According to the description on the church website, women who attend Coffee Break at Olympia CRC can “expect to meet new friends, share a cup of coffee, laugh, cry and discover new insights from the Bible” in a casual setting where “no one will call on you; you participate as you feel comfortable!” “That’s true!” says their Director and Small Group Leader, Glenda Van Haitsma who describes the two main values of Coffee Break at Olympia as outreach—making all women feel welcome no matter where they are on their faith journey—and support—providing a safe, comfortable place for women to form friendships and grow in faith.
Women’s Bible study groups have been meeting in one form or another at Olympia for over 30 years and their Coffee Break includes women from the congregation and from the larger community. Currently they have enough women to host two small groups which gather together for a time of large group fellowship prior to dividing up for Bible study. Before Coffee Break begins each week, Glenda and any other available leaders gather with the Story Hour leaders to pray for Story Hour, for the children and their families, for the “empty chair” (representing the desire for any new woman who might walk through that door to feel welcome and secure), and for any personal needs the leaders may have. Glenda says that she and the other women’s study leaders are so grateful for the work of those who minister to the children and beginning their time with prayer together is one way to acknowledge that they are all engaged in this important ministry together.
Having a church sponsored preschool on-site has enabled this Coffee Break to make some great connections with the mothers whose children attend the school and, with the Fort Lewis military base less than 30 minutes away, the group has also included women from military families. The support that a Coffee Break ministry can provide for military wives is particularly important because, as Glenda points out, military families move frequently and that makes people hesitant to invest in their lives or form friendships. Olympia’s Coffee Break gives these military women a comfortable environment to grow in faith for as long as they are there.
Leaders appreciate using the CRCNA’s Coffee Break study materials because of how the inductive study approach “strips away all of that other stuff and allows women to just get right into the Bible.” Glenda says she’s noticed that for many women, Coffee Break is a place where women get to read the Bible for themselves as they grow in their relationship with Jesus. She recalls a particularly moving conversation she had with one woman who told her, “This is where I have learned about Jesus and have really opened the Bible for myself for the first time.” “That,” says Glenda, “is what it’s all about.”
In addition to the knowledge and faith growth gained through Bible study, there’s something else important happening in the lives of the women who attend—they receive support from each other. Glenda points out that you can’t always measure support like you do other things, but it’s significant and she sees it happening through caring gestures as babies are passed around, when women pray for each other and in the forming of friendships.
In order to ensure that the environment reflects their goals of outreach and support, conversation is filtered through the “Ground Rules” found on the bookmark each attendee receives for their Bible. The content of the bookmark helps create small groups that are safe and comfortable. Glenda says she’d been using the Coffee Break bookmarks for years. If you’ve never seen one, here’s your chance because we’re about to spill the beans!
Ground Rules for Coffee Break
- Our goal is to study what the Bible says. We will avoid talking about differences among churches.
- There is no such thing as a dumb question. We may ask anything we’re not sure of and nobody will laugh.
- Everyone gets a turn. We will all make sure we don’t take more than our fair share of the discussion.
- No one must take a turn. Anytime we don’t want to read or speak, we’ll just pass.
- Any idea is OK to express. We will accept each other even if we disagree.
- Personal things said in the group should stay there. We will respect each other’s confidences.
What happens at your Coffee Break? We’d love to write a ‘Mug Shot’ profile of your ministry.Tell us about it here.