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Church Christmas Potluck Dinner Payout

This story happened a while back, last Christmas. Background: Every year, my church hosts a potluck Christmas dinner. This dinner is organized around the congregation’s book clubs – each group is expected to provide a different part of the dinner (potatoes, desserts, vegetables, etc.). There is also a significant portion of the congregation that is not a member of a book club, for various reasons (new to the congregation, other commitments, lack of interest). My husband and I are part of this group.

Last year, a woman named Ann was heading up the committee organizing the dinner. I am not close to this woman, but know her husband, was her child’s Sunday School teacher, and attended her wedding.

After the service one morning I am visiting other attendees when Ann taps me on the shoulder.

“Hi!” she says, “Are you Nancy?”

“No, I’m Barbara.”

“Ok,” she replies, then consults a list she’s holding while I return to my conversation. “Oh, Barbara. You owe me money.”

I have never borrowed money from her in my life, and to my knowledge was not supposed to pay her for anything.

“We decided that the people who aren’t in the book clubs should pay for the turkey. I need $2 from you and your husband… you are coming to the Christmas Potluck, aren’t you?”

“… we hadn’t decided yet. I don’t have any cash on me.”

“That’s okay, but I need it from you next week so I can go pick it up.” And without another word, she walks away from me and corners another unsuspecting couple.

We decided not to attend the potluck after that.   0921-17

I’m not sure I understand what it is you are offended about.   If you were to attend the church’s Christmas Potluck dinner but were not assigned a food item to bring based on your lack of participation in one of the church’s book clubs, were you expecting to not bring any contribution at all to the dinner?  If it’s understood that everyone contributes, I’d say you and others in the non-book club group have the absolute best situation!  Pay $2.00 and that covers your contribution completely. No shopping, or cooking or hauling that side dish to the church….someone else has done it for you!  Woo Hoo!  SCORE!  I’ve made a LOT of church potluck side dishes in my life and I’d be dancing a jig of relief if I was told my sole contribution is $2.00.  It’s hard to make a side dish for that amount of money.

OK, so Ann did presume you were attending the dinner and gave you a verbal invoice of what you owed.   But if you and your husband have attended in prior years, that is not an unrealistic expectation Ann has and she is basing her comments on that information.   Have you attended before?  What did you bring to those dinners?


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • AS December 4, 2017, 6:12 am

    Thanks to admin’s comments – I was confused as to what the OP was offended about.

    Granted that Ann should have prefaced the conversation by asking if you were coming or not. But I’ve done money collection for events, and frankly, it if often a nightmare to get people to pay up. She probably had been checking lists and talking to many people, and just mixed up the order of thought in conversation, and didn’t start by mentioning that people have to pay this year if you plan to attend (if it wasn’t already announced that the non-book club members have to pay this year).

    I’m also curious as to what the non book club people have been doing in the previous years? And you didn’t attend because someone asked you to pay $2 for an entire home-cooked meal that you didn’t have to contribute anything else to?

    • Otterpop December 4, 2017, 7:25 am

      A home-cooked meal for 2 people. That’s $1 a piece. Wow…where can I sign up?

      • Politrix December 5, 2017, 4:19 pm

        Go find the lady who doesn’t know your name. You owe her money!

  • lkb December 4, 2017, 6:23 am

    I get the OP’s concern: an acquaintance who didn’t even know her name came up to her demanding money. That part should have been done better. Perhaps the church should have footed the bill for turkey and then have been reimbursed by those paying an admission fee to the event?

    At our church, when there is a gathering like this, contributions are either paid in advance at the church office or taken at the door. In our weekly announcements at Church, the event is announced, including date, time, location and cost and it is also printed in the bulletin. It seems that would be the more courteous way to go, to make it fairer to all. But perhspas the OP’s is a very small congregation?

    Happy Advent and Christmas to all who observe those seasons! Sincere best wishes to all those of other traditions!

    • clairedelune December 4, 2017, 8:24 am

      I’m hoping OP’s isn’t a small congregation, because that would make it even worse that Ann didn’t seem to have any idea who OP was. I think maybe that’s really the thing that offended her–Ann had a very poor opening gambit. “I can’t be bothered to remember your name, but you owe me money with no explanation or context!”

