Church Coffee Shops, Good Idea or Bad? by Pr. Rossow

You can’t spit in my neck of the woods without hitting a Methobapticostal church with a coffee shop in its lobby. These coffee shops may or may not be a bad idea. Fifteen years ago when we built our current church and school we thought about putting one in our facility and probably would have if we had not run out of time and energy for new ideas. It was enough of a challenge to us to build a five million dollar church and school all at the same time. (BTW – we paid off the mortgage two years ago – twelve years early.)

These coffee shops appear to be a must have for the contemporary church facility. Are they good or bad? Overall I think they are OK and can serve a useful function but I am curious what you think. I will share my concern about them, offer a few reasons in support of them and then look forward to your comments.

One reason to reject them is the fact that they so typify the Methobapticostal approach to church. They stand for the non-sacramental “fellowship” that is about all that is left when liberalism, Pentecostalism, and generic methodism have robbed you of the means of grace. It is interesting to note which churches don’t have coffee shops in the lobby. The old fashioned fire and brimstone Baptist church’s typically don’t because they tend to be smaller and they don’t need one anyway since they revolve around a preaching of sin and grace, albeit a grace compromised with “decision gospel.” Also, the Roman Catholic churches do not have coffee shops. That is because they too have a message of sin and grace and in their case as well, a compromised preaching of grace, compromised by a false doctrine of penance. Traditional Baptists and traditional Roman Catholics have a religion of substance and do not need secular gimmicks to ground their church. This notion of penance brings to mind another profound critique of the lobby coffee shop.

In the opening sentence you may have felt a need to replace the word “lobby” with the churchly word “narthex.” Good for you. Therein hangs a tale, like a dirty old coffee cup hanging on a hook in the back room. I am guessing that Methobaptipticostal churches do not use the term “narthex.” (Maybe some of the new age ELCA churches still use that term simply as a holdover from their previously liturgical days.) “Narthex” comes from the Greek word for scourging. The Narthex was the place for penitents. It was where the baptismal font was placed as a sign of the penitent receiving grace enough to enter the place where the body and blood of the Lord are given out. In a church where repentance over sin has been replaced with disappointment over poor parenting skills, bad money management and unfulfilling sex, and in a church where the Gospel has been replaced with the necessary life skills to meet those felt needs and a shot of adrenal filled praise music to get you through another tough week contending with your fellow narcissists, we don’t need no stinking narthex for no stinking penitence. We have a lobby where we get our favorite non-alcoholic brew that we carry into the auditorium where we sit close enough so we can see the stage and then slowly sip our caffeine infused drink that enhances our mood.

Having said that I guess it was good thing that we didn’t add a coffee shop to our facility. But I am not so sure we should be so quick to throw the baby out with the coffee water. The baby is camaraderie with my adopted family, the body of Christ. A place to express and experience that is a good thing.

My first call was to Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, Michigan. I remember touring the old churches on the west side Detroit and hearing members speak fondly of the bowling lanes in the church basements and the men’s club house across the street from the sanctuary. Those churches had wonderful camaraderie between members. It was all gravy for sure. The meat and potatoes are the means of grace but it was a nice gravy and a gravy that was made from fellowship juices of sharing the forgiveness of sins with your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Whenever I see the now omnipresent church coffee shops I think of those stories of the strong churches on the west side of Detroit and the way members treated the parish facility as a second home. That’s a good thing. As long as the administration of the coffee shop does not detract from the parish’s ability to administer the body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, it may not be such a bad thing. What do you think?

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

Church Coffee Shops, Good Idea or Bad? by Pr. Rossow — 80 Comments

  1. @Pastor Tim Rossow #48
    On the other hand, I remember what Pastor Harrison said about missions done wrong. He was addressing confessionals, and he said, “Do it yourself!” I loved that! And we should! (I would add, and we ARE.)

    If there is a good way to do this that doesn’t detract from or replace any churchly function, then why not try it if you feel so inclined? Let’s BE what we are FOR rather than worrying about whether we could be interpreted as supporting something as ridiculous as a coffee shop replacing a church. No one in his right mind could think that we would ever do something like that.

