Coffee on Campus in the Time of COVID-19

It’s hard to make new friends.

Making new connections is challenging under most circumstances — but especially in 2020. Even so, our church is trying to put ourselves out there. We believe that people need people, that God has hard-wired us with a craving for community. So we keep trying to make new friends, even though it’s hard. Or especially because it’s hard.

“Coffee on Campus” is designed to create moments for interaction. We figure that everyone enjoys a hot drink on a cold Thursday morning. So we bring coffee and hot water onto campus. We bring an array of tea packets, hot cocoa mix, sweeteners, and cream. All in the hope of striking up a conversation while giving out free drinks. It’s low-percentage ministry. In fact, we retired the initiative five years ago because the cost-benefit analysis didn’t make sense, considering all the other outreach options available to us at the time.

With fewer alternatives available this year, however, we decided to try “Coffee on Campus” again. We went through a rigorous Health & Safety Review process with the University to clear our plans and reserve the space. And then, on the appointed day, we brewed up the coffee and lugged all the stuff onto campus. We set up bright and early, eager for our first “customers.”

We knew that foot traffic was diminished this year. Still, we didn’t fully feel the difference until we stood on the MACC Plaza for four hours. The quiet on campus is crazy. In the first two hours, we might have had a total of ten people walk past our table — and none of them stopped for a free drink. A few people even chose to take a longer path to avoid our section of the sidewalk entirely! It felt so desolate and depressing.

Fortunately, the second half of the morning went better than the first half of the morning. We had a few quality conversations. The quantity never even approached a tenth of what we saw five years ago. Still, it’s better than nothing.

We’re going to keep pursuing people because that’s what Jesus did.

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