The Great Gluten-Free Debate


The Great Gluten-Free Debate: Is gluten-free the way to be, or is it an issue best left alone?

First, let me go back and touch on some things I mentioned in a previous blog about snacks. I’m a fan of snack time. I think serving snacks is a great way to show radical hospitality. I’m also a believer in using snacks as a part of your lessons, not just a filler.

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I mentioned how important it is to be allergy alert, knowing your kids’ needs and being ready to provide safe alternatives. But how important is it to be ready with gluten-free options?

Looking around the Internet, I stumbled across a message board where someone was asking about what to do when you have children who need gluten-free foods.

“It isn’t the responsibility of the church to provide special snacks for kids. We are not a child care nor an airline catering to personal dietary needs,” said one reply.

The original poster replied that the kids in the ministry have celiac disease and it wasn’t just a preference, but a health concern.

For more information about celiac disease, click here. According to, about 1 in every 133 people in the United States has celiac disease and many kids are diagnosed with it when they’re between 6 months and 2 years old.

The Peanut Institute reports that 4 percent of children have food allergies.

So why ignore some health issues, but ignore this one? Some might say time and money.

“I have a book we just rounded up sitting on my desk that has tons of allergy-sensitive recipes,” says Laycie Costigan. “The downside is they’re often much more complicated and expensive when it comes to the ingredients.”

Laycie is on our amazing VBS team. She says that while they haven’t switched to completely gluten-free, it’s important to provide options for friends in ministry who have these needs.

“What we’ve been doing lately is offering some tips for making snacks gluten-free,” says Laycie. “We’re not necessarily steering away completely from gluten-just offering either helpful ideas of how to alter the snack prep to make the snack gluten-free or ideas for alternatives to have on hand for kiddos who can’t have gluten. An upside with how prevalent gluten intolerance has become is that there are more gluten-free foods and easy-prep mixes available.

“For instance, we had a pancake snack in the last field test and we suggested that if there are a lot of kids at your VBS who are gluten-intolerant, to simply make all the pancakes from a gluten-free pancake mix (you can find these at stores-though they’re often more expensive than traditional mixes). That way kidmins could serve the pancakes to everyone at VBS and not have to worry about keeping track of which pancakes had gluten and which didn’t.”

It’s an issue that most ministries are bound to come across at some point. Whatever your decision is, make it clear to volunteers and parents.

How do you handle gluten in your ministry? Let us know using the comment section below!

The Great Gluten-Free Debate
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  1. Children's Ministry Magazine

    We have a small congregation (about 150 on Sunday morning)and have one first grader that has celiac disease and one family that prefers to stay away from gluten. We always provide at least one snack each day of VBS with no gluten. Our kitchen pantry and Children's ministry also have gluten-free snacks. We always keep GF items on hand because we are also can open as a storm shelter. Our potlucks always have GF foods available. The congregation is really accepting of fact that food allergies are out there 🙂

  2. Children's Ministry Magazine
    Margaret Warren on

    We have a number of kids with food allergies in our very big Kid's Church.

    For the 3 – 5 year olds (my group) their name bade has a red stripe to indicate an allergy (and what it is) and we offer a simple snack to all with the gluten free kids being offered rice crackers (the best GF snack around)

    It is so worth the effort and if well planned you can offer regular snacks for most kids and GF ones for the coeliac kids without anybody feeling singled out.

    On camps, we just make sure there is a variation on the meal everyone else gets that is gluten free.

    My son (now 18) learned early on to just ask before eating at church, and I always has a little something in my handbag in case there wasn't anything available

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