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Don’t Get Burned @ Coffee Hour!

Posted by Carey McDonald // November 16th 2012 // Featured Young Adults, Guides and Tools, soundings, Stories and Voices, young adults // 7 comments

Coffee_Hour_Caution_new_brandCoffee Hour Poster Explosion Thoughts

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!).

SHARE THE AROMA! 998 cups served and counting…

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!


About the Author

Carey is the Chief Operating Officer for the UUA.
7 Responses to “Don’t Get Burned @ Coffee Hour!”
  1. Jeremy Holmes says:

    If I had a nickle for every time I was asked one of these questions or witnessed someone being asked them I would never have to work again. Thanks for getting this out there. I’ll pass it along to my church FB page for sure. This is also something we tried to address in the OMD Young Adult Roadshow. I like the simplicity of the poster. It might be a little tongue in cheek, but it needs to be said.

  2. Meg Muckenhoupt says:

    The sad (yet interesting) part of this poster is that it isn’t new at all. I was asked the *exact* same questions over and over again fifteen years ago when I was organizing YA stuff at a Boston. There’s nothing quite like being asked if you’re new at a church when you’ve been a member for three years and spoken from the pulpit the week before.

    I’m a middle-aged adult now, so I can pass for someone who “belongs” in a typical UU congregation. Many other minority groups don’t get to go through that transition. Let’s welcome everyone right now!

  3. Sara says:

    My favorite is always, “Are you alone today?” because I’m single and sometimes my sister and her children attend with me as well. I often want to say, “Oh, I thought I was here with my church family.” or “Nope, I’ve got God here with me.” or some other such quip.

  4. DCH says:

    I think this is brilliant. I work with Quakers where (as an under 35 year old) I can attest to its relevance. I would like to share it with Meetings and on our website and wanted to know if there are any copyright restrictions I should know about and the best way to give credit where credit is due.

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