When Brewery Ministries formed in 2019, our small team had been wrestling with a problem we had observed in our city: many people were interested in God, but few were interested in church.

As a musician, I often performed in breweries, bars, and visited open mics around town. I often found myself stumbling into organic conversations about God with other musicians. When I told others that I worked at a church as a musician, they would open up and pour out their stories.

In my many conversations with strangers, I noticed two recurring themes. First, most people had unfortunately experienced painful encounters with churches or Christians on more than one occasion. In many conversations, a large portion of people also reported that they avoid Christianity because of what they see happening in the current political climate. Second, despite these experiences, many were still interested in God. Some even had a surprisingly strong personal faith but had no community to grow with others.

When Another Church Service Didn’t Work

My church suggested I create a worship service for the musicians and young people I kept meeting. So I put together a small team of people who were excited about the idea. But as time went on, we realized that most of the people we had in mind would never venture into a church building. Some had just experienced too much hurt. Others didn’t grow up in church, and the culture was unfamiliar.

Joining an Existing Conversation

We decided to try to fill this void by creating something in an environment this audience is already familiar with. A brewery seemed like the perfect place. It’s where many people are already having some of their most important conversations about life. But we didn’t want to create another church service. Instead, we attempted to create something that wouldn’t interrupt the normal brewery atmosphere. Our primary goal was to help people connect with God in a situation that felt familiar to them.

Each week we bring a sheet with questions to discuss along with context to help others learn to understand and interpret the Bible. All necessary background information is built into the questions themselves. We hope that others can someday use our discussion questions to start groups without worrying about not knowing enough about the Bible. In 2021, two of our teammates created an online discussion group over Zoom with attendees from several different states. In the future, we hope to see many more small discussion groups forming in restaurants, coffee shops, and homes.

While our groups are small, we are excited about the big things we see God doing in the lives of others. We have attendees from many different backgrounds. Some have never read the Bible. Others grew up in church but haven’t been to church in more than ten years. Some are practicing Christians but wanted a more personal experience where they could dive into their questions and doubts.

In our first year, a woman became a Christian who had previously identified as agnostic. For years she had thought that being a Christian would require her to take a stance against science because of what had been taught at her church as a teenager. Hearing other perspectives helped her rethink Christianity and embrace it. In year two, several people joined us who wanted a place to explore their burning questions about the Bible. Some said they didn’t see a typical church as a practical option. Some are still unsure about what they think of Jesus. Others are rediscovering Jesus. We are just happy to give them a place to explore.

New Skills for Talking About God Outside of Church

Launching the Brewery Ministry has also been a growing experience for our team. Our audience is very cautious about faith-based groups. One thing we often have to do to reach this group is to earn their trust, particularly with those who have experienced church hurt. It’s a process that requires sensitivity and understanding.

We’re often learning on the fly. We’ve had to develop the skills to facilitate conversations between people with much different perspectives and beliefs. It can be a challenge to help Christians, agnostics, and atheists discuss scripture together. We have to work hard to maintain an environment where people can honestly share their opinions, and we are thrilled to see different kinds of people coming together.

Sometimes people share wild ideas. We’ve learned not to worry about correcting others but to encourage everyone to continue studying together. We focus on loving others well, then sit back and see how God speaks to people through the scripture we study. It might seem counterintuitive, but we take this as a sign that we’re right where we need to be.

We’ve all learned so much through our conversations, and I find I’m most excited when someone begins to understand God in a new way or sees something in scripture that they had never noticed before. We hope to help people see the Bible as the story of God pursuing all of us to be a part of His family.

Still Experimenting

Most of our activities are designed to help people who have no place to explore God begin taking some steps in their spiritual journey. It requires some experimentation.

While our in-person and online discussion groups will continue, we plan to increase our online activities in 2023. We’re launching a YouTube Channel and podcast called Movies Are Spiritual (@moviesarespiritual). I was inspired to start the podcast after hearing an interview with film critic Josh Larsen who said all stories and movies are basically prayers even if the writers don’t realize it.

The Movies Are Spiritual podcast is meant to be a very casual way to encourage movie fans to begin thinking about God, possibly for the very first time. We try to uncover the hidden “prayer” in each movie we watch. In each episode, we discuss the plot, movie trivia and trace one or two spiritual themes throughout the story. We hope the podcast will eventually reach an audience that is currently unreached by the standard church model.

While Movies Are Spiritual only scratches the surface of exploring God, our YouTube channel @breweryministries will dive much deeper into theology. In 2023, we’ll be launching a video series that will take a unique research-based approach to the main storyline of the Bible. This channel will focus more on tough questions that skeptics often wrestle with. Each video will investigate a scripture passage in a mini-documentary format. We want viewers to feel like they’re joining a detective on an investigation. Believe it or not, the idea came from watching true crime documentaries on Netflix. Both projects will be a minimum 3-year endeavor.

It’ll be a busy year for us, but we’ve been learning so much through our interactions with others. Trying something new is no easy task, but we look forward to seeing where God takes us.

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Nathan Snyder
About the Author

Nathan Snyder

Nathan is a guitarist and rock musician who spent many weekends as a young adult jamming in local bars and breweries. Now he brings people together in these same venues to discuss and explore God. He enjoys investigating the most challenging passages of the Bible and discovering how ancient people would have understood them. In his free time he writes music, enjoys video games, roasts coffee and consumes far too many podcasts. Nathan is currently attending AWKNG School of Theology.