Photo Credit: The author at Profile Coffee and Roasters in Elysburg, PA
Coffee hour can be heaven and hell in one hour after liturgy – especially if you’re an introvert. You managed to wake up early enough to sit through an hour or more long service without coffee. And sorry, millenials and hipsters, it probably won’t be a Starbucks kiosk. If you have small children, your children suddenly becomes everybody’s children regardless if it’s high time for cold and flu season. There will always be that one person…that shouldn’t distract you from you getting to know your parish. Some people won’t know what I’m talking about and can easily look past this, but I know many of you can relate.
And for those who can relate, coffee hour isn’t appealing for some of those reasons. I mean, you get it. An hour of a free buffet of mostly homemade goodies or lunch put out by the same people that will more than likely clean it up afterwards? That sounds pretty generous – but it can get pretty complicated because we, as humans, are complicated.
There’s always quite a few characters that will make anyone new or just trying to warm up to their parish better a bit uncomfortable:
- Gossipy Ginger: Gossipy Gingers can seem nice but it’s almost never out of your interest which can make it very hard to talk to them. Even seeing them from afar making their way into the church hall makes you cringe because you know you’re about to hear the latest when you really don’t.
- Politiking Polly: This group of people is usually composed of a small clique that rarely talks about the church or really follows the teachings of Christ except in name only. They are more so concerned and downright obsessed by the current state of affairs.
- Potluck Pam – Always is trying these crazy, new recipes that you see on Buzzfeed like for seven layer oreo lasagna for church potlucks. Gee, thanks. But some of us may be on insulin.
- Bragging Betsy – Usually, a grandma. Usually talking about the stuff her grandchildren have done, what her grandchildren is doing now and what her grandchildren will do and she usually tries to make it sound so that her children are better than yours…even though she’ll never admit that to your face. If you feel a tiny bit bad that yourself after talking to Bragging Betsy, haven’t we all?
- Father’s Pet – Similar to Teacher’s Pet, these types will soak up any time they see Father has a free moment with them to talk about anything and everything. It’s one thing when they have a close relationship with them but it can make a bad impression on the person involved otherwise.
We’ve all probably ran into our fair share of some or all of those characters before.In fact, every church has at least a few of these characters. These are among the many reasons it can be difficult to get people to come to coffee hour and that should be addressed. The premise of coffee hour is to provide an engagement between a priest, the parish president and his parish, and a priest and you over coffee and of course FOOD is a good conversation starter. It is a tiny slab and peek of finding out what it will be like to work with your parish family on church projects to fundraising events. When used constructively, coffee hours can provide a springboard for fundraising ideas and to ask questions about what you see in church to a question you have in church literature.
At the very least, the same people who bring in usually homemade goodies for coffee hour are usually those people who clean up. By not going, at least every so often, you are missing out an opportunity for getting to know your parish and vice versa. And when you don’t care, it is easier for others to follow suit.
Here are some healthy tips and ideas to make coffee hour more fulfilling:
- Cooking/Baking can be a thankless effort: I have been in parishes where my efforts for bringing in a potluck dish was very appreciated, but I also sometimes didn’t receive any gratitude at all. Some people give gratitude in various ways and sometimes it’s in the form of an empty pie or cookie plate. Remember that you are serving the Lord and how many thank yous he gets when his children pray during a rainstorm but seem to ignore him when the sun comes out. Trust me, it is appreciated.
- Ask to bake something yourself: Sometimes, Not everyone has the biggest sweet tooth. I know I don’t. But don’t let that stop you from coming. In fact, ask to bring something you like to make to coffee hour. Food has always been a great conversation starter!
- Be considerate when hosting something: Whether it’s a potluck or a luncheon, be considerate of dietary habits. I know this is persistently difficult, especially today, but having at least one or two dishes that are dairy-free, gluten-free and nut-free is a safe bet and won’t keep active members from coming to your hosted event.
- Bring a book: I know it would seem antisocial to do this but if there’s church literature that you find interesting, this can be a good time to pose questions about something that was on your mind that you’re reading to your priest.
- You don’t have to talk to everyone: It isn’t necessary to talk to everyone especially if you don’t know them too well – but a smile can go a long way.
- When handling difficult people: Again, it isn’t necessary to talk to everyone especially if you don’t know them too well or you don’t get along. It may be necessary to talk to your priest about the situation to see if he can help. Be civil and pray for them.
- Talk to your priest: Coffee hour is one of the best times as any to talk to your priest and get to know each other, ask questions or express any concerns.
- Offer to help clean up: Ask if you can pitch in to help if you see something that’s not done yet. Great way to have conversation too and makes the clean up process go quicker too.
- Kindness always: Whether you are new, introverted or around a difficult group of people, kindness always goes a long way.
Questions, suggestions or concerns? Drop a comment below or email me!