This post is written by Twila Haringa, Coffee Break Director and Leader at Faith Community Church in Zillah, Wa.
As a child, what were the rules while eating a family meal? Clean your plate before leaving, pray with your eyes closed, no knees on the table might come to mind. Were there topics that were forbidden—like dead animals, “road kill” or animals in general? You might laugh but in my family appetites were spoiled and food wasted by such conversations. How did these guidelines get passed down or shared with visiting friends?
Now consider the people who attend your Coffee Break or other small group settings. Are there topics that should be avoided or handled with care so that everyone can enjoy the conversation and feel included? Are there judgmental attitudes that need to be checked at the door? If our purpose is to bring women, community and church women, into a growing relationship with the Lord we need to have this conversation; especially if you find your group consisting of mostly church women year after year. Until we become familiar with someone, we don’t know their home situation, their story, and can easily turn someone away whom God has invited to the table. Topics like living together, divorce, sexual orientation, abuse, even clothing styles might come to mind. May I suggest the topic of Christian school activities also be guarded and minimized? A person can quickly feel excluded if they aren’t part of that Christian community.
As we begin a new church season and anticipate whom God will bring to the table, may I suggest we pray for sensitivity, pray for attitudes of love and acceptance, humbly talk about this in your leaders meetings and role-model the behavior during your gatherings.