I was intrigued by the Open Table Model. I had the following questions: How was this model different from other church ministries that help other people from hard places? Could I afford to invest a weekly meeting with a member of the community that was not a member of my church every week? How long would it take to earn their trust? Would our efforts result in positive transformational change? So, I joined one.
Here is what I have learned this far. Our Table members were recruited from local churches, law enforcement, and a local school. Our 5-week video driven training was facilitated to help us understand common hidden bias against the poor, marginalized, and traumatized people. It was eye opening to learn how certain phrases, and questions posed could traumatize the very people we want to help.
We launched the Table in the Fall of 2021, meeting in space provided by a local church in the St. Louis area, attended by two of our Table members. Breaking bread together, we introduced ourselves and shared why we wanted to serve in the Open Table ministry. Our family of two parents (and three children) shared their life story and a desire to make changes to achieve their family hopes and dreams.
For the next several months, our new Friends shared more of their life story and current challenges with a feeling of felt safety. As Table members, we affirmed their personhood by sharing our own challenges and struggles. All of us at this point looked forward to the next meeting as a time of affirmation and rejuvenation.
Our family continues to have serious life challenges, but has shown an amazing resilience, building and working plans that they come up with and assisted by the Table. They now attend church services at our host Table Church. We send them weekly emails of encouragement between meetings. We take prayer requests.
Our family is in the early stages of transformation and a renewed hope in their plan to move to a house large enough to meet their needs. They have not asked us for money. They care as much for the Table members as we care about them. They invited their social worker to our Table meeting so that she would meet the people who have helped encourage them. The children, who were socially ostracized at school, have found acceptance in children’s church and Youth Group. As Table members, we are also being transformed in humility, wisdom, and gratitude, serving as the hands and feet of Jesus.
Church Engagement Catalyst
MBCH Children & Family Ministries