Living life in community

News | January 10, 2024

St. Paul people connect and find deep friendships and shared experiences in smaller group setting.

Faith, Health, and Wholeness Coffee Chats (formerly Coffee Chats) started in 2020 during the pandemic to foster community and emotional and spiritual health. Originally spearheaded by St. Paul staff, members Dave and Dortha DeWit stepped in to take over the group in May of 2021, making it a truly congregationally led and autonomous small group.

The group has grown exponentially since its first days and topics discussed are wide-reaching. Held on the first and third Tuesday of the month, each gathering centers around a different topic. Self-esteem, nature therapy, favorite memories and traditions, chronic pain and illness, the importance of play, and gender diversity are just a few of the 34 topics discussed this year alone. Steve Kalber is an active member of the group. Having facilitated Tuesday conversations in the past, Steve will lead the January session on ‘stigma.’

“Stigma is so pervasive and destructive to relationships. This is an important topic to try to understand. Stigma is the tendency to make negative judgments based on appearance, behaviors, and other traits,” Steve said. “And these judgments are nearly always inaccurate or distorted views based on our own flaws and interpretations. It’s particularly harmful because groups we tend to stigmatize often accept the labels they are given and take on that identity for themselves. We lose out on knowing people we could learn a lot from.”

Both Steve and Dortha credit the members of the group for their honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness to learn and embrace each other.

“There is such a level of trust in this group. We’re able to explore important topics like stigma because we’re open to being more vulnerable, more reflective, and more self-aware with no judgments. That creates deeper connections quickly,” Steve said. “That’s truly the value of these smaller groups.”

“A lot of what we end up doing in this group is bringing topics to light and raising awareness. You can’t cover a lot of these topics in depth in the hour we have together, but you can start moving in the right direction,” group facilitator Dortha DeWit added. “What makes this group so worthwhile is that we’re all life-long learners with an openness to growth. We know we’re safe there. We circle in and embrace each other and it’s no longer an activity that’s just confined to a group once a month. It’s become friendships. There are lots of connections that grew organically.”

The relationships built and the friendships formed have become so strong that members often meet for coffee and connect outside of the St. Paul building on the weeks the group does not meet.
“We, as people, need a way to connect. That was the hardest thing when we came to St. Paul from a small church. It takes a while to feel like you have a personal connection,” Dortha said. “That’s where small group opportunities like this are great. You have that personal connection and get to know others over shared interests or life experiences.”

Steve serves on the leadership and planning group coordinating the new St. Paul Life Groups Ministry (see more to the right) and comments on the vital need for personal connection.

“Coffee Chats is a great example of what the Life Group ministry is looking to do. More and more we need those small group connections. Each small group needs to have their own autonomy in how the group is run and what happens each week. That’s key to a truly congregationally led church. Church isn’t just Saturday and Sunday services, it’s also become Tuesday mornings for us in the group.”

New Life Group ministry launches at St. Paul
Connection. Curiosity. Community. Friendship. Exploration. These are just a few of the areas St. Paul Life Groups will foster. The Life Group ministry is an opportunity to create personal connections and build, deepen, and grow community with others who share similar interests and activities, are in similar life stages, and more. Pastor Max Franks and a team of dedicated leaders launch the new ministry this month.

What is a life group?
A life group is different than a Bible Study and contains no strict parameters. Life Groups serve as a way to connect people whose paths may not otherwise cross at church and share a desire to deepen their connections and sense of community at St. Paul. Shared group prayer, an impulse for service, and a commitment to the group are highly encouraged but each group decides what works best for them. The groups have a dedicated facilitator or two to help coordinate group gatherings and provide communication to group members. Open to anyone.

Get Connected
Interested in participating? A life group form is now available online or in the St. Paul app. If a particular group you may be interested in is not listed, please specify as these groups are formed around your interests. There is also a space to mark if you are interested in facilitating a life group. Contact: Max Franks,

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