I’m talking about getting out of my office, off church property, and out where people are. I wanted to become a regular somewhere to get to know people outside our church. My entire life – home, ministry, and work – is contained in one block of one small town. I live in a parsonage on the same property as my church. I don’t commute to work, I step out my back gate and I’m at work. If we hang out in our back yard, I see my work. The people who walk by are all people from our church. Our house is situated in such a way that we don’t have natural contact with our neighbors. We live in a box, and have very little contact with anyone who isn’t a member of our church.
A couple of years ago, I started to feel the walls closing in a little. This is partly my own fault. I’m a task oriented person. I love people, but left to myself, I naturally start processing ideas, plans, and projects. It takes effort for me to be out there ministering to real people. It gets complicated for me because I really feel a pastor is supposed to be a shepherd to people first and foremost, but my specific role makes me a program guy, and I have always needed to be creative when it comes to ministering one-on-one with people.
I’ve wanted to find a way to have more contact with people in a natural setting. One of the reasons our oldest child is in public school is because we are looking for outlets to be involved in the community. It isn’t that we’re totally thrilled with the public school system – though we’ve had some really good teachers – but that our lives can very easily become insular, and we don’t want our kids to feel like they exist in a cloistered Christian bubble. Given my position and our living arrangement this is a real possibility.
I joined a gym a few years ago mostly to get in shape, but also to become a regular somewhere and get to know other people, especially non-Christians. It didn’t work for me because when I’m working out I don’t like distractions. Task orientation at its best.
Two weeks ago I decided I was going to be a regular at the coffee shop down the street from the church. The shop just opened back in January, and I stopped by once a couple of months ago, but finally decided to just start showing up and talking to people. Tuesday and Thursday mornings I’m there, and stay for a couple of hours. With my lap top and Wi-Fi, I get more done there than in my office. For whatever reason, I concentrate better with fewer distractions in the coffee shop. If I need to read or study for something, I can easily do it there.
The really fun part is that all kinds of people I know and don’t know start popping in. I’m getting to know the shop owners, and have even struck up a conversation or two with new folks. I’ve also found that people who need a listening ear, but would probably never stop by my office, will sit down at the table and just start talking. It’s a small town after all, and people know I’m a pastor even if they aren’t part of our church.
So, I’ve become a regular. I like that. I’m hoping God will use it to open up new avenues for ministering to people. If you’re ever around historic Harmony on Tuesday or Thursday mornings, stop by the shop, and we’ll have a cup of Joe. Since there’s only one coffee shop in town, you’ll probably find it.