In a year and a half, a women’s breakfast gathering ballooned from a dozen people to more than 50—and it’s creating bridges into the community. 

In a year and a half, a women’s breakfast gathering has ballooned from a dozen people to more than 50—and it’s creating bridges into the community.

“Everyone has a story of how they got to where they are spiritually,” says Elizabeth Budinich. Those stories were her favorite part of her Bible study group, and she wanted to hear more of them. She expressed that desire to a friend, who shared her enthusiasm. Soon after, Elizabeth and her sister-in-law, Stephanie, began the monthly breakfasts.

“The first person I asked to speak was a woman who had been very active in the church, and she just seemed to have such a positive spirit. So I wanted to hear her story of how she stayed so positive her entire life and had such a great perspective on everything,” Elizabeth says.

The breakfasts are held monthly at Community Church in Harrington Park, New Jersey, where Elizabeth and Stephanie are members. Stephanie, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, prepares the breakfast each month. When the women arrive at 9:00 a.m., someone says a blessing over the food, and then the women visit while they eat. By 9:25, the designated speaker for that day begins to share her story.

“Some people talk about their upbringing. One woman talked about her ‘Christ encounters,’ how God puts different people in your path at different times in your life to help you along the way. Everybody comes up with their own way of doing it, and it’s always turned out great.”

The breakfasts are only an hour long, in order to accommodate busy schedules and enable moms with younger children to attend in spite of Saturday morning activities.

Since that first event, attendance has steadily increased from 12 to more than 50 women as attendees invite their friends. For Mel Van Hattem, who was until recently an interim minister at the church, the growth reflects the church’s vision to be a “community church with the community at heart.” At a recent breakfast, he says, “there was a table of one of Stephanie’s cooking classes, just a secular class. There were a number of people from town who would come, and they’d just meet and talk. People knew they could come with no obligation to join the church or relate to the church—this was just relating to the Christian faith. Some came from the Catholic church across the street; one of them was the December speaker.”

That speaker, a friend of Elizabeth’s, shared her spiritual journey while serving with the armed forces in Afghanistan. “It was a lot of really great stories of how God is always present in our life and he has a plan for us. We might not know what that plan is, but as life unfolds, we figure out that plan,” Elizabeth says.

Most of the speakers have been other women from Community Church in Harrington Park. That, Elizabeth says, has brought the church family closer together.

Van Hattem says he’s also seen growth in the women who attend the breakfast. Just a few months after the breakfasts started, he was planning a new format for midweek services during Lent. “I knew the women in this breakfast group thought they had a great thing, so I asked some of them if they would help be leaders,” he says. “Stephanie was one of my greatest leaders! The willingness of the women to lead helped carry it off.”