Café Connection has now been in operation for over 5 months! It has been a wild and exciting ride and we are excited to see where the spring and summer months take us. Over the winter we maintained our service to many people and now that the weather is turning warmer, we anticipate that we could see even more guests join us. Often, we get so caught up in the numbers and the statistics of how many meals we served and how many guests come on a specific night, but we also need to look beyond those metrics and look at all the individual lives that the Café has had an impact on.
At this point in our operation, we see a lot of the same families and individuals come on a weekly basis. To me this shows more of the Café’s success then any metric ever could, the fact that we have become a destination in our guests’ week. When guests walk in the door, they are usually greeted using their first name because we have gotten to know them so well. We have many stories of our guests requesting to have a specific server because they have enjoyed them so much in the past. We also have related stories of people asking where certain volunteers are if they are not working that week. We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple “hello and goodbye,” which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.
“We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple ‘hello and goodbye,’ which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.”
The guests are not the only people that this mission is for, the Café is having a major impact on our volunteers as well. It has been so amazing to watch who has come out to volunteer with us, we have a solid group of volunteers that are with us almost every week. They are the ones that got in on the ground floor of Café Connection and have made it run so smoothly. It has been a joy to see those folks continue to be excited about this mission and continue to improve the areas that they volunteer in.
We have also been able to meet and interact with volunteers that were not part of the church prior to the Café opening. New volunteers have brought friends and family with them to volunteer. Now, we are seeing an even bigger step, the friends and family of new volunteers have brought their own friends and family to serve with us. The Café has brought so many amazing people through our doors and into our lives. I personally have enjoyed meeting new volunteers and getting to know them on a personal level.
Something that many people would not know if they have never been to the Café is that this is a place were both guests and volunteers want to come back each week. This is not your average “church meal,” in fact most nights you may not even feel like you are at a church. We have found that because the Café operates like a restaurant and people are treated like they would be if they went to any restaurant, it makes everyone more comfortable. Our goal is not to force the church on our guests; we are here as a steppingstone for people to see what our church community is about. If at some point a guest or new volunteer feels ready to join us for service on Sunday, they will not walk in as strangers but as guests familiar with our church family.
As a church we can sometimes forget how intimidating it is for some to walk into a church like ours. Most of us have been going to this church our entire lives so we do not give it a second thought. For some people, especially those who might have had some bad church experiences in the past, just walking in the door of a church is a challenging thing to do. The Café was built to bridge that gap by bringing guests in with the simple offer of food and community. We want to show our guests that we serve everyone with dignity no matter who they are or what they look like.
If you have not been to Café Connection before or if you have not been in a while, I would strongly encourage you to come any Wednesday and see how we are serving our community. Or if you want to be part of the serving, contact myself or the church office and find out how you can be put on the volunteer schedule. This Café has become such a special place, not only for our guests but for our church family and friends as well. We could not be more proud of the relationships we have created, and we intend to continue that mission.
This article appears in the April-May 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.