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).