      • Kat December 4, 2017, 5:09 pm

        I agree, Ann’s delivery was execrable and incredibly rude. If someone I barely knew, who didn’t even know my name, walked up to me and started demanding money, I would 1> assume she was trying to scam me, and 2> tell her she could go pound sand.

        Ann didn’t ASK for money, she DEMANDED it, without context. Polite would have been starting with “Are you coming to the potluck this year? We’ve decided to ask non-book club members to contribute cash to the turkey instead of a potluck dish,” and making the request from there.

        In my experience, people who make demands like this are people to watch out for, ranging anywhere from constant boundary-crossing to actively dangerous, so yes, this interaction was incredibly rude. It’s not about the money.

  • Mustard December 4, 2017, 7:34 am

    So the various book clubs have been providing the entire Christmas potluck every year and, as far as I can tell, the OP and her husband have never contributed, but always attended? I agree that the Lady with the List might have handled it better… but as someone else pointed out, collecting money for anything is a pain in the back pocket!

    Unless OP and her husband hauled chairs and tables, and/or washed dishes, or provided transport for the less mobile in the congregation, I can’t see where the etiquette issue is.

    • Kheldarson December 5, 2017, 12:53 am

      The OP doesn’t specify if she’s gone every year, just that it’s held every year.

      The etiquette issue lies in how Ann handled the situation. Interrupting a conversation, wrong name, demands for money? In any other context, we’d be upset about her actions. If the Christmas dinner was presented as something the groups do as a service/celebration for the Church, then it makes sense that other families may not automatically contribute. Changing thatg “tradition” means a different approach than just “You owe me money”. Otherwise you destroy the fellowship of the event, as seen in the decision not to attend by the OP. How many more families did Ann’s behavior turn away?

  • Liz December 4, 2017, 8:16 am

    While I don’t have a problem with those who don’t belong to the book clubs having to pay a small fee for the potluck, I think Ann’s way of going about it was a bit rude. I wouldn’t like to be blindsided like that either. A better way would have been to make an announcement about it, and let people make their own decisions, as to whether or not they were attending, and not put on the spot.

    • Kat December 4, 2017, 10:18 pm

      Agreed. “Who are you? Barbara? You owe me money.” Ugh. That was rude.

  • ErinAnn December 4, 2017, 8:37 am

    Yup. Approach and delivery was extremely tacky. Message was fine. I understand the discomfort.

  • Miss B December 4, 2017, 8:41 am

    I have been to Christmas potlucks where everyone attending brought a dish to pass AND $2 per person to cover the cost of turkey/ham. I still consider it a great bargain.

  • Kheldarson December 4, 2017, 9:18 am

    Ugh, I would hate that convo. Whether it’s fair for me as a non-book club member to pay or not (one could argue service to the church), I would hate to feel singled out by someone who apparently doesn’t know me, despite my being involved in her church life, and told what my invoice was without getting confirmation of intent to attend.

    Far better would’ve been to either make a general announcement for “ticket sales” to cover the extra costs or make a call for donations or even ask if the family was planning to attend before soliciting funding. Ann’s presumption just rankles.

  • LadyXaviara December 4, 2017, 9:31 am

    I think what was offensive in that conversation was “you owe me money.”

    No explanation of why, just “you owe me money”. If she had said, “oh, we decided that non members would pay for the Turkey, so if you are coming to the potluck, a $2 contribution would be appreciated. Can I expect that next week?” It would have been more appropriate

    • Calli Arcale December 4, 2017, 12:53 pm

      I agree. Someone you barely know, and who apparently knows you even less since they’ve mistaken you for someone else, corners you and declares that you owe them money? That’ll get anybody’s hackles up, and is a perfect way to ensure a significantly lower turnout for the event.

      I go to a small church, and we do potluck dinners from time to time as well, but we never insist that everyone bring something, nor do we insist that anyone provides a financial compensation. A basket is discreetly provided for freewill donations, and oftentimes the church will buy the meat out of the fellowship ministry budget, but that’s it. We would *never* dream of insisting everyone contribute.

      Mind you, half of that is because when we do ask for contributions, we always end up with too much food, which isn’t exactly a problem. 😉 We have generous members who enjoy sharing.