  2. @Rev. Larry D. Wright #47

    WHAT?
    AAAARRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

    Someone needs to inform the DP, District VP’s and Board of Directors about the objectives of Synod (handbook p. 13), of which the first is to Promote the Unity of True Faith. None of the other objectives are in any way remotely connected with owning and running a coffee shop, a pizza parlor, or any other psuedo-commercial wannabe enterprise. There ought to be an out-house full of overtures directed at this patently offensive scheme. Letters should go to every congregation & pastor in the district, informing them of how their contributions are being mis-used. And what kind of cockamamie (sic) mission statement is THAT, fer cryin’ out loud–“We’re not going to do mission here?” A non-missional mission statement–now there’s a ecclesiastical oxymoron if I ever heard one. Maybe somebody could start a new program TCN2—“Tranforming Coffeeshops Now.”

    OK, the rant machine is turned off. And so am I.

    Johannes (still hyperventilating).

  3. @Johannes #35
    An automatic 15% gratuity/donation is tacked on to your bill, no matter how large the party (omits the need for a guilt-driven stewardship program).

    “15%” is 5% low; why should the church take less than the nice restaurant?

    We have coffee and tea available before Sunday School and Adult Bible class… in the Fellowship Hall where coffee belongs (and not in the church pew).

    Children come by on their way to class for a cookie, or whatever sweets are donated that day.
    The Ladies’ group sends any surplus funds (free will offering) to missions.

  4. @helen #54

    You said, “15%” is 5% low; why should the church take less than the nice restaurant?”

    No, 15% is 5% high. That’s a tithe (10% according to some) plus 5%. Besides, it’s not about the money–the coffee shop’s mission statement says, “We are not in this for money or evangelism–we just want to give back to the community.” But nobody complains about a mere 15%.

    Johannes, coffee-meister

  5. I used to love to go to “church” but now that the church is trying to become all things to all people meaning there is really nothing for anyone I can just go to the mall on Sundays, pray all by myself, get a smoothie and a donut and give myself communion. Oh, and I will have my ipod tuned to my favorite Enya songs so I can “feel” the spirit move within me or at least hear something pretty that I like.

    How dare we make such fun of a church that Jesus Christ is building? Where did we get the idea that WE are building the church?

    If you need a cup of coffee, make it at home. If you need a pastry, make it at home, that way there will not be another “ministry” that is taxing the parishoners’ time and finances. Aren’t we told to feed the poor? Perhaps the coffee and donut money should go in a mission box instead and we would actually be doing some good instead of feeding our pieholes.

  6. If my church had a coffee bar than maybe I would not get yelled at for serving caffeinated coffee at Advent and Lenten suppers. 🙂

    Good thing the supper is before church and after the arguments comes Word and Sacrament.

  7. Church coffee shops are a disappearing fad. Let’s start something new… how about a church Tapas bar with a large selection of wines and spirits? Just off the Tapas bar a church humidor room could be built where the best cigars and single malt scotch a tithe can buy will be served. Now we just need a name for this new initiative for the church… how about “Hell’s Kitchen”? Oh, wait… Gordon Ramsey has taken that name. 🙂

  8. @Johannes #55
    No, 15% is 5% high. That’s a tithe (10% according to some) plus 5%.

    The restaurant waitress deserves more than the barista at your coffeeshop?
    If they are running a coffee shop “for the community”, why should they collect a tithe?
    That’s teaching them to obey an OT law that we are freed from.
    [“For the community”… does the guy who panhandles on your way to work get his coffee free? He needs it worse than the commuters inside warm vehicles.]

    Rather start by trying to collect the 10% from church members… off the top of income, not off the price of a coffee. Not because we are bound to the theocratic gov’t of the OT, but because it’s a nice round number that would do some real good.

    [If all really still gave it, our seminaries wouldn’t have financial problems; our churches would be served by ordained Pastors; and we would have ordained missionaries back in the field instead of three week “vacationaries”.]

