Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee is using food trucks on Wednesday night as a way of engaging and building relationships with their community.
“You meet a lot of different kinds of individuals at food trucks,” said Brooke Miley, missions ministry associate. “They offer a non-awkward opportunity to start a conversation with someone you might not get to talk to otherwise,” added Josh Blight, community outreach pastor.
Tallahassee has a strong food truck culture. Food truck owners have even organized into associations and have robust social media followings. Every day food trucks post where they will be located, and people check on that and go grab food from the particular truck they’re craving, said Miley.
“So we get people on our property who are not here for church, but it gives us the opportunity for them to get to know us.”
At Thomasville Road we are about uplifting and ministering to the community, said Blight. Their hope is that when someone in their community is looking for spiritual guidance or support they will turn to Thomasville Road. “Food trucks play into that because it gives us visibility,” he said.
“You end up close to people as you’re waiting for your food order and can start a conversation easily,” said Blight. “You might open with ‘Oh have you ordered that before? Is it good?’ and build from there.”
Also, food truck stops are set up in a way that strangers end up sharing a table to eat a meal together and that kind of setting is conducive to conversations and new relationships, added Blight.
As a college town, Tallahassee is also very diverse. Students come not only from other states but even from other countries. Sometimes they want a taste of their home countries or home states and food trucks tend to satisfy those cravings with diverse menu options. It might not be exactly the kind of food from their specific country, said Blight, but it’s close enough to where it reminds them of home.
On a typical Wednesday night there will be between 100 and 150 individuals buying food at the trucks. That number includes church folks there for Wednesday night service as well as those just there for the food trucks.
“It’s not just good for the people who come buy the food but it also helps local business owners,” said Miley, giving them visibility and space to do business.
For a church wishing to start a similar service, Blight suggests first checking to see if there are any food truck associations in their area. And for those places where food trucks are not popular, he suggests integrating whatever mobile food service is popular. In some places for example, barbequing in parking lots is popular and the church can work to integrate that.
“Be open, honest and clear with the business you’ll be working with,” he said. “Let them know what your goals are and what you expect from them.”
While still a very new community missions endeavor, Miley has big hopes. “We’re hoping that with consistency our community will be drawn to our church.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article appeared on the website of the Florida Baptist Convention, flbaptist.org. Keila Diaz writes for the Florida Baptist Convention. Reprinted from Baptist Press, baptistpress.com, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)