      The only way I could see this as reasonable for a church is if they’ve had a serious problem with freeloaders in the past, to the point where people were going hungry at the feast. But there are other ways to address that. At any potluck, you have to expect a certain percentage of freeloaders, if only because some people are bound to forget, and in a church, there will also be those for whom it is a genuine hardship to contribute. If the potluck is properly organized, that won’t be a problem.

  • Zhaleh December 4, 2017, 9:44 am

    I don’t attend church, but I had gone once or twice as a child, and if I remember correctly, there would be announcements. So, the book club is hosting the annual potluck Christmas dinner. If you aren’t in the book club, please contribute $2.00 for the turkey.

    So possibly OP missed an announcement or a flyer, or didn’t read the notice board? Maybe it was just poorly organized. Either way, Im shocked that someone who attends an organization on a regular basis, wouldn’t contribute $2.00 to a holiday dinner whether they were attending or not.
    So this woman hurt your feelings somehow, does that mean you don’t think it worth two dollars to contribute to a meal that many people benefit from?
    I doubt you would find this kind of stinginess in a secular organization. Those church ladies can be brutal!

    • Calli Arcale December 4, 2017, 12:53 pm

      “I doubt you would find this kind of stinginess in a secular organization.”

      Oh, there is no limit to where Grinches can pop up. 😉

    • Calibrate November 1, 2018, 12:32 pm

      I was thinking the same Zheleh. Ann had a list of people. She was probably told to approach anyone on the list who have not contributed yet. She didn’t preface it with a summary of why, making me think that was some sort of flyer or announcement made previously. Maybe OP just missed that and then took offense. Asking people for money is an aweful task and I know if it was me, I would be stumbling over my words, maybe being too direct, etc… I say give Ann a break, especially if she was asked to do this uncomfortable task by someone else and felt obligated. Plus, it’s $2 people!

  • Lerah99 December 4, 2017, 9:57 am

    Ann was less than graceful in her approach and delivery.

    As someone who is TERRIBLE with names, I can understand her feeling all flustered when she got your name wrong. As you mentioned, your husband is her kids Sunday school teacher and you attended her wedding.

    In addition, you were in conversation with someone else when she blurts out “You owe me money.”
    That’s embarrassing.
    It makes it sound like you’re ducking a bill collector or loan shark.

    I can absolutely understand you being upset by her approach.
    And I’m sorry you and your husband decided not to attend an event you normally enjoy because of it.

    I hope you are able to rise above this.
    Rather than feeling angry every time you see Ann, I hope you can forgive her.
    Yes, she was graceless and clumsy in her approach. She embarrassed you and put you on the spot. She was in the wrong.
    If needed, before you can forgive her, have a conversation with her.

    Pull her aside and say “Ann, you probably don’t even remember. But when you asked me for the money for the Christmas potluck, you really embarrassed me. I was talking to a friend and you suddenly come along stating I owe you money, like I was ducking a bill or had borrowed cab fare without paying it back. I know that wasn’t your intention. But it’s been weighing on me. And I really need to let you know how attacked and shamed I felt in that moment.”

    Most likely, she will scramble to apologize and explain that it wasn’t her intention to make you feel like that. It will also give her pause in future situations. Maybe she’ll be more graceful and less like a rampaging bull in a china shop.

    The worst thing you can do is hold onto this incident. Quietly seething about it. Feeling that anger and resentment every time you see Ann. Because that will just make things worse. It will fester until you say or do something unkind in return, out of righteous indignation, but still unkind.

    • Zhaleh December 4, 2017, 11:51 am

      LeRah 99, your response is very gracious. You are a good person.
      I just wonder, do you think an adult with a family to care for, which to mean means never ending work, and hopefully herself to take care of, is likely to be this upset and hurt and embarrassed with most “off” interactions? Or do you suppose it’s a one off?
      Either way, is it a good idea to express so much emotion over an awkward interaction?
      I’m asking honestly. As I age I find the less said the better, and when I find myself upset by something someone else says, it’s myself I have a conversation with.
      But sometimes I wonder if there are times when I should be more proactive.

      • Lerah99 December 4, 2017, 3:55 pm

        @Zhaleh, I think that most people, most of the time, just brush off any “off” interactions.
        So this is probably a one off.

        We’re all human and you never know when an interaction will hit you sideways.

        Hopefully the OP sent this in back in September and by the time this posted she thought “Oh my goodness. I can’t believe I was so irked by that.”