  9. I think there are good logical arguments which can be made on both sides of the church coffee shop question. Five years ago my home church had no coffee shop, now it does. It was installed as a gathering place of fellowship outside of the usual Sunday and Wednesday services and to help fund missions. It is not used as an accessory for drawing new people inside the church doors. We are taught to deliver the message of Jesus outside the church walls through acts of love and compassion focusing on drawing others to Jesus (not coffee) however the coffee shop does help fund some of our organized giving. Used in that context I believe the coffee shop/bar is fine however I fully acknowledge how easily it can lead to pride and poison in many forms so we should be on guard.
    Having said that, I don’t feel it is good for the Christian body as a whole to become too distracted over this particular debate because I feel it can appear to unbelievers and those with a poverty viewpoint of churches as a battle for wealth and power. In that statement is what I feel is the core issue, whether it is a coffee bar, gift shop, bake sale or yard sale I think people tend to want churches and church fund raising to look like they are just getting by and are one offering plate away from having the lights turned off. Churches must generate income not only to meet their operating costs but to fund their outreaches and sometimes it takes new approaches to maintain a healthy bottom line financially and spiritually. Provided that scripture is the basis for accountability and the focus is on Jesus I feel coffee shops/bars inside the church building are acceptable. (I said coffee shops, NOT ABC stores…figure someone will say “in that case why not booze and slot machines next) I think Christians on both sides of this debate should be careful to not become so entangled that Jesus is hidden from view or suddenly a new “coffee bar denomination” is formed. If that type of division should start to form we would all be better to take Paul’s example and have no church coffee shop at all.

  10. Just came across this thought looked it up on google and ur page came up is it a bad or good thing is my question to and I thought if I was the only one wondering this only because these couple verses popped into my head random maybe but possibly the holy spirit revealing something to me. Read matthew 21: 12-13. Sounds to be it’s pretty clear the hose of our father should be for Prayer NOT FOR BUSINESS! I don’t know whT do u think?

  11. I have to say that this issue “hit” me yesterday, Sunday morning, before I started looking online here for other comments. I just started attending a church and they do have a coffee cafe. For the past couple of months, I have only been going on Wednesday nights, but have decided to go on Sunday morning also, recently. I got up early and went, and as soon as I opened the lobby doors, I smelled a great coffee aroma.

    Here’s my argument: I’m a recently,single mother and I’m financially “broke”. I smelled the coffee and it felt warm and inviting. I went up to the cafe counter and asked if they have any free coffee ( I was hoping for an urn filled with some generic coffee that I could drop a couple of coins in for a donation). The lady said, “no”. So I walked away saddened, and that warm and inviting feeling ‘went away’.

    So, you have all these people around you with a cup of coffee, but you can’t have one because you can’t afford it. I’m telling you I didn’t make it into the sanctuary that morning because I couldn’t get past the whole coffee concept. I sat outside the sanctuary in a chair for about 1/2 hr., then decided to leave and go back home.

    I’m telling you. They could buy a large container of generic coffee to put in an urn still and just take donations, if necessary. And they would probably come ahead financially.

    So why put something “out there” that is going to distract people, before they get to the sanctuary – something like this? Oh, so I’m not solid in my faith, you may ask, for something like this to bother me??? Well actually, “no, I’m not”, but I am striving. But why shall there be “brick walls” that are tempting and have to do with money when I enter the church? How come I simply can’t throw a coin in the basket next to the coffee urn to have a simple cup of coffee. Why is it there and I have to walk past it, feeling broke because I am broke.

    This all just sounds about money.

  12. Old Time St. John’s :I like Pastor Rossow’s nuanced view of this issue.
    Personally, I think that coffee shops are fine and indeed inviting, but that they should not be in the narthex or part of the walkway into church. Let’s enjoy each other’s company, certainly, and let’s also make sure that we don’t distract from the Divine Service in so doing.

    After all of the conversation, here and in the follow on thread, I want to add that I never pictured the coffee shop proposal as a replacement for ‘free coffee after church’. That never even crossed my mind. What I pictured was something that I have seen from time to time, a coffee house type setting in a fireside room or classroom, not the narthex, with some regular hours during the week, where people can go hang out, buy coffee and snacks, and talk. This is sometimes really inviting for people who are waiting for their children while they go to confirmation classes, or as a Friday night alternative to the bar scene.

