Managing Your Food Service Ministry
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey
Christian hospitality professionals face specific challenges and often find themselves juggling several diverse events at one time, including large and small conventions and banquets, wedding and funeral receptions, school lunches, and weekday dinners. It is estimated that food services in U.S. churches generates well over $100 million in retail sales.
The Global Association of Christian Hospitality Professionals (GACHP), www.gachp.org, was organized more than decade ago by the Food Service Ministry Industry and professionals who manage their church’s food services to “inspire and equip” the professionals working in this specific niche to reach their fullest potential by providing continued education, resources and encouragement.
“It’s given me the confidence to do what I would not normally do,” said Michael Brunton, executive chef with First Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida.
GACHP accomplishes this by organizing an annual conference for continuing education, providing a certification program for those who want to further their careers, offering membership for networking, and providing website access to an abundance of industry-related resources.
The GACHP annual conference brings together Christian hospitality professionals from across the nation, providing networking opportunities as well as workshops for continued education and development. The sessions include organizing banquets, food safety, accounting principles, leadership and management, and adding value with decorating techniques.
A concurrent trade show allows conference attendees the opportunity to meet with food service industry suppliers and vendors to learn about the latest products and services.
The conferences have hosted internationally recognized keynote speakers, including representatives from Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants, and motivational speakers like Pat Williams from the Orlando Magic.
“The greatest resource is the people who attend the conference,” said Gerald Long, food service ministry director with Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida. “I’ve gained a lot going to the trade show and attending the breakout sessions, listening to the guest speakers who also do what I do.”
GACHP also offers three levels of Ministry Professional Certification for industry professionals who want to take their careers to the next level.
Newly forming state chapters are a compliment to national membership, which gives access to even more amenities, such as a monthly newsletter and exclusive access to its website.
“Not only do I have access to the website, it’s the resource tools I use the most,” Long said. The site has menu suggestions and accounting files that members can download. They can also view conference sessions and download related handouts and materials. The GACHP Facebook page also gives space for members to poll others for solutions on challenges they are facing.
“I’ve polled others about menu suggests and gotten great ideas. It really helps you think outside the box,” Long said. “It’s not just the resources the website offers, but the people who can provide information from their perspective. It’s just a great resource to tap into.”
GACHP is committed to meeting the needs of its members. “One of the methods we have put into place to help us grow is through the formation of an Advisory Council,” said Marcus White, president of the association. The panel represents a variety of nationally recognized organizations and has committed itself to the GACHP as advisors and wise councilors.
White said, “The GACHP is proud to inspire and equip hundreds of Christian Hospitality Professionals around the nations for the past 10 years. Everyone is on his own journey, which means that everyone is at a different place in his ministry and in the service career. With that in mind, we are challenging every person to get involved in Christian hospitality ministry to simply take the next step toward growth in success, whatever that next step might be.”
For those looking to advance their careers, White suggested attending a GACHP national conference, joining the national organization and/or a state chapter, becoming certified, inviting a GACHP consultant to visit and offer an assessment, or getting mentored by another member of the association.
“Like everything else in life, you get out of something only to the level in which you put in,” White said. “Will you take the next step to your ministry’s success?”