Churchleadership.com has posted a new piece drawing on the research of the Episcopal Church’s head researcher Kirk Hadaway. Noting that 93% of episcopal congregations have a coffee-hour time, usually after worship, Hadaway looked at ways in which coffee hour might be a marker of congregational health and found that “Churches that do not have a coffee hour at all tend to be declining rather than growing, as do churches that describe their coffee hour as “typical” or “formal.””
Hadaway wondered how coffee hour looked in growing congregations and found that there was a clear pattern;
“In studying vital, growing Episcopal congregations, it was observed that many had a coffee hour that was much different from the average congregation (in any denomination). Rather than sedate clusters of members standing around or sitting at tables drinking coffee for a few minutes, these churches had lively conversation that drew in newcomers. They were vibrant rather than stilted situations. In some rapidly growing congregations the coffee hour was almost chaotic, but in a good way.”
It isn’t clear whether a coffee hour that is engaging to newcomers, “chaotic” even, is a sign of congregational health or a driver, but paying attention and making adjustments to how coffee hour and other informal gatherings are structured is a small but likely important change that could be made. As Hadaway writes; “Although it may seem mundane, a vitalized coffee hour is a tangible thing that a congregation can do that helps it develop a sense of community and draws new people into it.”
What is coffee hour like in your parish? Does it engage newcomers and make them included? Have you made changes, what has been their effect?
H/T Scott Gunn