What is Bread of Life?
Bread of Life is run each Sunday by Vine Church in Surry Hills providing breakfast for rough sleepers and a devotional Bible study. Scots Church Sydney supports this ministry by sending a team on the first Sunday of each month. Vulnerable community members from the area join for food and fellowship.
What is involved?
Volunteers start at 7am to set up the breakfast and area and prepare food to share with the companions when they arrive at 7.45am. Some regulars will arrive at 7.30am for a 30-minute Bible discussion before breakfast. Between 7.45m-8.30am, volunteers are serving breakfast, handing out care packages and chatting with companions.
Why does this matter?
We love because God first loved us. He sent his only Son to die in our place so that we might live in him. This offer of love is not just for our own church, but for people across the city. Our Bread of Life ministry allows us to partner with other Christians to love our city in practical ways.
We want to be a church that:
loves the disadvantaged and marginalised in the community;
is driven to serve and work alongside others because of Christ’s love and sacrifice; and
recognises the opportunities to share the gospel in many contexts.
Why ‘Bread of Life’ and why ‘companions’?
The name ‘Bread of Life’ serves to highlight our desire not just to provide physical food, but to share eternal food through the gospel. We want those involved to know that we love and serve because of God’s grace to us and that nothing is better or more important than the gift of salvation through Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Similarly, the word ‘companion’ is used to recognise the relational value of such a ministry. More important than giving free food is showing the community that we care and so the breakfast becomes a time for fellowship.
We consider the companions at Bread of Life to fall under the meaning of ‘vulnerable persons’. For this reason, our Bread of Life team members should be BTS accredited.
First time volunteers may attend Bread of Life as an observer and regular volunteers should follow the steps here to become BTS accredited and approved by the Session.
Roles and responsibilities on the day
Before the day
Our team provides care packages and fruit salad. The items for the care packages and fruit salad are usually purchased by one or two members before Sunday and who then bring it to Vine church.
- Care packages – We usually make 30 bags of care packages consisting of items like:
Personal hygiene products like: toothbrush/toothpaste, tissue packets, deodorant, soap etc.
Socks (especially in winter)
Bacon is usually cooked on the barbecue outside.
Need: 2 x electric fry pans, 2 trays of eggs, some butter for the pan, milk, salt/pepper
Joe usually brings 4 trays of eggs; 2 trays of boiled eggs (to be handed out) and 2 trays of fresh eggs.
The eggs are made in the electric fry pans, with butter and milk.
These take about 20 minutes so should be started around 7.15am so they are ready in time.
There is a conveyor belt toaster for bread. Toast about 4 loaves of sliced bread and butter the toast as it comes out of the oven.
Tea, coffee & juice
Instant coffee and tea are brewed in pots and served in cups
One juice bottle is usually enough to serve the companions
Need: 1 watermelon, 1 pineapple, 1 kg apples, 1 kg pears, 1 packet kiwi fruit, 1 kg oranges
Fruit salad is served in bowls and the leftover is packaged into takeaway containers if people want to take them home.
There will often be extra loaves of bread or other baked items that are handed out separately if people are interested.
2-3 tables are set up to distribute the care packages, fruit salad, and then the tea and coffee.
Each item needs at least one volunteer to hand them out to the companions.
Set up about 6 rectangle tables with chairs for eating
1 table set up for the dirty dishes with a tub of hot soapy water. Keep the bin next to the table for scraps.
Companions will place dirty dishes into the tub and a volunteer will stack the dish-rack for the dishwasher.
Companions will arrive at 7.45am, the BoL Director will say grace and then they will line up for breakfast.
Volunteers hand out items to companions.
When there are enough volunteers, they are encouraged to grab a sandwich or tea and coffee and chat to the companions as they eat.
Once the first group of companions have had their ‘first serve’, volunteers can encourage companions to have seconds (or take them around and offer).
There will always be a few people coming late so it’s good to keep some food aside.
One volunteer usually remains in the kitchen to wash up the items used in prep
Another volunteer can start loading the dishwasher as dirty plates pile up.
At 8.30am, volunteers can start cleaning and packing up.
If there are leftovers, try to give them to any lingering companions.
Loving companions and loving team members
Understanding the companions and tips for chatting
While there are a few women and a few younger visitors, the majority of companions are older men. Many live in temporary accommodation around Surry Hills, Redfern or Darlinghurst and others are traveling from much further.
The Bread of Life ministry at Vine Church has been running for over 20 years and some of the companions have been attending since the beginning. Some are from Sydney and others are from interstate or rural NSW.
There are many reasons companions have found themselves in the circumstances they are in; illness, family problems, breakdown in relationships, addiction, and while you may see some patterns, everyone’s background is different. What is common is that many of them are mentally and emotionally vulnerable and something as simple as listening and chatting with them can make them feel valued and cared for.
Eye contact & body language
As you approach someone to chat, try to make eye contact and to display relaxed, positive body language (i.e smile).
Many companions just need a few questions to get them started. Ask simple questions like:
How was your week?
Have you come before? (If you haven’t seen them before) / How did you hear about Bread of Life?
What do you like doing with your time?
What have you got planned today?
Do you know many people here?
If the person isn’t responding to your questions or seems agitated or rude, don’t take it personally. Be polite and say ‘Have a good day, see you later’.
Introduce yourself. Some companions may ask you the same questions back to you, so be willing to share yourself with them.
Let the conversation follow its natural course
Listen carefully to them. Don’t try to control the conversation, but use it as an opportunity to learn about them.
Follow up is how relationships deepen and grow. Remember their name and when you finish the conversation, you may like to acknowledge it by saying something like:
Thank you for chatting with me, xxx…it was really nice to hear about xxx.
I look forward to seeing you next month, I want to hear about xxx.
Using a person’s name and remembering something about them is a really good way to show them you care. If it helps you, note down their name and some information about them so you remember the following month.
Loving other team members
Volunteers are part of a team working together to serve the companions. During the morning, look around to see what tasks need doing and ask other volunteers if they need help. Some tasks are more desirable than others, be willing to do the undesirable tasks to serve the team.
The preparation time is a great time to build relationships with others on the team. Our team includes members from Scots Church, members of other churches and volunteers who may not be Christian. Preparing and serving together is an opportunity to share what motivates us to be at Bread of Life. It’s a great way for Christian and non-Christians to serve together and to demonstrate Christ’s love in a practical way.