Last week, we posted some photos from a shrimp boil hosted by our friends at Uplands Village in Pleasant Hill, Tennessee. For decades, shrimp boils have been a traditional way for churches to support Back Bay Mission. Every year, churches and other organizations around the country host these simple events. Through them, congregations strengthen neighborhoods, seek justice, and transform lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Traditionally, shrimp boils are simple events that any church can easily host. And to make it easier, we’ve prepared this short guide to hosting one! We hope you’ll take a look and consider supporting Back Bay Mission by hosting your own shrimp boil.

Shrimp Boil Basics

Shrimp boils are informal events. The traditional Gulf Coast shrimp boils recipe is nothing more than water, shrimp, lemon, seasoning, heat, and time. The cooked and drained shrimp is then poured out over newspaper-covered tables and served with cocktail sauce and drinks. Cleanup is taken care of by gathering everything on the table and putting it right in the trash. No dishes or silverware means no fuss, no muss.

When it comes to programming, we generally suggest dinner first. An hour for dinner and an hour (or less) for a program strikes a good balance between fun and learning. The program portion of the evening can be taken care of by volunteers from your congregation, people in your area who have agreed to represent the Mission, or even Mission staff!

Shrimp boils raise money either through ticket sales or free-will offerings (or both). These, too, keep things simple. Ticket costs can be based on the amount it costs to host the event. Free-will offerings may mean that the church has to cover at least some of the cost of the meal. Either way, if the audience is excited to be supporting a good cause, these can raise money to support Back Bay Mission.

Of course, different churches do things differently. Some congregations prepare low country shrimp boils with sausage, potatoes, corn, and more. Some serve their boils on plates. Some add salads, garlic bread, and non-shrimp options. Some raise money through silent auctions and raffles. Some have wine pulls. Shrimp boils are as diverse as the congregations that host them.

Below, we’re going to give some suggestions on hosting a shrimp boil that you can mix and match. This will help you make your shrimp boil yours while keeping the common core that brings all shrimp boils together: strengthening neighborhoods, seeking justice, and transforming lives.

The Food

Gulf Coast shrimp boils are usually simple. This recipe will serve eight, so multiply accordingly:

  • Thaw and separate 5 lbs. of frozen shrimp. We suggest 26/30 count shrimp, which means 26 to 30 shrimp per pound. These are sometimes labelled ‘Extra Large’ shrimp.
  • Bring 3/4 gallons of water, 1/2 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, and 1 oz. Zatarain’s liquid shrimp and crab boil (or 1 bag Zatarain’s dry shrimp and crab boil) to a boil.
  • Add the shrimp to the water.
  • Boil the shrimp for four to six minutes. After that, remove a shrimp from the water, shock it in cold water, and test it for doneness. If done, the shell will be separating from the flesh, which will be firm and white.
  • Once the shrimp is done, remove it from heat and 1/2 gallon of cold water to stop the cooking process. Steep the shrimp for three to five minutes. Drain and serve hot.

You might prefer a low country shrimp boil, with more ingredients. And many congregations add salads, garlic bread, and cocktail sauce. You can find some recipes here:

You may also want to have a non-shrimp option for kids or others who might just not like shrimp.

The Service

Traditional shrimp boil service is simple. Cover tables with old newspaper and pour the shrimp over the table. Guests can grab, peel, eat, and deposit their peels right on the table. This makes cleanup easy as well: just grab everything and put it in the trash. Most churches that host shrimp boils do something like this, though many also have plates for people. Choose something that fits the personality of your congregation, but we recommend against buffets or formal table service.

The Program

Part of the purpose of any shrimp boil is to introduce people to – or update people about – Back Bay Mission. Usually, this is done through a program after dinner. There are a few different options for a great program.

If you’re church has recently gone on a mission trip to Back Bay Mission, your volunteers might be able to put a great program together. They can share about their experiences and about what they learned while they were with us in Biloxi.

If you’re new to Back Bay Mission, don’t have any volunteers in your congregation, or just want something a little more special, contact church relations associate Christopher Marlin-Warfield (by phone at 228-243-5322 or by email). He’ll be happy to come to your shrimp boil (or, if he’s unavailable, set up a visit from other Mission staff, a member of our Board of Directors, or a volunteer in your area). Please note that we can only send staff is the shrimp boil is raising money specifically for the Mission.

Plan on leaving about an hour for the program.

Raising Money

The other part of the purpose for a shrimp boil is to raise money. There are a few great ways to do this.

First, you can sell tickets. Your best bet here is to figure out the cost per serving and double or triple it. This will make sure that you cover costs and that you raise additional money for the Mission.

Second, you can take a free will offering. This can be done by having baskets for donations on the tables or by passing a basket through the crowd.

Third, some churches decide to add other options for raising money. They can be a lot of work, but silent auctions, raffles, and other events can raise significant amounts of money. Check your state and local laws before raising money in ways other than ticket sales and free will offerings. Some fundraisers, like raffles, are regulated.


Shrimp boils are a great way to introduce your congregation to Back Bay Mission while raising money to strengthen neighborhoods, seek justice, and transform lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We hope you’ll consider hosting one at your church or organization. Once you’ve decided to do that – or if you want to explore the idea some more – contact Church Relations Associate Carol Merriman (by phone at 228-243-5322 or by email) and let us know!

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