    This does not have to replace free coffee after church, and it shouldn’t; any more than an onsite church bookstore must or should replace the church library.

  13. It seems to me that brewing a pot or two of coffee for people to sip before they enter the sanctuary or Sunday school is not that big a deal, but the church coffee shop is offensive to me in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on. One, it points to a weakness in the church goer–you can’t find time to drink your coffee and eat your breakfast before you go to church? You can’t go to church unless you’ve had your coffee? Then I question your commitment to church. In addition, as I’ve been searching for a church home, it seems like these coffee shops end up being places for all the cool Christian cliques to hang out. Far from being welcoming, I feel like I’ve stepped into mean girls turf when I go near the Christian coffee shop. Just my very humble opinion.

  14. Ok, I love the coffee shop idea. I have never seen any food or drink taken into the Chapel or sanctuary, but I have seen our youth get a chance to bounce some really excellent questions off us older members. Having a copy of the Book of Concord or some of Luther’s books on those coffee tables is a good way to get Christains thinking/talking/debating. We are blessed to have proably the greaest theologian of all time as out name sake, why not expose the world to his writings. Luther set the world on fire talking in Universities, his home table, pamplets, herasay hearings, hunting parties, to children and conversations with lay Princes. It’s been right for 500 years. Fellowship has always been a Lutheran ideal. Our namesake even sat with the youth and discussed religion over (God help us food) his own table , the book “Table Talk” recorded it for all posterity. The days of a Pastor and Elders running into the Church Service and running through some hymns and running out are happily over. Just like blivers in Christ’s times and Luthers we are going to have to accept some of the current generations Hymns and music, which we don’t know.

    This generation is going to hold our feet to the fire, because they can look up a fact in a flash with those mart phones. Every member is going to have to be able to explain the New Testament and the Book of Concord or we are going to be a Pagan or Muslim Nation in a decade or so. Thats a good thing, we have been slouching towards God for too long. Time to Man up or go home. We need to bring the youth in as full members or they are going to be led astray by these false religions. We think were saving our shaggy tatooed youth, but they may just be saving us and getting us back to being the strong Evangelical Church of the time of Christ, where the Greeks and Gentiles came in for the word and fellowship and created Christianity.

    Instead of shunning people, we should be presenting the word and why we think our interpatation is correct in a non-threatening format that lures the sinner to Christ. Were all Sinners and we all came for our own reasons initually. The word will do the rest, why does a scripturally based Church find that to be so challenging?

    A lot of our kids pray, they just don’t pray with a lot of you, in the litle white church on the Prarie, but that’s Ok, because Christ, Peter, Paul and a lot of other good Christains never prayed in a 1950’s style white clap board mid-western Church either. Our kids Pray in Iraq, Afganistan, as Prison Guards, Cops, Firemen, College Students, Professors, Fathers, Bread Winners, etc., we can help by providing the Word. Go hang out at a Mixed Martial Arts gymn and listen to a few of those kids witness and see if it isn’t just as intense as the Elders group, they can teach us as much as we can teach them and having the resources to get them into the door of our Church for the first time is important.

  15. Julie, you hit the nail on the head with your comment re: church cliques and the like. That is so very true.

    Dan, there is nothing wrong at all with you having an announcement made that you are opening your home to students to sit about and chat theology over coffee, wine, food or whatever. YOU can do a table talk time! Really, having folks sitting about one’s home talking this and that is a wonderful blessing, without hindering the important corporate nature of Sunday service.It’d be much more effective that way, rather than sequestering off ‘the cool kids’ every Sunday morning in a coffee shop.

    Everyone should corporately meet and greet in the sanctuary prior to service. Just my two cents.

  16. Lizabeth love th idea of having people over to your house for discussion, but realistically come to my house for dinner and me prosletyzing probably wouldn’t be that appealing for most of America’s young people as an initial introduction. A Coffee shop is less intimidating, Coffee shops are where our teens and twenty somethings go to meet and exchange ideas.