        I know that when I get really upset by some minor thing, there is usually something else going on in my life causing stress. I can’t control that other thing (job worries, school worries, worries about a parent’s health, etc….) so my brain takes a minor issue and grabs onto it. So my full on “How DARE they!!!???!!!???” is an over reaction. I FEEL it very strongly. But the actual incident doesn’t warrant it.

        When I find myself in that situation: Someone has slighted me in a small way or hurt my feelings in a small way but I am consumed with a great deal of self righteous anger about it.
        I try to reason with myself. I try to practice mindful forgiveness. I will talk over the situation with a neutral third party to get an unbiased opinion about the proportion of my reaction.

        Sometimes the only thing that works is for me is to talk to the other person. For example:

        “Hi friend. You probably don’t even recall this. We were at that Superbowl party and you said ‘Oh my God! Get off the couch and go sit in one of the chairs so my boyfriend and I can sit together!’
        It really hurt my feelings that you just ordered me off the couch rather than asking. It made me feel like I’m not as worthy of politeness or consideration simply because I didn’t have a date with me.”

        Sometimes I just need that interaction to clear the air. Which is why I suggested it if the OP feels she needs it.

        And I agree that the older I get the less likely I am to be riled by stuff.
        Age gives perspective.
        One of my friends is in her early 90s. She is fond of saying “The only good thing about getting this old: No matter what happens, it won’t the be worst thing that ever happened to me.”

    • Calli Arcale December 4, 2017, 12:54 pm


      That is perfect.

    • Pat December 4, 2017, 4:48 pm

      I think OP should just let it go and forget it. Everyone makes mistakes. If Anne does something like this again, then OP should say something.

      • staceyizme December 5, 2017, 12:53 pm

        I hope no one has ever actually ordered you off of a sofa. If they have, please encourage them to visit ehell for some perspective.

  • anissa December 4, 2017, 10:11 am

    I agree that $2.00 is a great ‘admission price’ for a potluck meal, and I don’t know if this was the OPs question but what grabbed me was the *way* the notification was given. She was in conversation with other people when this woman tapped her on the shoulder (interrupting her) and what may have been intended as lighthearted (you owe me money) sounded brusque when paired with…I’m not entirely sure who you are; marking her clipboard and moving on to the next group. There are most definitely more polite ways to go about that. The ‘personal touch’ individual notifications rather than a bulletin or pulpit announcement missed its mark a little here. I would have been taken aback as well.

  • Lyn December 4, 2017, 10:12 am

    I’m guessing the OP was offended by the accusation “You owe me money!” It would have been much nicer to begin the conversation with “are you and your husband planning to come to the potluck?” and then proceed with an explanation of non-book club members contributing $$ to the meal.

  • NostalgicGal December 4, 2017, 10:31 am

    Here there is one church that puts on a huge holiday feed. Period. They charge per head. Period. It’s delicious. It’s posted for weeks before the event what day, and how much. Last year it was $10 a person, but you could go for seconds if you wanted, there were several different kinds of pie for dessert, and you definitely got a good meal for that.

    If you weren’t part of a book club but attended previous years, suck it up buttercup and give forth with the $4. That’s cheap. It could have been asked for better, or just put it in the church circular handed out when you show up… but. That’s very cheap. You weren’t being asked to cook or clean up, just contribute a few dollars each.

  • ErindV December 4, 2017, 10:43 am

    It sounds like the meal was originally hosted by the book clubs, but they’ve decided to offset costs this year. That’s fair enough, but what a strange/aggressive way to convey that information! I’m cringing imagining a new member, already feeling a little out of place, being accosted after services and told they owe a stranger money for a meal they aren’t even sure they are attending! My church hosts lots of congregation wide meals, and they are almost always either a potluck that *everybody* is asked to contribute to, or paid at the entrance via goodwill donation. The potlucks always have so much food that anybody who forgot to bring a dish or is not financially able to is enthusiastically invited to join the meal, and the goodwill donations let those with less resources give a little and still contribute, and those who have more will generally give extra. Large group meals are meant to be about community and sharing! All Ann had to say was: “We hope you can join us for our annual Christmas Dinner! We’re asking those not bringing side dishes to contribute $2 towards the cost of the turkey.”

    • gramma dishes December 4, 2017, 11:52 am

      That’s perfect wording!

