Converting coffee culture

Coffee mornings, lunch clubs and youth cafés – churches are making connections with young and old in the community.

“How do we connect with and serve people in our parish?” is a question that rightly concerns churches. Many churches are answering that question by offering hospitality to different groups in their parish.

In Bradley Stoke, a new-build area north of Bristol, Christ the King has been running weekly Friday Coffee Mornings since March 2008.

“We decided to hold three coffee mornings in the run up to a ‘mission’ week,” says Tracey Angel, who helps run the coffee mornings. “They were so successful, we weren’t really allowed to stop!”

The coffee mornings provide a warm, welcoming and non-threatening environment for people to cross the threshold of the church building over coffee, tea, homemade cakes and bacon rolls. 50 to 60 people come each week, sometimes almost 100, with a group of 20 volunteers baking or serving.

“It’s a stepping stone for people,” continues Tracey. “It provides a little treat to some who might not be able to afford it in the hope that this might be their first step in getting to know God.”

In Sea Mills, St Edyth’s have set up a twice-weekly Crypt Café to provide somewhere for unchurched teenagers to meet. The relationships that have been built over the past three years have had a huge impact on the lives and expectations of the teenagers who attend. In addition, vandalism in the area has also fallen dramatically.

These kinds of opportunities are not limited to the young. Up the road in Shirehampton, St Mary’s hold a weekly lunch club in the church, Food and Fellowship for the elderly in the village, reaching out to the bereaved, lonely, frail and housebound. This now caters for 60 people a week.

As a result of this hospitality, a number of people have joined an Alpha Course, with some older people being confirmed each year.

At St Stephen, Soundwell, Dad & Me, is a monthly Saturday morning for dads (or granddads) and their kids. Over bacon butties, dads are able to play games, from Wii to table football, with their children, ending with a song, story and their own Dad & Me prayer. In one year, Dad & Me has made connections with over 30 families.

What your church offers may well be different but these initiatives are clearly starting to create communities of wholeness with Christ (and maybe some cake) at the centre.