Faith on Tap

2015-07-15 12.08.12

Jordan B. Davis,
Church Relations Officer

A few years ago, a new trend in Young Adult ministry started. I began noticing posters in my favorite restaurants that advertised a Bible study or faith based discussion that took place at the restaurant, usually over drinks. At the time, I thought this was a little odd- was it even ok to mix church and beer? Wouldn’t that give you a sour stomach or something? However, just after my 21st birthday I decided to check one of these out and had anything but a sour stomach!

Starmount Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, NC started their version of this ministry, “Guinness and the Good News” roughly 7 years ago in the upstairs of a small pub in downtown. From what I understand, it was a small group to begin with–however by the time I started attending, only a year or so later, we filled our nook of the restaurant and began adding a few chairs. Once a month, our group of 10-15 (sometimes more) young adults would gather for food, drinks, and “God talk.” Sometimes our Associate Pastor would bring the discussion topic, other times a group member would lead. Sometimes the discussion went really deep and lasted past our set time, other times the discussion would transition away from the initial topic only 15 or 20 minutes. Almost every time, I walked away feeling renewed and better about what was going on in my life. There is something about getting away from the physical walls of the church building that can help a person relax and open up a bit more. It seemed that “Guinness and the Good News” did that for most of those who attended each month. Over the course of my time with the group, we began welcoming more people to the group who had nothing to do with the church or campus ministry that initially fed the group.

I recently had a few similar gatherings for a small group in the Triangle area in North Carolina, “Thirsty Conversations,” –and was pleasantly surprised at the direction of our conversations. This small group of graduate students and young professionals, brought together through two sisters who wanted to be able to talk outside of church, discussed crossing denominational boundaries and how to respond to conflicts between church and politics as young adults. Space was provided for “real talk” and prayer concerns when we learned about the personal struggles of some individuals and prayed for one another, promising to continue the prayers throughout the week.

I personally love this form of ministry as a young adult because it meets me where I am. At the end of a long day, I want to be with friends and I need to eat. The relaxed setting helps the conversation flow more naturally and unrestricted. The relationships built last beyond that dinner table and into everyday life- much like what is generally expected when attending a church on Sunday morning.

The trick here is that this isn’t what every young adult is looking for.  Few things irritate me more than older adults assuming that every young adult fits in one little box. “Guinness and the Good News” worked particularly well, and still does, because someone took the time to find out what those they were reaching out to both needed and wanted. When I tried my own version, it only lasted for a few weeks because it wasn’t quite what was needed. This particular group of graduate students had busy schedules during the week between work and labs. We are currently revisiting how and when we can do something more appropriate to meet the needs of this group.

If your congregation is looking for a new way to minister to a particular group, take time to find out what they want and need in their life, and don’t be afraid of failure. I wasn’t around for the start of “Guinness and the Good News” but I know it wasn’t 100% right away. Things were likely revisited multiple times before I started attending, and from the updates I see online, they are still revisited on occasion.

The most successful ministries take some extra time and effort, as well as flexibility. There is no book, blog, or magic trick to having a flawless ministry. The only thing I can recommend is this: communicate, don’t assume. When it is all said and done, I pray that you too will find your own corner in the pub (or wherever is appropriate for you) where conversation and laughter will flow and faith will grow.

“Guinness and the Good News” is now sponsored by both Starmount Presbyterian Church and UKirk Greensboro Ministries and they meet the 1st Wednesday of every month at Porterhouse Bar & Grille (4608 W. Market St. Greensboro, NC).

Under Construction

caution tape

Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer

Every congregation, every organization, inevitably has times of transition. Just as we can learn more about an individual by the way he or she handles change, we can learn a lot about a congregation during a transition time as well.

This past Sunday, I had the wonderful opportunity to guest preach at West End Presbyterian Church in West End, NC. This vibrant congregation has found themselves in a web of transition, but someone just coming in for worship for the first time probably wouldn’t even notice. Despite the fact that their minister retired only weeks ago and they are entering phase one of a three/ four phase renovation, everything went smoothly and felt as if it were any other Sunday for this congregation. I know there is an element of anxiety present, however when the time for worship arrived, all that was set aside with a brief reminder from one elder that “No matter what, Jesus loves us” (which was oddly enough part of the focus of the day’s sermon).

As we approached the time for worship, I noticed that conversations about the current phase of transition came to an end as the sanctuary filled, as if someone had said “from 9:45am until 12:30pm, no one talks about work.” Space was made for the congregation to worship instead of worry. Following worship, time was made for the congregation to laugh and enjoy fellowship instead of making sure they were following a meeting agenda.

It seems that West End Presbyterian planned the start of construction at just the right time, as they are currently able to move many activities outside. Following a beautiful worship service, the congregation met at the bottom of the sanctuary stairs, underneath a huge tree offering some much needed shade, for Ben’s Ice Cream and conversation. This may be something that is done every summer (and I couldn’t blame them with how great the ice cream was!) or it could be the first time. Either way, this time of fellowship in an open space brought a calming excitement as I heard conversations about updates in the pastoral search and the construction before worship, transition to updates on family members, and vacation plans. As a guest, I felt part of the family as I stood under the tree and listened to stories from different members.

As I thought about what was going on behind the walls of that sanctuary and what was likely going on in the minds of the congregational leaders, I began to think about how we as individuals and as congregational leaders can continue to open the doors of our church and the hearts of those there, even when the hallways are barricaded by walls and drywall (both physical and metaphorical)? How can we move out under the tree for ice cream and let our worries go, even if only for an hour or two to praise God in our relationships with one another?

We might not all be able to stand under the shade of a tree after worship, however we can find other ways to bring comfort and peace in times of change. We also should remember that even when our congregation as a whole is not in a time of transition, individuals in the congregation might be.

How does your congregation prepare for worship in those final moments before the hands on the clock reach the hour mark? In my many church visits, I have seen a question for consideration at the very top of the bulletin that usually points toward the sermon focus in some way. In other churches, the organist plays something calming and reflective that inevitably brings those who are visiting with one another slowly back to their seats in those final few minutes. One thing that I have seen and truly appreciated was when announcements were pushed to the very end of the service. When I asked the minister about this, they explained that they had noticed people worrying about the upcoming meeting and bring that up during “Passing of the Peace” rather than focusing on praising on God. When announcements were at the end, the only thing standing between the announcement and the time to discuss was a benediction.

Every congregation, every individual, needs something different when transition is taking place. If a minister has just left, it may mean that the “Elder of the Month” takes the main leadership role in worship that month to provide some familiarity and continuity. When a part of the building is blocked off for construction, it may mean taking advantage of a space not regularly used. Sometimes, it may mean that we simply remind one another that no matter what happens, Jesus still loves us. Every week, however, we can provide a worship-filled time and space for all those in their own transition time if we only take a few extra minutes each week to consider what is needed at that time.

We learn a lot about who we are and what we need when things change. On Sunday, I learned that West End Presbyterian is a strong congregation that won’t let anything stand in their way of praising God. I learned that personally, just as many of the leaders that I spoke with, I was quite distracted by my own transitions and appreciated the reminder that no matter what happened in this time of transition, Jesus still loved even me.

What will you learn about your congregation, the individuals in the congregation, and yourself when you make a point to set aside time when you don’t talk work, but only praise and worship God?

Learn more about West End Presbyterian by visiting their website or Facebook page!