Kitchen Tables: Class Meetings for the 21st Century

By Steve Manskar

wesleyan-leadership-method-of-methodismThe Table is a new United Methodist congregation in Sacramento, California. One of its unique features is the small groups that meet weekly to help members "watch over one another in love." They are called "Kitchen Tables."

The Kitchen Tables started meeting in 2009, led by the co-pastors, Rev. Linda Dew-Hiersoux and Rev. Matthew Smith. As the congregation grew the number of Kitchen Tables increased. Lay women and men responded to God's call in their lives and stepped up to provide leadership. The Table now has nine Kitchen Table groups meeting every week in various locations.

When the groups started the agenda was simply to give everyone an opportunity to respond to the question, "How is it with your soul." Matthew Smith says the initial response was uncomfortable silence. People did not know how to respond. That's when Smith and Dew-Hiersoux turned to A Blueprint for Discipleship: Wesley's General Rules as a Guide for Christian Living by Kevin Watson.

The weekly agenda for the Kitchen Tables were soon modified to reflect the learning from A Blueprint for Discipleship. Smith says, "Each group is unique. Yet, all Kitchen Tables begin with a leader reminding those gathered of John Wesley's question and rules for Christian living. Most of the gathering is then devoted to individuals responding to how it is with their soul? As an individual shares, others are invited to reflect on how God might be speaking to them through the reflection. Most Kitchen Tables then include a time of study and reflection based on questions written by our pastors to help people prepare for worship the coming Sunday. All Kitchen Tables conclude with informal prayer."

Rev. Smith told me, "Kitchen Tables are the heartbeat of our community. Our people are learning to notice Grace in their lives as they gather weekly. Individuals are learning to share their faith stories. The weekly discipline of gathering to watch over one another in love shaped the ways we root our lives in Grace through worship and reach in love."