Don’t Get Burned @ Coffee Hour!
A simple graphic on talking to young adults in our churches, one that was a little tongue in cheek, provoke an out-pouring of responses and took over the Facebook faith-based conversation on Thursday. Have you seen it yet? Coffee Hour Caution offers tips for welcoming young adults in a conversational way, but it struck a deep chord. Reading through the comments in the about 1000 shares (as of this writing) from people who identify as UU, UCC, Lutheran, Episcopal, Jewish, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite and more, it’s clear that poster resonated with lots of folks, young and old alike.
As hundreds of comments attest, yes these unfortunate questions really do get asked. I drafted the poster up one Monday after a sad Sunday coffee hour experience the day before (at a congregation that will remain nameless) in which I was personally hit with three of these puppies and later witnessed a fourth. Thanks to my colleagues for their suggestions as well! Even more gratifying than seeing the poster get shared so widely, however, is listening to the conversation that it sparked across faiths and generations. Plenty of younger people described how the poster affirms their experiences and frustrations. Some other folks thoughtfully acknowledged that they themselves have asked those questions to young adults, gotten bad responses, and say they are now inspired to avoid those questions in the future (bravo!).
A few of the comments questioned whether it’s going too far to suggest certain phrases people use, or if the poster amounts to being overly sensitive. And while it’s true that there’s a nasty history of folks in dominant groups playing the “don’t be the PC Police” card to silence folks in marginalized groups who speak up, I think it’s more relevant to point out that what the poster suggests is not “politically correct” speech at all. It doesn’t argue over specific words or terms; indeed, some commenters have suggested other helpful phrases. It’s just recommending a few easy ways to be open and respectful of the person in front of you and avoid common pitfalls.
Does this irritate you? I get that. Just take a breath, and then ask yourself what your goal is at coffee hour: to barrel forward with whatever pops into your head? Or to do a little better every day to live into our UU principles of openness and inclusion? Don’t forget, those of us under 35 are usually in the minority in our churches! The poster is specific because we as UU’s agree to continue in relationship with one another even when we have conflicts and questions; it’s making an abstract point into a concrete one.
Really this is about grace and warm welcome. The poster’s message is to avoid making uncomfortable assumptions about people if our goal is to make them feel comfortable. Is a single sentence uttered at coffee hour a big deal one way or another? Perhaps, perhaps not. I’m just glad that the poster may help us in goal of building beloved and faithful community, one coffee cup at a time.
> Download your copy of Coffee Hour Caution here!
Tell us other groaners you’ve heard at coffee hour in the comment section!