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Gering Zion Church hosts conversation cafe

March 19, 2018 GMT

Gering Zion Church has started a conversation café on Sundays from 6-7 p.m.

Pastor Tim Hebbert shared about the new opportunity, called Lifetree Café, for community members to share their opinions in a respectful manner.

“We were looking for something different than a Sunday morning setting, something different than a traditional Bible study set up that might speak to people who are looking for community,” Hebbert said. “I think that we’re losing that in our culture.”

A year and a half ago, a few deacons in the church approached Hebbert with the idea of the conversation café.

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“We try to have a good cup of coffee, a few light snacks and some fruit and conversations designed to value everybody’s opinion, not shove a singular opinion at people,” he said.

The sessions start with a few guys jamming on their guitars and drum while people gather, get coffee and visit.

“Then we jump into the topic,” Hebbert said. “It’s led by a moderator who doesn’t really give an opinion as much as just guide people to really express their opinions around the table. It has a faith message to it at the end, but we’re really trying to embrace people where they’re at. So their opinions, even if I might disagree with them, are still really valuable to me.”

The topics at Lifetree vary widely. Sunday, March 11, was the first Lifetree session with a topic of guns in churches.

Other topics include genetically modified crops and life after death.

“They pick topics over a wide range of just about anything,” Hebbert said. “On things that would be important to you in your day to day life. The people that put this together go out and poll people from all walks of life.”

Hebbert said he is hoping the conversation café will inspire people to be a closer community that tries to give back.

“What I’ve read about and hope will happen here is people begin to collect in this coffee shop like setting, then they eventually go out and do things in the community,” he said. “A group I read about in Colorado set up somewhere and did oil changes for seniors, just trying to give back to humanity a little bit.”

When planning Lifetree, one of the goals was to provide a place for college age people who don’t typically aren’t a traditional church style.

“People are going to gather and talk about things that are really important to them,” Hebbert said. “What’s important to that college age generation probably isn’t what’s important to me at 60. But that doesn’t make my opinion any less valuable or their opinion any less valuable.”

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Hebbert said he enjoyed the wide variety of ages he saw at the first gathering, which spanned from high schoolers to people in their sixties.

In today’s world, Hebbert thinks people don’t really talk to each other so much as they talk at each other.

“In our culture, I think one of the things we’re losing is the ability to talk to each other,” he said. “That’s pretty obvious. I also think people still need face to face community and we don’t have as much of that now that we’re in a technological social media age.”

Hebbert shared what he is hoping to accomplish with Lifetree Café.

“I’m hoping we can reach out to people that may not show up on a Sunday morning for church and let them know they’re valuable,” he said. “To minister in their lives in a way that fits the life they’re living instead of here’s what we got, take it or leave it.”

If the conversation café continues to grow, Hebbert said they plan to add it to their list of ministries they do year round.

“In fact, we already started talking that if it gets large enough we might begin to look for some venues outside of the church to host one at,” he said.

The group at the first session was a good mix of both church members and non-members.

“I was surprised at the number of non-church members we had here, but that’s really who it’s for.” Hebbert said. “I hope my church people come. I think there’s as much value for people in the church culture to be able to sit down and have a conversation with somebody that doesn’t agree with them as it is the other way.”

Hebbert said while there was lively conversation during the first session, there was not any hostility among those in attendance.

“If you handle it right, it’s okay to disagree,” he said. “You just have to disagree with respect. Even though you might completely disagree with a person’s opinion, you still value that person. We laid those ground rules down at the start.”

The disagreement is where really good things happen Hebbert said.

“I just want anybody that’s interested to know they’re welcome here,” Hebbert said. “If they’re searching for something, searching for a community, a place to just relax and be themselves, build a relationship with people based on what they’re interested in, this is a good place for them.”

For more information on Lifetree Café, call Gering Zion Church at 308-631-8413.

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