There is one more test still to come for Journey to the Table the weekend of March 4th through 6th. We are already making some changes to the program based on what we have learned from the tests that we have already run, and will be putting the finishing touches on those after the last test. Then comes the really exciting part: the part where we get to offer Journey to the Table more widely. Beginning on March 17th, there will be a series of videos, training, and information becoming available to find out more about how you can start Journey to the Table where you are. This series will continue until July 8th when the first JTT event begins in Nashville at The Upper Room headquarters. I hope that you will join us along this part of the journey as we launch this new program.

Since September of 2015 we have been testing the first draft of the program with six partners in different settings. This weekend will be the fourth of those six tests. With each test, we have been learning about different aspects of JTT in more depth and revising the program according to what we learn. In some cases, we have learned that the first draft of the program serves participants well and genuinely helps people create space for conversations together about faith in their lives. In others we have learned how we can adjust the way JTT is designed to serve participants better. Overall, we have been fortunate so far in having a positive impact with participants with the program in its first draft. In other posts I have been sharing a few pieces that we have learned. I have tried to share some bigger items that we have seen in multiple tests so far. For a slightly more fun way to read the highlights so far, here’s a series of quotes from my brain as I’ve observed the three tests that we have completed: “Well what do you know, this thing actually works!” “We designed something with college students and young adults specifically in mind, and it seems to connect with them.” “So you’re saying we don’t all have to agree on everything about faith to have a good conversation about faith in our lives?.. Brilliant!” “We can’t ask people to leave any part of themselves out of the conversation. I’m glad my program doesn’t do that.” “Journey to the Table isn’t designed to be overtly evangelical.” “What happens when someone who is questioning faith shows up? Pull up a chair next to me, I have some questions I’d like to ask too.” “Participants seem most engaged when it doesn’t feel like a lecture.” “How do we get the people giving talks to be more personable?” “Of course this doesn’t have to be a weekend retreat – everyone already knows how to meet once a week.” “We’re not trying to tell people all of the right answers. How do we do a great job of inviting people to talk about interesting questions of faith and life? That’s a more interesting conversation – at least to me.”

Emmaus ministries, Journey to the Table, Process, Steering Team, Test Locations
thanksss Like so many others, I’m reminded today of so many people and things for which I am thankful. When I started working on this program almost two years ago, I understood how to design a process that could produce something helpful. What I didn’t understand is what that helpful thing could be, or how it would translate into real ministry with real people. That’s where dozens of people interceded. It started with a few new co-workers who gave so much faith and support that I felt infallible. Then 19 volunteers agreed to be part of a team and to trust the process I had outlined. They did the hard work of discussing countless issues and details about what this ministry would become. More colleagues stepped in to make it possible for me to find places to test what had yet to be written. Then people in ministry positions offered their work and influence to help test the program. I took a moment for a mental headcount of all those faces: 147. So far there have been 147 people that I’ve come face-to-face with in the process of designing and testing Journey to the Table that I didn’t know before I started. Each one of their involvement has been invaluable. That number doesn’t include all of my friends and family that have been personally supportive, nor the countless people that have prayed for each step of this process, or prepared meals, or shown up for many parts of this process that I didn’t see in-person. I’ll spare everyone of reading “Thank You” 147 times, but that would be an emphatic way to express my thoughts about all of these people. I hope this moment is a glimpse of what Journey to the Table will become. I hope it always involves more people than I could possibly thank. I hope those are the people who become most connected to this ministry. I hope that as it grows, every person involved has this moment when they realize just how many others support them the way that these 147 have supported me. Thank you.

Process, Research, Test Locations

#3: Conversations can look more like art.

There’s plenty of research data out there that says people with smart phones are distracted. And there’s plenty of people in ministry who ask what to do about that. Don’t do anything. In the three tests so far, I’ve heard people specifically ask us to put away our phones only 4 times in a cumulative 7 days of experience. I’ve seen people on their phones during a conversation only twice. The Emmaus ministries that Journey to the Table comes from have a long tradition of asking people to intentionally disconnect from the outside world and be focused on the experience in front of them. So far, the people that have participated in Journey to the Table have been so engaged with one another that we haven’t needed to ask. I’ve seen conversations that include phones at times, but also include sketch pads, sound effects, notes, colorful drawings, and knitting. In all of those cases, the people in the conversation have said that what they remember most are the other people at the table. As I read all of that research data, I think this is what a relationship-focused generation looks like: conversations as art.

Process, Test Locations

#1 Smarties are better than poker chips or pennies.

