The Coffee Morning
As the United Kingdom has lost its tradition of church attendance, for many the only time they enter a church is to attend a wedding or a funeral, this makes the task of getting people to come to a gospel meeting all the more difficult. Equally, some halls are no longer an integral part of their community in the way they once were. As the population has moved out of the town and into the suburbs, some halls have become detached from the people they are trying to reach. Although our commission in the gospel is to ‘go’, this article seeks to give a few different perspectives on how we might encourage people to come into the hall and, as a consequence, be exposed to the word of God.
When and Where?
For some, the idea of a coffee morning arose from a gospel campaign. The evangelist suggested advertising and holding a coffee morning each day. It proved most profitable and, as a consequence, it has been continued. After a passage of time, it continues with good numbers present, and the assemblies concerned have seen people saved as a result. This is always encouraging.
Whether, as part of the opportunities afforded by a new building, or as a way of reaching their community, some assemblies have started a coffee morning as a new venture. Although, at the beginning, numbers attending were small, they have risen. For most assemblies the majority of those who attend are retired people who live nearby – widows and widowers who are lonely, and who appreciate getting outside of their ‘four walls’. The coffee morning has become an extension of the work they do with Senior Citizens. Others have seen young mothers come along as a means of providing themselves with conversation and social interaction. What is desirable in each case is to see a regular group who come along week by week.
The location of some halls may offer opportunities to reach local shoppers, whilst other halls may be more suitable for a community outreach. One assembly collects people from the Multiple Sclerosis care home close to the hall, and believers collecting people in wheel-chairs to enable them to come to their coffee morning is a testimony in itself. Alternatively, there are those who have used local community centres as the venue for their coffee morning, as the location of the hall does not lend itself to the activity, and because such centres are often situated in the neighbourhood of those who will come. In each case it is important to think about where the assembly building is situated and what, as a consequence, you may be able to use as a means of building bridges and reaching the lost.
The format of coffee mornings varies from place to place. Overall, most of those who hold regular coffee mornings feel it important to provide an opportunity to meet and chat together over light refreshments. One reason for the exercise is to provide an activity but, more particularly, to befriend people and engage them in conversation about the Lord. We can demonstrate the love of God for sinners by our interest in, and care for, the people amongst whom we live and work, and this activity can help to break down barriers in preparation for when we invite them along to our gospel meetings.
1 Some assemblies have a more formal part to their coffee morning with a time of hymn singing, followed by a brother presenting a simple gospel message and closing in prayer.
It is good to consider who is attending the coffee morning. Where those who come are mainly elderly, some have found a time of hymn singing has been welcomed, particularly where ‘favourite’ hymns might be chosen and sung.
2 Some retain a less formal approach throughout, but where the emphasis is upon the offer of literature and personal conversation, coupled with an invitation to other meetings.
Whether some return for the Sunday gospel service and attend other activities is difficult to anticipate, but most have seen some response over time. One assembly has seen approximately fifty older people join them for lunch, giving them a good opportunity to share the gospel. A number of these friends have also joined them for an occasional walk to a local beauty spot – an afternoon out being quite a treat for them. Overall, this has opened up new avenues of spreading the gospel, albeit informally at first!
1 The passer-by
The location of a hall is key to this approach. Some halls may offer opportunities to invite those who pass by, particularly if it is in a place that sees regular pedestrian traffic. However, even if the location of the hall is ideal, someone standing outside to engage people in conversation and invite them in, or a separate notice board indicating the coffee morning, is essential. This is often a way of developing those who have a gift for personal work!
2 The offer of transport of friends and family to the hall
This may be necessary solely because of the location of the hall or because of those you wish to invite. Some assemblies have their own minibus, or the use of community transport, and these are alternatives that might be explored. It is worth mentioning the feedback that can be gained through those who give lifts. It also provides further opportunities to speak of the Saviour.
3 Exploring community provision
The situation of day-care centres, residential homes for the elderly, other care facilities and community provision offers significant opportunities. A little local research may provide an insight into what happens within reach of our church building. There may be difficulties to overcome and personnel needs are obvious, but presenting the gospel is always easier when people know us and have come to respect us for our interest in them as people, and love for them as sinners in need of a Saviour. We know it is the Lord’s desire that ‘all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth’.
This article has been compiled through conversations with a number of believers. The editor thanks John Baker (Cardiff), Stuart Dan (Efford, Plymouth), Mike Oakes (Redcar) for their particular input, as well as others who have offered certain insights.