The church I serve used to allot 30 minutes on Sunday mornings to bagels for youth. From 10:30-11:00, just before youth groups, a big box of Einstein Brothers would show up in the youth room, and 6th-12th graders would spend half an hour gnawing on plain and asiago dough while socializing.

Well, some socialized. Others sat in a corner by themselves. Still others took a bagel and left the room to be alone with their phone.

For that reason, and because of the mounting cost, we pulled the bagels when youth programming resumed in September. We’ve been hearing about it ever since. Youth and parents have lamented the loss of the unstructured social time, since most of students’ weeks are programmed full of school and related activities.

So we talked about it. And talked about it. Weekly. I got emails about it. The Youth Ministry Committee discussed it. But the bagels stayed gone.

Until last Sunday.

We’re bringing back bagels for a limited Advent run, but we’re tweaking it to address our concerns over cost and over the failure of unstructured social time to engage many youth. First, the cost. With the leadership of a parent, we set up and publicized a web link where parents could sponsor a week’s worth of bagels. Within 48 hours of sending the link out in our newsletter, every week of bagels had been paid for.

Second, groups get bagels to themselves–jr. high bagels in one room, sr. high bagels in another. They are a kind of “reception” time before the beginning of each youth group, and not an all-ages free-for-all. Also, since several of our students don’t do gluten, we added some fruit and granola bars for them.

We haven’t solved it, I don’t think. But we’re trying. It’s an experimental step toward being the hospitable, generous community we’re called to be.

Bagels are boring. But important elements of ministry and community building are hiding in the boring stuff. Ignore them at your peril.