    • staceyizme December 4, 2017, 1:32 pm

      “Large group meals are meant to be about community and about sharing!” This- spreading the cost of food and the labor needed to prepare, organize and clean up helps to make these meals sustainable. But if you’re going to be either awkward or overly strict about collecting funds and having folks be “voluntold” what they are to bring or what tasks they are expected to perform, no real good is going to come of your efforts, in my opinion.

  • Dee December 4, 2017, 10:54 am

    If it’s a potluck then there shouldn’t be any payment required. If OP was not required to bring a dish then it’s not a potluck. So, which is it? That’s the main confusion right there.

    But I would have been offended, too, if someone approached me out of the blue, asking for money. Does OP expect to be fed at this event without having to either bring a dish or pay for admission? There isn’t enough information in the submission to determine that. But OP has worked for the church, at least in the past, for free, so we can assume she’s not a freeloader.

    • AS December 4, 2017, 1:21 pm

      It is a pot-luck, but ONLY the book club members bring food. The non book club members can attend, but from they are expected to contribute $2 this year (it is not clear what they were doing in the previous years; presumably they were not contributing anything). OP was not a member of the book club, and hence does not have to bring anything for the pot-luck. This part is quite clear.

    • lakey December 4, 2017, 3:08 pm

      “If it’s a potluck then there shouldn’t be any payment required. If OP was not required to bring a dish then it’s not a potluck. So, which is it? That’s the main confusion right there.”

      I’ve been to potlucks where the guests bring a dish to pass, side dish or dessert, and the meat is provided by whoever is organizing it, with people being asked to contribute a few dollars toward the cost of the meat. So yes, you bring pasta salad and give the organizer money. This is usually done by organizations rather than family or friend potlucks.

    • Melissa December 5, 2017, 12:54 pm

      The main dish is provided, but the rest of the meal is potluck. I HOPE that the OP wasn’t offended by the request for a contribution to the potluck, but the way in which it was delivered. As Admin said, at $2 per person, they are scoring big time! It would be hard to make a side dish to bring for less than $4, and there’s also the time and effort spent making the dish.

  • It's Me December 4, 2017, 10:58 am

    I agree with the admin that $2 per person is a laughably small amount to pay for admission to a church potluck dinner. But now I’m wondering if the $2 that Ann asked for was for just the OP or for the OP and her husband. If it was for both, than $1 per person is an even bigger bargain!

    Now I’m wondering what they will do if no one who doesn’t belong to a book club wants to attend. Does that mean that there won’t be a turkey? Or what if only one couple who doesn’t belong to a book club attends – do they have to pay the full cost of the turkey?

  • Sk December 4, 2017, 11:09 am

    I’m actually confused as to why this isn’t at least a breach in communication etiquette. If the potluck was already being advertised (verbally, printed, or otherwise) then the individuals planning the event should already have had this detail about what non-bookclub members could do to participate. And that information should have been given upfront.

    If I’m going to a potluck, I expect to contribute food, not cash unless otherwise told upfront. I’m a bit surprised about the admins response that an unexpected request to give cash is supposed to be ok because the OP should only be looking at the potluck as a cheap easy meal.

    Potlucks aren’t about saving money on a meal. They are about community, socialization, sharing, etc. I always look forward to cooking something that reflects my personality and love sharing the recipe if others like it. I would be disappointed to be asked not to contribute food but just hand over cash. Again, if I’d had the knowledge up front about the cash at the first invitation, perhaps it would not be so shocking.

  • Ruby December 4, 2017, 11:23 am

    I agree with the other commenters–the phrasing of the question could have been better, but asking $2 for a full Christmas dinner is completely reasonable. Perhaps Ann could have said something like, “We ask that those not contributing a dish to the potluck put in $2 towards the turkey,” or something similar, but I don’t think it was rude of her to ask for money.

  • lakey December 4, 2017, 11:56 am

    Ann may have been a bit abrupt in how she approached OP. But organizing a large event involving multiple groups is stressful and a lot of work. Someone is going to think it should have been done differently. These people tend to get burned out. She needs to figure out how many turkeys to buy, how many people are coming, how much money to spend, and try to get the money up front.
    Then there is getting people organized to roast all the turkeys.
    I wouldn’t want the job. She probably thought she was making things easy for some people by letting them just fork over 2 bucks.

