Juan Sierra has begun serving as the new program manager of the Global Coffee Break ministry and the Discover Your Bible study series. He comes to the position with a deep knowledge and experience of working with these materials.
Juan is married to Libna Sierra. They are both trained Coffee Break leaders, and they frequently made use of Coffee Break materials as they were planting Iglesia Sunlight Español, a Hispanic-speaking church on the campus of Sunlight Christian Reformed Church in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
But they didn’t necessarily do this in church. Rather, the couple encouraged the formation of small groups, where people could gather to study the Bible through Coffee Break — and to invite their neighbors to join in. The Discover Your Bible series is the Bible study component of the Coffee Break ministry.
“We saw how effective Coffee Break could be, especially with people who had little to no Christian background,” said Juan. “People can start learning about the Bible right away.”
In the church plant Juan and Libna saw many people come to faith and together grow in Jesus by using the methods of Coffee Break. Small group members moved from expecting to be taught to discovering the Bible together through questions and conversations.
“I would like to see more people becoming aware of what Coffee Break is and what it does and how it can be used in your church,” said Juan.
Once the church plant in Port St. Lucie was up and running, Juan left. Juan taught school for a time and then, following study for a master’s degree in Bible and ministry at Calvin Theological Seminary, took on the role of Coffee Break and Discover Your Bible program manager.
This is not a position that a man who grew up in the Dominican Republic and came to Florida when he was young ever thought he might hold, he said.
For that matter, Juan said he never imagined he would be in this role when he and his wife used Coffee Break materials in the Port St. Lucie church plant. But he is grateful for the opportunity.
“I am eager to help grow and expand Global Coffee Break. It is now in 26 countries, and we see it entering into other countries as well,” he said. “Coffee Break is growing because of the way in which it teaches the Bible. People learn together. They don’t sit down and listen to someone lecture to them.”
Coffee Break began 50 years ago as mainly a Bible study series for women who gathered in their local church weekly to learn more about Scripture.
Until now, Coffee Break leaders have been women, so Juan’s appointment reflects the growth and changes that have taken place through Coffee Break, said Sam Huizenga, director of Raise Up Global Ministries, of which Coffee Break is a part.
Juan is leading Coffee Break at an important crossroads. It no longer sees itself as a ministry mostly for women. Rather, said Huizenga, the ministry is finding ways to become an influential resource for members of the global church.
“Juan brings vision and skills to the position,” said Huizenga. “He is a gifted communicator who effectively uses writing, social media, video, and public speaking to gather and support leaders.”
As a church planter, said Huizenga, Juan Sierra “knows how to try new things and learn from what happens. Most importantly, Juan's heart also aligns with the outreaching passion that began the Coffee Break movement 50 years ago.”
When he was approached to consider taking the position of program manager of Coffee Break and Discover Your Bible, said Juan, “I saw it as a good fit, because I know how effective it is.”
As part of Raise Up Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, Coffee Break is currently planning how best to mark its 50th anniversary later this year.
“We were thinking of holding a large gathering to celebrate our anniversary, but with the COVID-19 pandemic we have to reconsider exactly what we want to do,” said Juan.
A commissioned pastor, Juan leads Coffee Break from his home in Vero Beach, Fla. In more normal times, he would have ventured out frequently to meet Coffee Break leaders in settings around the world. But the COVID-19 pandemic has kept him at home.
“Coffee Break is a ministry based on people meeting together — and this [staying at home] is a big disruption,” he said. “But just because we can’t meet in person doesn’t mean we can’t study our Bibles until we get back out there again.”