Lifetree Cafe: an outreach ministry of Pennsylvania Avenue UMC
February 28, 2018 / By Sue Dunlap, Pennsylvania Avenue UMC
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of the Advocate, which focused on the ministry of the laity.
Lifetree Café, an outreach ministry of Pennsylvania Avenue UMC and its Fresh Start Faith Communities, provides a new interactive opportunity that invites people to gather weekly to explore life and faith. Dubbed as a “Conversation Café,” this nationally-syndicated program distributed by Group Publishing features real stories of real people, guided conversation, Biblical insights, prayer, and time to build relationships, laughter and fun all in one hour each week!
There is no membership, no preaching, no singing, and no cost for the participant. Each week, the Lifetree Café Values are read aloud… “You’re welcome just as you are. Your thoughts are welcome. Your doubts are welcome. We’re all in this together. God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”
We first started Lifetree Café at our Fresh Start Corner in Arnot Mall in Horseheads, NY four years ago as a way to connect with people in a secular setting. Currently, we host Lifetree Café on Thursdays 7-8p.m. at our Fresh Start Church House, located at 206 Fourth St. in Watkins Glen, NY, and this has proven to be a positive way to establish a foothold in the village as we develop a New Faith Community.
We believe that God is at work in everyone’s life all the time. Our goal is to help, not hinder, and to bring people from all walks of life into relationships with each other and with Jesus Christ.
Doug Pollock writes in his book, God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally, “Both Christians and non-Christians have very real perceptions about one another that keep us from interacting in redeeming ways. It’s been said that the only thing more difficult than getting the Church to go to the world is getting the world to come to us….I believe God wants Christians to make the first move….If not-yet Christians are convinced the Church is not a safe space to experience community or inquire about their spiritual yearnings, where is that space? And what does it look like in a world that increasingly says no to our traditional God spaces?”
Lifetree employs methods that Jesus used:
- He befriended.
- He met real human needs.
- He welcomed nonbelievers and outcasts.
- He engaged people in conversation.
- He asked questions. He listened.
- He told stories.
- He let people grapple with the meaning of His stories.
- He patiently let people discover who He is: their Lord and Savior.
And Jesus used regular everyday people to carry out His work. Likewise, Lifetree Café relies on everyday followers of Christ to carry out its mission, to lead the program and associated activities, to participate in Lifetree conversations and to shine the light of Christ.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Lifetree Café provides a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, even those with questions, doubts, opposing beliefs…and we’re there to serve them, love them and to demonstrate to them the love of Jesus. How? First we pray! Then we create a cozy, coffeehouse atmosphere with tables for four–the ideal number for some real conversation and sharing. Next, we gather a Friendship Team- a small group willing to setup simple refreshments and drinks, be ready to welcome our guests, sit at a table, and be a part of the conversation and build friendships. And we pray some more! When the hour begins, a ‘Host’ introduces the topic and asks a prepared ice-breaker question from a script provided with the monthly materials…and the Lifetree Café begins! The hour continues with excerpts from the weekly topic, interspersed with group questions.
Lifetree Café tackles the topics that most people deal with—topics about the big (and little) stuff that shapes our lives: Family. Friends. Fears. Busyness. Balance. Money. Materialism. Health. Heaven. Peace. Purpose. People are encouraged to share their stories, with their own group of four, and sometimes with the larger group, and to listen to others stories.
At Lifetree, faith isn’t a subject to be mastered. It’s a relationship to be nurtured. We plant seeds. We water them. But the miracle of growth is God’s to perform. Lifetree Café simply creates an environment for the Holy Spirit to work.
Lifetree Café discussion groups are hosted in a variety of venues, such as coffeehouses, cafés, pubs, restaurants, community centers, and churches. For additional information on starting your own Lifetree Café, contact the website: www.LifetreeCafé.com.