  • Zhaleh December 4, 2017, 11:59 am

    I’m confused by posts that find the asking for a small amount of cash being unreasonable for an event at a church.
    Some say because it’s a potluck, that $2.00 a person is unreasonable and a dish to share would be better.
    I get the deliver was awkward and perhaps even rude, (although I disagree with a PP who suggested OP was singled out, sounds like everyone was being asked), but isn’t is common in a church to be asked for donations for events?

  • flora December 4, 2017, 12:06 pm

    It sounds to me like the offence was Ann interrupts a conversation rudely (ish?) doesn’t even know the OP’s name and seemly demands money. Which, I sort of get, I’d probably be bugged to. But to me, it seems kind of a minor offense.
    I was kind of confused by the nature of the potluck though. Is it hosted by the various book clubs for the entire church? Or is it open to the members of the book clubs only and the rest of the congregation is only invited for the rest of the leftovers?
    And really two dollars isn’t unreasonable for a buffet meal.

  • Maggie December 4, 2017, 12:07 pm

    I don’t think it’s the $2 that’s the issue – it’s the way it was presented. If OP hadn’t been asked for money in the past, why would she think that would suddenly change? A better way would be to say “Will you be attending the potluck?” If so, “We are asking all non-group members to contribute $2 for the turkey. Could you get that to me by next week?”

    • Liz December 5, 2017, 8:11 am

      This exactly. I always say its all about the tone of voice, and how you ask/say something.

      I had a similar situation back in college. We had “spring fling” weekend, with bands outside and all kind of other activities. And yes, drinking was involved. I had a friend, who had transferred, come back to visit that particular weekend. Another friend, who was organizing the “booze fest” (not really as bad as it sounds) four our group of friends, came up to me, didn’t ask, but told me that oh we’re doing this, getting that, so its x dollars. For both of you (myself and my visiting friend). I was a bit put off because a. she didn’t ask if we wanted to come hang out with them, and b. before I could say yay or nay, told me exactly how much I’d need to pay her.

      Visiting friend and I declined.

  • JD December 4, 2017, 12:45 pm

    The request for a donation was poorly done but I would forget it,pay and go. I’m like others– if this wasn’t announced or in the bulletin then that was poorly done as well. It sounds like better communication is needed.

  • Abby December 4, 2017, 12:49 pm

    I do think Ann was rude in how she went about collecting the money, and I can see being put off by that, but OP, if you were going to attend before and only changed your mind because of Ann, I think that was sort of an overreaction.

  • Lilac December 4, 2017, 1:04 pm

    I agree that the delivery was awkward. I’m guessing that the change in how the potluck was financed was announced elsewhere and the OP missed it. I can’t help thinking though, that if you don’t like how something is done, volunteer to do it yourself. The OP evidently benefited from other’s largess in the past (the book club members) and if she attended the potluck she would have benefited from the efforts of some volunteers to collect money from congregants plus they would have bought and prepared the turkey. Even if she didn’t attend, her friends and fellow church members did. So if she didn’t like the way it was done, she could volunteer to do it herself. You may find out that hitting people up for money is a crap job that no one likes to do because of the responses people give you no matter how you approach it. So if this event is something you think has value (and not just for you-a community potluck during the holidays could be serving an emotional or practical need for many people) or you want to participate in it, don’t sit back and be petty. Contribute.

    • staceyizme December 5, 2017, 12:57 pm

      I think you bring up a good point about it not being easy to collect funds. However, there are other ways to go about the collection, none of which were brought up by OP as a means of comparing her incident with a suggested “better” approach. Perhaps in her mind (certainly in mine) it was about the “tap tap tap…”, interruption and the awkwardness of someone who should know her name but did not.

  • Outdoor Girl December 4, 2017, 1:11 pm

    I’m with the OP on this one. Not because I wouldn’t be willing to kick in $2 (or even $5) a head towards the dinner – I absolutely would – but the way Ann approached the OP would get my back up completely.

    If Ann had approached the OP and said, ‘Excuse me? I’m organizing the pot luck and I was wondering if you and your husband would be joining us this year?’ And when the OP responds in the affirmative, carry on with, ‘We are asking those not in the book clubs, who will be providing the sides and desserts, to give $2 per person towards the turkey and the ham. Would that be OK with you?’ And again, when the OP responds in the affirmative, ‘I’m very sorry; I’m not sure of your name. I’d like to mark you off by name on my list, if that’s OK?’ Then I think the OP would not have been so taken aback by the whole thing.

