Checklist: The Table
Recruitment: Reach out to programs in your area that support young adults. Such service organizations may include:
- AmeriCorps/ VISTA: Find your state on the map and click on it. It will take you to a site where you can download a list of the different AmeriCorps programs in your are. Agency names are listed without addresses. Take a moment to look up addresses and find the person who oversees the AmeriCorps program. Don’t be alarmed if it takes time for the program administrators to respond to your invitation. Most AmeriCorps programs are overworked and underfunded. Program directors may also be skeptical of a call from a church or religious organization. Hopefully you can reassure them that yours is an expression of hospitality and welcome. Perhaps you can direct them to the Huffington Post conversations. Emphasize community building and the desire to express hospitality, and that you hope to a portal into the community for their volunteers.
- Faith Based Year Long Volunteer programs: From faith3’s Top 10 link you’ll be able to find 18 national service programs. You will have to go to each website to se if they have a program located in your community. You can also faith3—we’re happy to give you a sense of what programs might be near you.
- Graduate Schools: Although theirs is a different type of community, many graduate students have spent a year in programs like AmeriCorps and would bring life and energy to The Table. This may be a harder group to identity, but it’s worth the search. They tend to be around for longer than a year.
Location: Pick a location and time for The Table and make sure to stick with it for a few months. We suggest dinnertime—perhaps 6:30 or 7:00. The location should be easily accessible via public transportation.
Content: Keep the meeting between 90 minutes and two hours. Do not go over. People can linger if they want, but it is important to end when you say you are going to end for possible content, click on over to the Vespers website (http://www.faithandservice.org/). Vespers is a year-long curriculum (as such it has a beginning, middle and end), but you can easily pull appropriate sessions for single meetings.
At the first meeting Wayne encourages you to reflect on the following meditation from Dorothy Day’s autobiography:
“While I lived in the east side, I felt the spell of the long loneliness descend on me. In all that great city of seven millions, I found no friends; I had no work; I was separated from my fellows. Silence in the midst of city noises oppressed me. My own silence, the feeling that I had no one to talk to overwhelmed me so that my very throat was constricted; my heart was heavy with unuttered thoughts; I wanted to weep my loneliness away… And yet…I wanted to go and live among [the impoverished in Chicago]; in some mysterious way I felt that I would never be freed from this burden of loneliness and sorrow unless I did.”
Remember: don’t try to do too much. I have learned this from experience. Recently I had several items to read and discuss, but we spent the whole time talking about the Dorothy Day quote. I know enough not to cut off a fruitful conversation for the sake of a previously set agenda.
Movies that have a social justice theme may also be a draw. Auburn Media has a list of documentary films that connect faith and service. We at Faith3 are working with Auburn Media to develop a ten part film series—we’ll let you know when it launches.
What to serve: Free food is always an attraction. Try to offer good, hearty seasonal food. Asking folks from your congregation to help prepare the food is a great way to connect members to volunteers. If you don’t have much help, try soup—it is a relatively easy and inexpensive option, and goes well with hearty bread. We discourage using pre-made food. It is too expensive (not to mention impersonal!). If you ask folks to bring their own food, you should supply tea, coffee and other beverages.
One of our recent Table participants noted: “the food is what brought me there but it is the conversation that will bring me back.”