Last week we had a patio fair at coffee hour. (Last week it was warm enough. This week, not so!) There was a little arts and crafts sale, a local fair trade organization was selling gifts, and our Green Sanctuary Committee was selling light bulbs and had invited a representative from our power company to talk to people about their wind power initiative. It was a glorious Fall day and the social hall was deserted except for the folks serving coffee.
At the end of the morning, the Power Company representative approached our administrator, asking for information about the church. "There's great energy, here, " she said. "Everybody is happy!"
We called that, "the buzz" at the Growth Consultation, and we all agreed that (1) it existed and was important, and (2) that an unhappy or conflicted or depressed congregation produces a completely different "buzz". Our experience is that this is an often commented-on, very attractive feature of our congregation. Buzz is very valuable.
"Buzz" happens when the space is full, when people are excited about what and who they find in the space, when groups of people chatting are fluid and open to new people. (A group that is talking intently among itself and does not want to be approached or overheard...the sort of group that might exist during a time of conflict...makes a completely different kind of noise.)
"Buzz" is created by children, which is why we serve cocoa at Coffee Hour. Buzz is created by smiles, expansive gestures, and people calling out to their friends by name.
There comes a time as a church grows, that the members buzzing around at coffee hour don't know whether those around them are new any more, and taking care of those newcomers and helping them be a part of the buzz is really important. That's when versions of the Yellow Cup become important; we have to be able to identify a lot of newcomers in a short span of 10-20 minutes. That's also when some volunteers and staff have to keep firmly in mind that their job at coffee hour is to greet newcomers.
We do things to create buzz at our congregation. We encourage all our scouts to sell their wares, we invite groups to put out information, there are always tables full of sign-up sheets. And while we do wish that we had a larger social hall during the winter, we are glad that we don't have to deal with a cavernous hall, where it would be hard to create the buzz that helps people experience the energy of this congregation.