Our mission statement at Friday Night Coffeehouse is that we are “a safe and welcoming place for students to hang out on Friday nights.” We use this verbiage because we believe that those two factors contribute the most to whether a student will come back and get involved at Coffeehouse. “Safe and welcoming” means that as a student walks in the door they will immediately be greeted, that our adult volunteers work together to strike up a conversation with each student, that students will likely make friends with each other, and that the content we present proclaims our hope in Jesus in a way that is understandable.
One of my favorite childhood movies is “The Sandlot.” (You might recall the infamous line “You’re killing me Smalls.”) Soon to be 6th grader Scott Smalls finds himself in a new neighborhood with no friends. He quickly learns that there is a gang of neighborhood boys who play at a rundown baseball field called “The Sandlot.” Though tentative at first to initiate friendship with Benny and the rest of the guys, Smalls musters the guts to stop by and ask if he can play too (long-billed hat, tucked in button-up shirt, and khaki shorts and all).
Smalls quickly discovers that these guys eat, drink, and breathe baseball. So what does Smalls do? He hangs back in the outfield, until all of a sudden a whistling fly ball heads his direction. Not naturally gifted in baseball, Smalls misplays the ball, falls down, and is befuddled while trying to retrieve the ball. Upon grabbing the ball, it is quickly known that Smalls cannot throw. Smalls retreats in utter humility.
But we do not remember Smalls as giving up just yet. That is because Benny, the leader of the group, welcomed Smalls into the group. Despite the rest of their disapproval of Smalls, Benny saw the potential in Smalls. Smalls wanted to like baseball, though he didn’t know all the buzzwords, or have all of the skills immediately.
Benny took the time to help Smalls be part of the group, even to his own potential embarrassment. His actions proved to Smalls that he was valuable, and a welcome member of the group. Talk about a confidence booster!
The end of the movie fast forwards to Smalls as an adult baseball radio announcer. Of course, he’s calling the games for Benny, who is playing in the major leagues. This scene captures a moment in which Benny and Smalls catch eyes again, replaying all the past of their friendship. Because Benny helped Smalls feel safe and welcomed, a bond of deep friendship was sealed.
At Friday Night Coffeehouse, we want to work together to ensure that each student feel safe and welcome. During the the formative years for these students, we believe that creating this type of environment will help students plant roots in a Christian community, and ultimately in Jesus.