Friendship Baptist Church's annual wild game dinner is as much ministry as it is a meal.
Except for 2018, the church's Chosen Arrow Ministry has hosted the wild game dinner every year since 2007, Don Baker, a member of the ministry and this year's dinner coordinator said.
"It's just a way to build relationship's with guys that might never come to church," Baker said.
The wild game dinner will also feature outdoorsman Gerry Caillouet as guest speaker. Caillouet hosts a weekly 25-minute syndicated radio program called "God's Great Outdoors."
Attendees will have the chance to win one of two Elite compound bows as well as "various other door prizes we'll be giving away," Baker said.
About 200 people typically attend and children are welcome, he said.
New this year to the banqueting table is alligator, which the church is purchasing for the occasion.
"We just wanted to give a variety of items," Baker. "It's something that's not seen in the area."
Other featured entrees include venison and elk (donated by church members) and alligator and tilapia, which the church will purchase for the event.
"And we'll have venison nachos for appetizers," Baker said.
Don't like wild game? The dinner will also feature domestic turkey and fried chicken. Baker said the main focus of the dinner is not the food.
"It's just the opportunity to get to know other folks. It's just not about eating the wild game," Baker said. "It's also meeting others that have taken time to be in God's country in the outdoors. It's not always about the hunting. It's about learning to get off the phones and get away from electronics and to have some time outside."
"And then we'll have various side dishes with beverages," Baker said.
Sides, all donated by the church, will include potato casserole, macaroni and cheese and green beans. Desserts will also be available, he said.
The church's former associate minister Rick Mullan, an avid outdoorsman, started the ministry and the dinner, Baker said.
"We just kind of carried it on after his passing," Baker said.
Past entrees have included pheasant, grouse, Italian-style venison sausage, venison chili, elk stew, goose barbecue and buffalo stroganoff.
At the dinners, Mullan would encourage attendees, many of them outdoorsman, to share their stories.
“Outdoorsmen love to tell you hunting stories,” Mullan said in a 2015 Herald-News story. “It’s like asking a grandfather to tell you about his grandkids.”
Yet he always stressed the importance of being authentic. The wild game dinner was "bait" to coax people into church.
“Be real,” Mullan said in the story. “They can smell when someone is not authentic.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Annual Wild Game Dinner
WHEN: March 14. Doors open 5:30 p.m. Dinner begins at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Plainfield High School – Central Campus, 24120 Fort Beggs Drive, Plainfield
COST: $12 (adults) and $6 (ages 6 to 10) by March 7. Tickets are $20 at the door (while they last). Purchase tickets on the church's website.
According to Friendship Baptist Church's website, the purpose of Chosen Arrow Ministry is to build relationships with fellow outdoorsmen in the Joliet/Plainfield area.
In addition to the wild game dinner, the ministry offers workshops, family events, education in hunting and safety and an introduction to Christ and honoring God's creation.
For more information, visit fbcplainfield.com