walk away, which allows you to do the important work of relationship. I have a few go-to's, that are also vegetarian friendly:"
- Baked Ziti: a combo of cooked ziti noodles, layered with sauce (with meat if you want), sour cream and Italian cheeses and baked till gooey and delicious.
- Another favorite is this recipe for bean tortilla casserole
Soups and Chili
You can prepare these days in advance for convenience and better taste. To serve, use a slow cooker, set on warm. Blake's favorite is this recipe for chicken-lime soup. Or make the classic combo of Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup, but bake the grilled cheese sandwiches. Prepare as usual, except put them on a cookie sheet in a 420 degree oven for 5-7 minutes, and then flip them and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Make your own pizza
Ok, so we know we said no pizza - but make your own is rather different. It is an activity, as well as a meal, and creative ingredients can add variety and fun. Make sure to have the oven pre-heated to at least 450!
Invite non-youth families and parishioners to bring a meal or to help prepare a meal
Randall tell us this is a great way for people to see what's going on and give back.
Appoint some youth chefs
Blake says, "My community eats a meal together every Sunday and the last thing I want is someone to be missing from service cooking, when there are plenty of good fix ahead things we can do. On the flip side, however, is the very real feeling that cooking is an incredible way to show love, and so even if we do have someone sweating away in the kitchen, it is an explicit expression of love to a community that they value... so it is all good."
*Blake Woods is the Episcopal Chaplain at the University of Oklahoma. He has worked in camp, parish, and college settings, and other places where people are hungry.
Image credit: "pizza tasteoff" by San Mateo County Library, creative commons