Last week was the Annual Conference of the United Methodists of North Georgia. We met in person after meeting online for the last two years. I was invited to serve as an at-large lay delegate from my district. The theme for this year’s conference was “There’s a Place For You At the Table.”
In true children’s ministry fashion, we took on the task of providing a kid’s table in an innovative way.
The kid’s table was set for the holy habit of play, for snack, and for good conversation about the local church’s ministry with children and families. We set up a pop-up table where the folks were at the times when critical mass was guaranteed, just outside the Grand Hall (the room where official delegate business was handled) in the Atrium where there were round tables and where people gathered for conversation and food.
From 11:30am-2pm, the pop-up kid’s table was set for two days. Nothing formal, but intentionally organized to make space to chat Safe Sanctuary and Family Ministry.
Otrio – if you can play tic-tac-toe, you already know how to play which makes this game able to be played well by a 3yo to a 100yo. Intergenerational play together with 2-4 people and much quicker to play than checkers or any other board game. We taught how to play, just like we teach about Jesus.
Puzzle Balls – if you know the concept of a Rubik’s Cube, anyone can push the colored balls into the matching rings. If our hands are busy, our minds are calm. We showed how to play, just like we model how to engage with anyone like Jesus.
Snack – Animal crackers on day 1, Goldfish on day 2 in individual snack bags. Maslow teaches that if we meet one’s physical needs, we can more easily be trusted to meet other basic needs. We fed the masses like Jesus. When the line for lunch food was so very long wrapping around the Atrium, we handed out snack bags with a smile to hold folks over as they waited to order their lunches. Coming from a place of generosity, we went where the people were and offered what we had.
Signage – Clear marking where we were set the table for many conversations about family ministry and Safe Sanctuary, current research, the great wave of incoming state residents from all over the world, hiring, healthy updates, changes, situations, shared events, what’s on the horizon in culture and how we can meet the needs of our backyard neighbors. A pop-up table where people were offered a location where we could be found to chat making us easily accessible.
Take-aways – Buttons labeled with “Kid’s Table Alumni” for haven’t we ALL spent time at a kid’s table? May we remember the tables from which we came and return to disciple the littles. Wearing buttons at Annual Conference is a thing. A handful of squishy Jesus-es also made their way around in delightful places.
So many conversations. So much laughter. So much news. Lots of game play. AND we provided afternoon snack for those passing by on their way to conference with the sacred bread of kid’s tables: Goldfish and Animal Crackers.
In Bishop Robert Schnase’s updated book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, he speaks of Radical Hospitality being an excellent expression of our love for others to make friends-in-the-Lord. When we exceed expectations to welcome and be welcomed. Not only do we set the table to welcome those who come to us to make a new friend, but we also intentionally become a guest where new friends can be made in our neighborhood, where people are.
“Radical means ‘drastically different from ordinary practice, outside the normal,’ and so it provokes practices that exceed expectations, that go the second mile that take welcoming the stranger to surprising, new levels.” At times it will feel risky, awkward, and uncomfortable, but oh the opportunities to reach the wandering and our hungry neighbors now.
What’s the riskiest thing you ever did to offer radical hospitality? And WHERE?
“And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more…” 1 Thessalonians 4:10