Perk Up Your Church Coffee Hour

A few ways to introduce healthier options

by Deborah Patterson

QUESTION:
I would like to make our coffee hour healthier. But there is great resistance to getting rid of the cookies and coffee. Do you have ideas on how to introduce healthier options?

ANSWER:
You may be surprised to learn how much your coffee hour is already helping the people who attend your congregation. According to the World Health Organization, loneliness is a higher risk to health than smoking and as great a risk as obesity. Here’s the great news: the church already knows how devastating loneliness is, and that’s why there is a coffee hour! And this is why the church has many other opportunities for fellowship and connection, as well.

To make your coffee hour healthier, be sure to reach out to the newcomers among you and include them in your conversations. Do you have name tags for folks? Are there designated folks in the congregation who are especially gifted at hospitality and great at making connections and introductions? Include them in this part of your health ministry.

Now, about coffee. There’s good news, and there’s bad news. Surprisingly, the good news appears to outweigh the bad. Coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia, and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes (although coffee won’t prevent any of these conditions). This is good news for the average American, who drinks 416 eight-ounce cups of coffee each year, including those who prefer decaffeinated coffee. The benefits are from the coffee itself, not the caffeine, according to most studies. The bad news about coffee is that regular coffee can raise blood pressure, as well as blood levels of the “fight or flight” chemical epinephrine (also called adrenaline). So be sure to include decaf coffee in your coffee hour.

Now for the cookies. Start by offering healthier cookies next to the current cookies, along with a large print handout comparing them for nutritional content. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has a strong interest in nutrition and nutritional labeling, provides a number of great articles about cookies that you can draw from to create interesting handouts. You can also find great basic information about food labeling at the Food and Drug Administration website. This FDA document would make a great starting point for an interesting adult education class or a women’s or men’s fellowship hour.

Of course, add fruit. Cut bagels or other low-fat breads into smaller pieces, and from time to time, offer “healthy tastings” in mini-portions, with recipes available to take home. Change takes time.

Excerpt from Health Ministry Advice for Everyone by Deborah Patterson.

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