One of the dreams that floated to the top of the pile as the Missions Team and I spent time visioning was tailgating. On the surface, it may be hard to see the value of tailgating, although with the food and fun involved, it’s not a hard sell. What is the value of tailgating? Relationships. Everything about what it means to be a Christian hinges on relationships. Some of the ten commandments are even about relationships. “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” We were created to be in relationship with others. We are dependent upon each other for our own survival. Yet, there are so many families in our community that are trying to go it alone, and who don’t have a support system around them that will walk with them through their lives. Culture has taught us to be rugged individualists, to separate and distinguish ourselves, and to pull ourselves up by our boot-straps. What that individualism leads to is life in a bubble, and life inside a bubble tends to shrivel and dry out, but community is different. In community, we have the chance to encounter Christ in a stranger. In community we have support for the journey. In community, there is sharing of knowledge and assets. In community, there is growth and new life every time a new relationship is formed.
In our sheltered and secluded lives, we need strong communities, and yet, as a church, we can’t really create a stronger community. We can’t force people to make friends, or to step outside of their comfort zones. We can’t force neighbors to get along who haven’t ever spoken to each other. We can’t force into existence something that grows so organically and naturally. But what we can do is create space for God to work—and if there is anything that can bring people together, it’s a shared meal. Good food brings people together. Whether it’s around a dinner table, or standing in a park, food makes space for conversation and for relationships to grow—no matter where you come from or what language you speak.
Through tailgating, we have the chance to show an entire school that they are loved and supported by their community. Every student, every family, every teacher, will know that there are people invested in their success. And that’s what compels us to get together on a Thursday afternoon to cook 2000 hot dogs along with all the mustard, ketchup, chili, cheese, onions, jalapenos, bacon and more. It’s a bold and affirming statement to this community that we love so much.