Talking to someone while waiting in line for a cup of coffee is easy for some people. But bringing up God in that conversation can be quite a challenge. Lakesha Groover and Andrew Ryoo are two pastors who came up with a way to try and make that God conversation less stressful.
The two co-pastors of Mosaic Ministries at the First UMCs in Belmar and Bradley Beach and at Grace UMC in Union Beach in New Jersey, handed their congregations $10 gift cards to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and asked them to go out, meet people in coffee shops, and share with them coffee and conversation about God. “The idea came about as we were planning the new Lenten sermon series,” Groover said. “We wanted to provide people a practical way of starting conversations about faith in the world without being afraid and without coming off as beating people over the head with a Bible.”
The hope is the goodwill offering of buying a cup of coffee would help start a regular discussion and take the fear out of starting God-centered discussions. “The whole point is to take the pressure off because it’s a very big thing to do,” Groover said. “It’s a situation that can be filled with fear and anxiety. All we need to do is have a conversation and allow God to do the rest.”
Groover emphasized the importance of being prayerful about who you engage in conversation. The person next to you in line might be there for a reason. “Before you visit the coffee shop, it is important to pray about it and ask God to help you in your conversation and to soften the other person’s heart,” she said. Groover said they gave away about 45 cards in all. Some people were a bit nervous about the challenge, others were enthusiastic about it. “I think overall there was an excitement about it,” she said. “On Sunday, a member of one of our churches came up and asked me, how did you know this is what I’ve been thinking about? She has a family member she is trying to connect with and said she was going to use that card to take that person out and have that conversation.”
Groover also gave a key suggestion on just where to focus the dialogue. “When Jesus said I am the bread of life, he introduced the idea of talking about faith, having an everyday conversation and building a relationship – focusing on other person and not yourself,” she said. “Sometimes when we meet new people we are anxious to talk about what the church is doing or what we are doing as opposed to what they are doing. The conversation needs to be about them.”
Just what those conversations will lead to is unknown. Groover hopes that in some cases it opens the opportunity for better relationships. “For this week, we asked our congregation to have a powerful conversation with someone and to make sure the conversation was about the other person,” she said. “You need to be asking questions about what is important to them and showing you care for them and that you are interested in them. “Then maybe eventually you can get to a point where you can start to build it into something deeper.”