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Is your coffee hour chaotic?

Is your coffee hour chaotic? 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?


Information in the Churchleadership article was drawn from New FACTs on Episcopal Church Growth and Decline, available as a download from the Episcopal Church website.


image from Christiana Church, Wilmington Delaware


H/T Scott Gunn


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Tim Kruse

At our tiny ‘seasonal chapel’ in our mountain village, people come just as much for the ‘afters’ as they do for the liturgy. Much of the time newcomers join in and say they’re glad they did afterwards. Always have coffee/decaf/teas with sweet bread. Summer attendance may rise to nearly 20 but most of the time we’re about a dozen. We have one long table at which all are seated. Make games available for the children.


Tables and chairs are necessary for the the elderly and those with physical disabilities.

Thanks for commenting! In future we ask that you use your full first and last names – thx, the editor

Jay Croft

Plus, we Deaf folks need to have a place to put down cups and plates so we can use both hands to communicate.

British Deaf folks have it worse: American fingerspelling uses one hand and the British method uses two hands.

Tom Downs

Lots of food helps: desserts, crackers and cheese, fresh fruit. Variety is good and insured by having different people each week hosting. People not only stay to chat; they snack. We use round tables (better for conversation and no one feels stuck by himself out on an end) and don’t find that it produces cliques (though the children tend to sit with other children). No church business except when we turn the last Sunday of the month into Messy Church with a Pot Luck instead of the usuall coffee hour. Almost everyone stays for coffee hour.

Paul Woodrum

Tables are deadly. It’s like high school all over again. Every little clique at its own table every week. Standing can be the same if visitors are not introduced to others by whomever first greets them.

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