Organise a breakfast party!

It’s a fantastic way to start the weekend, says Angi Pollard

Since becoming a Christian, I’ve always valued being part of a small group. Over the years, I have met with friends to study the Bible, chat, share our concerns and pray for each other – not necessarily in that order! My husband and I have attended a variety of groups: small (just four of us) to large (over 20); couples and singles; varying in age from 18 to 80. It has been great fun and a valuable way of growing in prayer and increasing my knowledge of the Bible.

I’m inspired by Hebrews 10:25 (NIV): “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another …” or, as The Message puts it: “Let’s see how inventive ?we can be in encouraging love…”

There is nothing that energises me as much as meeting with like-minded friends round the table, with even the simplest of meals, talking and living with Jesus. I just love ‘God-talk’. Whole-hearted, open-hearted, tender-hearted discussion about what it means to be a friend of Jesus.

In the last couple of years, though, I’ve felt the need to meet with other women. I’ve also been concerned about women who work outside the home and come to church on their own. It’s much harder for them to attend a small group which meets in the evenings and I looked for ways to encourage them.

Occasionally, one or other of the local churches would put on a women’s event, with food and a speaker. Still, I wanted more: the events were fun and inspiring, but there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to share on a more personal level. So, a couple of years ago, I put out an invitation to women in the church who were working outside the home. With some trepidation – not knowing how many would come – I invited them to breakfast at my house.

I was worried that too few would come – or too many – but God knew. Around a dozen women turned up. We drank coffee, ate croissants, laughed and chatted. I shared a few thoughts on the challenges of being a Christian out in the workplace, finding others eager to chip in with their own experiences. The next month, I held another breakfast, focusing on a different theme. Then another. And another.

From that initial meeting, we now meet regularly. Although I send out e-mail reminders to over 20 women, numbers vary from six to 12 – always just right. Small enough for intimacy, large enough so that shyer women are not forced into discussion. I always marvel at how God brings particular women together, as conversations develop and we find issues in common.

The pattern for the breakfast is simple. Once a month, I get up at ‘work time’ on a Saturday. I lay the table with a pretty tablecloth, china, a few flowers, cutlery and serviettes. I serve croissants or home-made fruit bread or buns, and I arrange some cut up fruit on a platter.

Women arrive punctually at 9 o’clock, helping themselves to tea, coffee or juice before moving to sit round the table, which is set with a variety of breads, jam, and fruit. By 9.15 we are all eating, sharing how our month has gone since we last met. Sometimes we start to discuss the topic quite spontaneously – for example, when the subject was ‘stress’! In any case, as we finish eating, I start to talk about whatever has been on my mind recently. It might be a topic, a particular Bible passage or character, or an aspect of Christian life – for example, the type of Christian music I might be listening to on my iPod and how it has affected me. I pray beforehand that the topic will be what God wants us all to think about.

I am always amazed at how easy it all is. Although giving the house a quick vacuuming on a Friday night and getting up early on a Saturday morning might not sound like a very good idea after a long week, I am invariably refreshed and invigorated by midday on Saturday. Taking the time out for a leisurely breakfast in the company of friends – old and new – is a real break and sets me up for the rest of the weekend. It has been very satisfying to draw in women from many backgrounds: those who attend church sporadically and tend to be uninvolved; even those who rarely attend a church service but come regularly to breakfast.

We all have very busy lives and work full-time outside the home. So this is a little oasis for us as we meet for a couple of hours, sharing our struggles as we work out our salvation in our workplaces. We talk about serving Jesus through serving our colleagues; about prayer; about witness; about being real. We’ve discussed all manner of topics: from talking about how appearance matters to sharing our faith with our colleagues. It amazes me that so often the topic under discussion has been relevant for many of us that week: we see God most definitely at work in our lives!

Every time, in the run-up during the week, I wonder if it is worth it. ?Discouragement launches a strong attack on my thoughts. Maybe these women just come because I’ve asked them. No, I don’t think so. Not when there are 101 chores to do on a Saturday morning. Or they come because of the food ... No, it’s definitely not that, although I do try to be creative with what I offer.

Then there is the uncertainty of knowing who – or how many – are coming. People often don’t tell me until the last minute, sometimes not at all. Sometimes I wonder if there will be only two or three of us, yet I remember what Jesus said about those particular numbers who gather in his name. And every time, I find myself running around to get ready, trying not to be too frantic. But, it’s worth it.

I look forward to these meetings every month. I find the conversation, the sharing and the discipline of prayerfully considering what to talk about all invaluable. The effort of opening up my home is incredibly satisfying. Just do it!

12 steps to a happy breakfast!

1 Dispense with formality. You want your visitors to feel completely at home. A sign on the front door which invites people just to walk in helps. In the summer, have the door wide open.
2 Appearance is not important. Prepare thoughtfully by all means, but remember that folk are not coming just for some time out and a delicious breakfast. They are coming because they want to meet with others for the purpose of engaging with God.
3 Keep it simple. A plate of fruit, a few croissants, butter, jam and juice. Paper serviettes are fine, but kitchen roll is a good substitute if you run out.
4 Think ahead. I keep croissants in the freezer and include a pineapple or melon in my weekly shop early on in the week. This way, I’m not shopping frantically on a Friday evening and there is enough time for the fruit to ripen nicely.
5 Involve others. Sometimes I manage to set the table, at others I put out a pile of crockery and cutlery. Everyone helps. Welcome contributions: some women bring a carton of juice, a pot of jam or a packet of croissants.
6 Pray. Pray as you prepare and, if possible, pray as you finish. Invite requests, emphasising confidentiality – a prerequisite for the discussions as well.
7 Share what is on your heart. It doesn’t need to be very theological – though should be based on what the Bible says.
8 Prepare a few questions. Questions can help get a discussion going – not that they are always necessary! I work on the premise that others may well be as puzzled as I am: and if they aren’t, then their insight and input will be invaluable.
9 Be honest – it puts others at their ease. There is nothing more inhibiting than being in the presence of someone who gives the impression that they have it all ‘together’.
10 Keep to time. People are busy, so I make sure I am ready by 9am. I close ‘formally’ at 10.30am so that people have ‘permission’ to leave but combine it with asking for orders for more tea or coffee. That way, those who have to rush off can, while others welcome the chance to catch up a little more.
11 Laugh. A lot. This is fun!
12 Last, and definitely not least: remember why you are doing this. JESUS! Spending this time in his company is all that really matters.