A Congregation’s Experience with Lifetree Cafe2 min read

Early in 2016, on nine Sunday mornings, about 100 people of St. Paul, Ann Arbor studied the book Why Nobody Wants to be Around Christians Anymore by Thom and Joani Schultz. The title sounds rather negative, but the content focuses on acts of love that will make our faith magnetic. Why Nobody… is a catchier title.

After the study was completed, a core of about 15 people wanted to actually do and use one of the outreach tools described in the book: Lifetree Cafe. As the flyer for the cafe states: Lifetree Cafe is an hour-long experience packed with interesting stories, fascinating people, and lively conversation that will feed your soul. The main entree at Lifetree Cafe is food for thought.

St. Paul’s cafe meets on Monday evenings from 7-8 p.m. in the lovely old living room of 500 W. Liberty in Ann Arbor, also known as the “Youth House.” In addition to easy parking on the west side of the house, friendly greeters welcome guests, offer snacks, and guide guests to cafe tables for four. A host leads the topic for the evening, guided by well-produced video clips and a script which encourage conversation and relationships. Each topic relates to God with brief Scripture and prayer. Topics range from “Crop Circles” to “FBI Whistleblower” to one on “Mental Illness” to one dealing with “Care for Caregivers.”

After a year of operation, we have had over 600 people attend the cafe with about 100 guests from outside St. Paul’s. Relationships do form. A family from Vietnam began attending just as the son of one of our members was preparing to move to Vietnam. The two families have shared information about their countries over meals in their homes, and it is a joy when they attend the Cafe with their two precious sons.

Some thoughts shared on Comment Cards:

  • I’m surprised how relaxing it is to talk to strangers—very nice people.
  • My heart was softened after this meeting—I saw my petty unforgiveness.
  • I live in the park and enjoyed your snacks tonight—thanks.
  • I really needed to hear this message and have the list of tools.

The topics, videos, handouts, publicity materials, training materials—everything needed—is provided by the publisher. Check it out at, or better yet, visit our Cafe on Monday!

Photo (c) Todd Helzer/Lightstock

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About the Author

Elizabeth Frederick has been involved in outreach ministry for many years. Her late husband, Rev. Parke Frederick, had a desire to reach the community around St. Paul, Ann Arbor’s downtown church, and Elizabeth’s social work background has been beneficial for the congregation to get to know and care about people living in the neighborhood. She and her husband, Newton Bates, are both involved with St. Paul’s Lifetree Café.

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