Invite everyone, but don’t wait.

Check back here for a one-a-day series of actions and solutions from now until 12/11.

Lots of times, people talk to us about feeling stuck in their institutions.  Here is the advice I always give: invite everyone, but don’t wait for everyone.  It’s remarkably simple, but remarkably powerful, too.  Some people are just worried about changing the place that they look to as a steady, stable presence.  Once they get a look at some of the changes, they don’t feel so scary.

Today and tomorrow we’ll share solutions stories about ways to start when there isn’t enthusiastic consensus.  Today’s story below (I’ll try to grab some photos of the cup cart on Sunday.. I thought I had some already!):

1: Don’t mess with my coffee hour!

1527133_10153692416215105_1314606005_nI go to a large church.  Four-services-a-Sunday large.  When we feed people and give people drinks, and even when we give them bulletins to read, we use a lot of stuff.  A few years ago, the Green Team wanted to move us away from styrofoam (yay, Green Team!).  They didn’t really want to deal with a Policy Decision because that felt too much like a Federal Case, and it might wear people out too much to get other things done, like Weatherization First projects.

Honestly, they felt a little stuck.  Then they had an idea.  What if there was a choice?  That might work for Sunday Coffee Hour, but how about all those meetings all over the church all week long?  What about the smaller coffee hour in the commons area off the Narthex after the earliest service?  The superstar sexton came back with the ansswer.  He recycled two cabinets that were pulled out of the kitchen when it was renovated.  He took the doors off and the drawers out.  He added some crossbars on the top, and added cup hooks.  He added industrial wheels.  He added towel-bar handles.  He added cushy non-skid shelf paper.  He added a small laminated sign that said “dirty cups” to the bottom shelf, which was big enough to hold an institutional-sized dish bin.

The Green Team put out a request for mugs.  They filled the mug carts and stationed them by the coffee.  They left the styrofoam, but pushed the stack back next to the urns, instead of in front, so the mugs would be the first thing folks would see.  Know what?  People don’t actually like drinking out of styrofoam. It’s still there, but it’s almost never used.   People are curious and sometimes amused about the origin of the mugs.  They’re sometimes conversation starters.  Personally, I like the mug that says if my dog thinks I’m the best person in the world, I shouldn’t get a second opinion.

Here’s the other thing that made it work, and it made the Super Wednesday supper switch to china work, too: no one expected the existing kitchen crew to do the dishes.  The Green Team volunteered —and got new volunteers.  The dish crew is one of the places that youth work alongside adults, and get to do real, valued volunteer work that helps the church run.  It has even lightened the (still enormous) load of the kitchen crew a tiny bit, since the dishwashers help with pots and wash the serving pans, too.

Helpful hint: a paste made of baking soda and a little water (or a wet sponge) gets coffee and tea stains off fast.  We like to spread out a big tarp and bring in a group of elementary and middle school youth and give the mugs a good cleaning once or twice a year.  The kids play music, and we buy them pizza and do some extra kitchen cleaning.  It’s time to schedule a mug night now!