    IMO, Ann was very rude. She interrupted a conversation; she got the person’s name wrong; she accused the person of owing her money and was very presumptuous. If she was like this with new members of the congregation? They might be looking for another place to worship.

    • iwadasn December 5, 2017, 12:55 am

      All that’s being asked is that OP contribute along with everyone else rather than getting a free ride. If someone is so affronted by that expectation that they feel the need to find another church, I’d say the congregation is better off without them.

      • Lerah99 December 5, 2017, 11:55 am

        @iwadasn – It isn’t the request to contribute the OP is upset about.

        She isn’t saying “How DARE people expect me to contribute! I deserve to eat without making any effort or contribution what so ever!”

        She’s upset with how she was approached.
        Ann’s approach was rude. She interrupted the OP’s conversation twice. She didn’t remember to OP’s name. Then she demanded $2 like she was a loan shark collecting on a bad bet.

        It was graceless and lacking in decorum. I can understand the OP being a little shaken and put off by the whole thing.

      • Melissa December 5, 2017, 12:58 pm

        That’s obviously not Outdoor Girl’s point. It’s approaching someone in a rude way that could cause a new member to want to leave the church, not merely asking for contributions. I wish the OP would have provided more information, but Outdoor Girl was pretty clear in her wording.

  • staceyizme December 4, 2017, 1:23 pm

    I think OP’s irritation was with how she was approached in terms of both the tone “you owe me” and the timing (invades her personal space by tapping her on the shoulder, literally interrupts her conversation and duns her for a debt she had no idea that she had incurred). Look, if the book clubs are providing hospitality for their members only, then it isn’t an event for the whole church. If they are providing hospitality for everyone then they can either do so without complaint or those wishing to participate who also don’t belong to one of the clubs can purchase “tickets” from the church office indicating that they’ve paid their price of admission. There is no reason to approach people individually and with such poor manner in order to collect $2. One entry into the bulletin plus one or two mentions during the announcements for the day should suffice. It’s less invasive and reaches more people simultaneously. (But why the book clubs are expected to provide a meal for the full congregation is beyond me. This sounds like a job for the regular hospitality committee, deacons or other party that is universally responsible for the congregation’s corporate spiritual and social life.)

  • Jessica December 4, 2017, 2:47 pm

    If I were OP, I would be put off by Ann too. Her approach was tacky and I would probably be like, “who are you the church bill collector??”. It probably would have been better to have someone make an announcement at the beginning or end of the church service saying something like, “We’re having our Christmas potluck next Sunday and we are asking those who are not contributing a dish to please consider contributing $2 per adult to help cover the cost of a turkey for everyone. Ann will be collecting this money. Thanks!” Or, if Ann was approaching people on an individual basis, she could at least ask for a monetary contribution instead of tell/demand. Wouldn’t it be just as tacky if she came up to OP and said “We decided you’re bringing dinner rolls for the entire congregation since you’re not in any book club.”? I don’t think the amount of money is the issue here, it’s how the subject was approached. Had OP been approached a more polite way, she probably would have been more than happy to pitch in her $2.

    • Pam December 4, 2017, 8:34 pm

      Completely agree – the request wasn’t the problem, but it was poorly done. Why not politely explain that the book clubs were handling such and such and wondering if OP would like to contribute $2 towards the cost of the turkey? Not knowing her name, not apologizing for getting her name wrong and then the statement “you owe me money” is not polite at all.

  • pennywit December 4, 2017, 3:50 pm

    I get where OP is coming from. If somebody says, “Hi, are you coming to the church potluck? Yes? We’re asking this year that people who aren’t in the book clubs kick in some money for the turkey.” That gives me a moment to say “No, I’m not coming,” or “Hm. I wasn’t aware of this. Please tell me more.” If somebody walks up to me and immediately begins with “You owe me money,” that’s going to get my hackles up. I’ve been in a couple offices and social groups where somebody will try to take up a collection for something without asking people beforehand if they want to participate. It’s not pleasant, and it gets my hackles up.

