Bread Coffeehouse Creates Community Leaders

Although many students at Emory may know Bread Coffeehouse as a homely space, with friendly faces who give out cookies, or simply as a place with free coffee, the students who are more involved with the Bread community interact within it through a very structured leadership model.

According to Bread Coffeehouse intern Emily Mast, who leads freshmen activities with staff member Jay Brunson, the freshmen students who are involved with Bread increase their understanding of the values of community, love and grace.

They do so by attending monthly activities, including fairs and ice cream socials, where they can meet other freshmen. Students can also go to weekly small groups where they can interact with their classmates on a more personal level by discussing their week’s, their challenges in getting acclimated to college life and their advice for handling these adjustments.

If students choose to get more seriously invested with Bread, they join the Uprising Leadership Program.

The Uprising Leadership Program, directed by Bread staff member Alicia Marshall, seeks to help the students give back to the community. According to Marshall, that aspect, for most of the “uprisers,” is a huge support system in getting through the hardships of their first year.

“My hope is that [these] students take ownership of this community and make it their own, they gain confidence and learn things both about themselves and about what it can look like to work on a healthy team,” Marshall said.

According to Marshall, the primary focus of the Uprising Leadership Program is to balance improving oneself by giving back to and working with those who helped them shape their identity at Emory.

“The Uprising [Leadership Program] is a great way for me to improve both my leadership skills, and myself as a person,” College sophomore and Upriser Carly Kies said. “I have grown a lot from the activities that we have to do for it, and have learned a lot about myself. The Uprisers are all so unique and I have really loved getting to know everyone better.”

Even though spirituality is a core component of Bread’s foundation, Marshall says that it is not by any means mandatory to share these beliefs in order to be a leader at Bread.

“As far as the spirituality aspect, Bread is a place where we love Jesus, but you don’t have to in order to be here, and that carries into our leadership groups,” Marshall said. “Anyone that is willing to put in the time and effort to be in any of our groups is welcome regardless of what they believe.”

The third year leadership program, “J-Walkers,” is geared more toward the identity of Bread as a campus ministry.

According to staff member and J-Walker leader Aaron Hoodin, the Program is called “J-Walkers,” and is a symbol of “juniors who go on a walk with Jesus.”

J-Walkers also begin occupying a larger presence in the community as leaders than they did as Uprisers by hosting tables at Bread’s weekly dinner event, Dinner, Band and Story.

According to College junior and J-Walker Paula Riefkohl, they also begin what is called Jesus Follower Training, which is based on the idea of “how to live and love in action through servitude.”

“We have a small job to do at Bread. An example would be mine, commonly called Cake Boss,” Riefkohl said. “I get to make the dessert for every DBS.”

Hoodin gathers with the student leaders every week for one hour to discuss their week, read one of the Parables of Jesus and then apply the reading to their own lives.

“We actually come up with something to do over the course of the next week (or longer) and hold each other accountable,” Hoodin said. “Our goal is to actively live out the kind of life God asks us to, and, as leaders, impact the Bread community and in turn Emory as well.”

Through Jesus Following Training, members are able to learn about ministry ownership as a preparation for those who plan to continue to the final undergraduate leadership program, known as Shopkeepers.

As Marshall describes it, seniors are “given the ‘keys to the shop.’ ”

According to Marshall, under the management of Bread irector Angie Stryker, the shopkeepers learn how to apply the model of a ministry that they use at Bread to other contexts.

If the students are successful in their endeavors as the ministry and campus leaders, they can become interns for a year after graduation, which means they are then full time members of the community,work in tandem with staff and learn about campus ministry as a profession.

Although the leadership groups become more intimate every year, Bread remains a place where all are welcome and all are loved.

In the beginning of the fall semester, according to Hoodin, the J-Walkers wanted to “[bring] a slice of heaven” to Bread by shouting the name of whomever walks through the yellow door on afternoons when students are lounging on the couches of the front room doing their homework.

“[We do this] so they know we love them and are happy to see them, no matter how bad their day has been, no matter how bad their last test went and no matter if they think poorly of themselves,” Hoodin said. “We’re still shouting people’s names and getting excited when they walk in the door. It is love in action. It is a little piece of heaven. Seeing these things happen is one of my greatest joys.”

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