I grew up in the midwest … in northwest, semi-rural Ohio. I had an older and a younger brother. Our house was about a mile from Shawnee School, and only a quarter mile from the church. My brothers and I were in Scouts; and our family also belonged to the Grainge. Potlucks were pretty common. They were always fun. And always a “bargain”.
I mean – people eat anyway! Many people (those, on this planet – who are able to do so) eat three times a day! So – if you were going to do SOMETHING for dinner anyway, why not just prepare a SINGLE dish … meet up with other folks doing the same thing … and have a FEAST ? And for no more work! Or cost!
That’s why it’s a Bargain. (That’s why it’s like Stone Soup) You get Something Nice … for Nothing!
I spent 17 years in a Religious Order, in Arizona. And, for about the first year, we gathered every Thursday evening – for a potluck. About 50 of us. It was wonderful. When this practice was discontinued (due to various, normal growth changes) – I experienced this change as a Great Loss. That weekly gathering – just to see each other (and talk about whatever we felt like) – was Priceless!
My (considerable) experience forces me to the conclusion – that to have some sort of “Program” (in addition to just eating together and “visiting”) – is not really necessary.
But … my suggestion – for the simplest and most basic “agenda” – would be a Simple Check-In.
Someone should take on the role of Facilitator. People should sit in a circle (preferably, a single circle). Just go round the circle … people should introduce themselves, and say a little something (probably about themselves, perhaps – about the Group … and how to make the best use of it).
It is important – that people are respectful … that they listen (and do not interrupt).
The Facilitator should play the ‘Guide on the Side’ … rather than the ‘Sage on the Stage’.
If someone should deport himself in a way which is clearly ‘wrong’ … the facilitator should (if possible) have a word with that person … later, and in private.
Just the fact that everyone is able to say what they wish to say (without interruption) is very Valuable. It creates a sense of Equality … of Respect … of Trust.
Even in such a situation – in which there seems to be Very Little Happening … there is, in fact – a Great Deal Happening.
Everyone should promote – Respect, true Friendliness, and equalization of Power.
Some housing developments … some communities have a Community Center (some sort of space, maybe even – with a kitchen) which can function as Gathering Place for the residents. If this is YOUR situation, I would urge you to Do Something. Get the necessary ‘permission’ … and facilitate a Stone Soup Potluck. Put up a notice. Invite people. Cook something nice. Show up. Start a Tradition. Change the Culture (away from Alienation … and toward Connectedness)
And imagine this happening – all over the World!