  • Erin T. Aardvark December 4, 2017, 6:35 pm

    There were potlucks at the place where I used to work. I never liked contributing to them, because I’m not crazy about cooking. Usually, I’d find out who was in charge of the potluck, and give him/her five dollars as my contribution. I’m not too crazy about how the person in OP’s story phrased her wording, though. She should have at least asked if she was coming to the potluck first instead of saying “you owe me money.” I definitely would not like it if someone came to me and said I had to pay money especially if I wasn’t planning on going to this event.

  • Hannah December 4, 2017, 7:55 pm

    I’m a bit surprised by the people saying to just “suck it up and pay” because of how low the cost was. This is not about the amount of money. OP hadn’t decided to attend the event. OP hadn’t been previously made aware that their was a price attached to the event, IF she choose to attend. OP was interrupted and told she owed someone money out of the blue– someone, who by the way, didn’t bother getting her name right despite going to church with her or having her at her wedding. The way Ann asked for money was tactless, and OP has the right to be taken aback. Also, why is everyone assuming OP has been just taking advantage of previous potlucks? Or intended to do nothing for this one? At my church growing up, things like this had a basket at the actual event for members who did not cook/volunteer to “give what they can.” (Which seems to me to be more of the church spirit anyway.) We don’t know that the OP doesn’t ever help out or make contributions, and even if she hasn’t it’s still not an excuse for Ann to go demand money of her like that.

  • David December 4, 2017, 8:45 pm

    So Barbara is in the middle of a conversation when Ann (who she barely knows) taps her on the shoulder (interrupting the conversation) , mistakes her for Nancy and then says; “Oh, you owe me money.”

    I can see getting a bit offended. She didn’t wait until the conversation was over, say; “Excuse me.” or any of that. Of course, there should have been an announcement during the community business part of the church service about the $2.00 cover charge for those not in book clubs, but that isn’t Ann’s fault.

  • Ashley December 4, 2017, 10:38 pm

    The way the message was conveyed to you seems a little aggressive, but honestly I think it’s entirely reasonable to pay $2 rather than having to bring/make food.

    Perhaps a church bulletin or announcement after the service would have been better than her approaching people individually?

    • lakey December 5, 2017, 5:18 pm

      The thing is that often the announcement isn’t enough. The organizer still has to go individually to most of the people to actually collect the money. I’ve been in the situation, and I’ve had to go to some people 3 or 4 times. I was head of the social committee for the school where I taught. Each teacher was supposed to contribute a set amount for the year. It would take more than a month to get money from everyone. Collecting money from people is a royal pain. Running a potluck for a large number of people is also a lot of work. I can see why Ann might be frazzled.

      This is why I feel more sympathy for Ann. She has to collect $2 each from a large number of people. A lot of these people are at church for something so she starts approaching them to get the money. Otherwise, she has to find another time to get the money from them.

  • Wilson December 4, 2017, 10:52 pm

    I agree, Ann’s approach was very poor. But I wouldn’t decline to attend just based on that. I am surprised though that a “pot luck” would have anyone pay anything. The usual course that I am familiar with is that one group takes on doing the turkey, and everyone else provides the other stuff. In my church, it’s the church itself that pays for the turkey and ham. I would have thought the book clubs would provide the turkey and ask the pot luck attenders to bring a dish.

  • staceyizme December 5, 2017, 1:04 pm

    Potlucks seem to yield more stories of difficulties of one kind or another than almost any other kind of dinner. The earlier submission about the potluck which had a set table prepared with 2 attendees choosing to provide sushi for just themselves, this story of sorting out costs and food provision and other anecdotes rub us somewhat the wrong way because we’ve all “been there” in some fashion. Either we’ve hosted cooperative meals that others haven’t contributed to or we’ve been guests at meal where we’ve contributed significantly and many people attended but failed to provide anything towards the meal. I’ve had a lot of joy from doing community meals, but have kind of given up on the “community provision” aspect and focus more on the “community eating together” aspect. It saves a lot of annoyance and allows me to indulge my own tastes. Then, if others contribute, it’s a pleasant surprise. Perhaps others have had similar experiences.

  • Marozia December 8, 2017, 5:26 am

    WOW!! Ann belongs to the same congregation as the OP and didn’t know her name!!
    I think a notice on the Church congregation board or a sign up sheet would’ve been better. That delivery was tacky.