How are we supposed to balance our lives when there are so many different things that need our attention? Balancing does not mean we give everything equal attention, but instead that we give the adequate amount of attention to the things that need it, and the things that keep us growing. It also helps if you consider how you balance your life using a sweet treat. Even if you feel like your life is unbalanced, you still get to enjoy the candy. Smarties or not, we take time in Journey to the Table to look at all the different parts of our life, and see how we’re doing in the balancing act.   DCIM100GOPRO

#2 Self-care is a must.

Rest, relaxation, rejuvenation, sabbath, respite… whatever word you use for it, you’re going to need time that is set aside for you to do the things that give you life and help you be ready for everything else. It may be a kayak on a beautiful lake, a good book, a blank canvas, or a cup of coffee with a friend, or anything else you find that gives you motivation, clarity, and energy. We want to talk about self-care in Journey to the Table. More importantly, we want to give you some time for self-care in case you haven’t had any lately.  

JOURNEY TO THE TABLE is a new program ministry of The Upper Room specifically designed for young adults, ages 18 – 35 years old. It allows participants to explore faith through authentic teaching and it fosters open discussion through which participants can build relationships with a community of peers. Journey to the Table seeks to inspire and equip individuals to create spaces of Christian action in their homes, schools, places of work, and communities.

While Journey to the Table is in the test launch phase, follow the story below…


Emmaus ministries, Process

The Growing Emmaus Family

  For over 30 years, The Upper Room has offered the Walk to Emmaus for adults, and Chrysalis Flights and Journeys for youth and young adults. As we’ve continued to offer these programs, we have seen the need to reach more people with appropriate life stage offerings. As a result, this year we will launch Face to Face for adults who are 60 and older, and, in 2016, we will introduce Journey to the Table for young adults between the ages of 18 and 35. The development of new programs and the rebranding of the existing ones bring us, not only to design logos for the new offerings, but also to update the existing ones. Following many months of creative and strategic efforts, it is with great joy that we share the redesigned logos for Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis, as well as the new logos for Face to Face and Journey to the Table. all 4

Process, Steering Team
Over the weekend of Sept. 19th -21st, 2014 the leadership of a new steering team met to continue work on a new young adult ministry program that would later be named Journey to the Table. Five volunteers from across the country met at The Upper Room office in Nashville, Tennessee to discuss program goals and develop specific plans to write program content. We covered a lot:
  • an overview of our parent Emmaus ministries & a vision for their future,
  • the age group we intend to serve and what it takes to reach them,
  • themes for the program,
  • handbook structure,
  • effectively teaching / ministering to young adults,
  • ideas for a name,
  • steering team, testing, and rollout process,
  • and made sub-group assignments.
The team toured The Upper Room Museum and Chapel, and shared in a short time of worship and communion. Greg Engroff, the Executive Director of Programs for The Upper Room worshiped with the team, and welcomed them on Friday afternoon. Kate Dickinson, the Associate Director of Emmaus ministries, gave the first presentation and led a discussion on the core elements of existing ministries. This presentation and the subsequent conversation about the age group we intend to serve formed a common foundation, and took most of Saturday morning.  Starting in the afternoon, the team built specific plans for the program. Here’s the first paragraph that was ever written describing what we developed:
The new program will have many of the core elements that we have experienced: a theology of grace, agape letters of encouragement, and a focus on 4th days/ next steps, just to name a few. It will also have new themes of relationship, growth in a transitory time of life, seeing God in daily life, tools for the journey, technology and spiritual life, and (my favorite title) “if you don’t see a space – make a space!:” empowering young adults to create relationships, communities, and ministries to live out their spiritual formation. This combination will allow us to build on the solid foundation of teachings in Walk to Emmaus, Chrysalis, and Face to Face, and apply them to the specific needs and characteristics of young adults today.
Soon, these steering team leaders will be sharing parts of their story, and what this experience was like creating this new piece of their ministries. We can’t wait for you to meet them.

Process, Steering Team

This was one of the early outlines for he role of the Steering Team.  I started working on this in April of 2014, and settled on this process as more of the Steering Team leaders agreed to serve. In a lot of ways, I’m amazed just how well we stayed on the timeline. But then again, as you read about the people who formed our Steering Team, you’ll see that it was their passion that made it work.


Steering Team Outline


I found this funny letter in my files from September of 2014. This was the first letter that asked Emmaus communities, campus ministries, and churches to be test locations for Journey to the Table.

We ended up receiving more applications that I had expected. What I thought would be a simple process of talking to interested ministries by phone, ended up as an in-depth paper application process – it was the only way I could keep them all organized!

keep reading