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Church in a Diner: A Casual Experience

With work schedules, football games, and family commitments, Sunday morning is no longer always set aside for church. A worship service in a Michigan diner offers a different time and place, and appeals to many who are looking for a more casual experience than traditional church offers. Sycamore Creek Church offers church in a diner, church in a pub, and church in a church.

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(Locator: Lansing, Michigan)

Cook: "Captain, order up."

Jeremy Kratky: "We welcome you to Sycamore Creek Church. We're a church that meets in a diner. It's a little bit different than your normal church."

Gretchen Baker: "Most people are like surprised or they're like, 'How can you have church at a diner?'"

The Rev. Tom Arthur: "We're going to take a look at several different ways and areas of baggage in our lives."

Jim Redding, Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church: "I wouldn't miss this place for the world. I come here every Monday night. I love it."

Cook: "Order up."

The Rev.Tom Arthur: "My name is Tom Arthur and I'm the pastor at Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church.

The Rev. Tom Arthur, Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church: "Eighty percent of the people who are here at church in a diner are here because a friend invited them. And a lot of those people have had a bad experience with the church in the past and are no longer involved in a church, or have never set foot in a church."

Jim Redding, Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church: "My name is Jim Redding and it's been over 50 or more years since I have been in a church. The physicality of it is... it's very tense. But when I was asked to come to church in a diner, I thought 'Well you know it's not a church. It's a diner.'"

Jeremy Kratky: "A diner makes a great congregation because we're all comfortable in a diner."

Sarah Arthur: "There is life, real life, going on around you. People in the kitchen are hollering for more cottage cheese."

Kitchen staff: "Anybody can order anything they want."

Gretchen Baker: "...lots of people talking."

The Rev. Tom Arthur: "I'm walking in and out of tables, talking to people. Waitresses are coming in and out in front of you and behind you."

Jim Redding: "It just seems real comfortable to reach over and talk to somebody that's sitting next to you in a diner as opposed to in pew in a formal kind of setting."

Bill Walker, Grumpy's Diner: "A diner isn't like a national chain restaurant. A diner is a family restaurant, and that's exactly what a church is, isn't it, is family."

Tom Arthur: "Peace, friends."

All: "Peace, Tom"

The Rev. Tom Arthur: "We found that following Jesus is rarely convenient, but getting together with other people to worship, to learn, to study, to grow has got to become more convenient."

Sarah Arthur: "It's all an echo of this verse from Romans 5:6."

Tom Arthur: "We live in a post-Christian culture where Sunday morning isn't reserved for church. So the question is, 'Are we going to adapt to it, or we just going to stay stuck and complain that they're scheduling football games, soccer games, dance practices, whatever on a Sunday morning?' Or are we going to go to those places where those people are already gathering?"

Jeremy Kratky: "The person we're trying to reach, it's that parent who's overworked, it's that person who would never set foot in a church."

Gretchen Baker: "The people who work on Sunday morning and they can't make it."

Bill Walker: "I work seven days a week. There is no way I can attend church and run the business and take care of my family like I have to and the Lord answered my prayer. He brought the church to me."

Sarah Arthur: "We have seen over time kind of steady slow growth, but tonight we packed the place out. We ran out of tables."

Tom Arthur: "We're just overflowing right now this is the biggest night that we've had so far and we're trying to find seats for everybody to fit in to."

Women in diner: "I can also eat on the ledge." "OK."

The Rev. Tom Arthur: "A second venue is sort of out there on the drafting board, perhaps in a pub or in a movie theater."

Jeremy Kratky, Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church: "...bowling alleys, restaurants, libraries, fitness places."

Jim Redding: "I never wanted to set foot in a church again but I can handle church in a diner. It's just been a very rewarding experience and I'm glad I come."

Sycamore Creek is affiliated with Holt United Methodist Church. For more information, contact Sycamore Creek United Methodist Church at 517-394-6100. Diner church happens every Monday night at Jackie's Diner in Lansing, Michigan.

This story was first posted on March 21, 2013.

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