    This is really cultural, are we advocating Christianity or are we advocating and teaching our own time period and/or Regions Culture to the exclusion of everybody else. A lot of it the polyester suites, the music from 1854, the rural songs about wheat, sheperds and sheep apeal to Grandma more than a kid facing a deployment to Afganistan or life typing in a cube. The question is can Christ’s word and Luther’s writings reach across time and be relevant today are we a Church of the living word that never dies or does the generation of the 60’s and 70’s have a right to chase everybody else off. Luther’s writings are as powerful today as they must have been in the 1500’s, because they reach out to sinners. The fault really isn’t with the people not in our Church, so much as our’s for not presenting the word to them as Christains have always done. Luther’s ideas are as relevant today as ever. Luther’s ideas of reliance on scripture stood German Christains in good stead, when their government paid Pastors failed them in World War II. This all goes directly to Christ’s mission on Earth, God sent his son to mankind, not to the District caucus or the OWLS group, go figure. Paul went out and made a fool of himself for Christ, Boenhofer walked away from a comfortable Seminary job to do services in a concentration camp, Luther left a comfortable University Chair and honored position in a formal Catholic Church to write pamplets read by College students in the streets of Wittenburg, College students left classes to throw the Papal Bull against Martin Luther into the river and call them Papal ballons, Christ went to the Fishermen’s place of work, Pastor Killian went with the Texas Wends into the wilderness. None of this sounds like conventinal Church, but it converted whole nations. Nobody has ever been led to Christ by being greeted once they were in the Narthex. Traditional Christianty is not locked up in the Narthex, Christ’s true Church, Luther’s Church is in and of the community and is way too big to be contained in St. Peter’s Basillica, or a cathedral, or a single culture.

    God has sent his Son to save you and your friends, go tell them. Write a song like Martin Luther, talk to those outside of the Church, hang out with unussual people and get a few foot blisters like Christ make a fool of yourself like Paul. Time is short, don’t hesitate. Christ dosn’t need your friends, your friends need Christ.

    Thank you Pastor Rossow for an excellent subject. @Lizabth #19

  17. Psalm 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. We have a cafe no charge closed before Sunday School and Chruch service. The cafe provides many things at our church. There are children and others that we feed at the cafe because they are hungry. The cafe provides fellowship for those who need it, we have shutins. But more than anything it gives those who volunteer an oportunity to serve others by making them a coffee, hot chocolate, tea and a tray of cookies or donuts. And if God opens the door we sometimes get to plant a seed at the the cafe. We have those who are totally offended by the presence of the cafe and they don’t use the cafe nor do they serve in the cafe. Their veiws are like some of those mentioned in the other comments. I like our cafe and I would hope that our cafe would not offend anyone. I don’t usually drink coffee but when i go to church I do because someone took the time to make it. I guess it just depends on how it is viewed.

  18. @Warren #21

    I agree with and appreciate your comment. I’m not offended by coffee shops within a church, just think they should also have an urn or two for free coffee for people who can’t afford the latte or cappuccino – even put a donation basket next to it. If they do charge for the specialty deserts or specialty coffee’s, ( is there a sign saying, “Thank you, your contribution is going towards the Youth Summer Camp this month”, “Your contribution is going towards the Food Pantry this month” – or how about bring in 5 can’s of food for the homeless shelter this month in exchange for a specialty coffee today.??? Lots of possibilities. Just don’t like hearing someone can’t even have a cup of generic coffee because they don’t have any money when they come through the door.

  19. 1Corinthians 11:22
    For do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God, and shame those who do not have? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? I do not praise you!

  20. I say no to church coffee shops for obvious reasons. A nice coffee area with either free coffee/snacks is ok or place a donation jar on the counter would be fine. But to actually open a legitimate 7 day a week coffee shop, I feel is wrong. My ex church has now done this. I feel that it is shameful. Here you have a house of God going into the coffee shop business and possibly may even be competing in the business world against its own members! How would you like to own a small hometown coffee shop and not only find out that Starbucks is coming to town but also your own church is opening a full service coffee shop? It could end up closing your business and doing more harm than good. Just a thought.

  21. @Lizabth #69

    Everyone should corporately meet and greet in the sanctuary prior to service.

    Even better, come early to the sanctuary for prayer and let others have quiet for prayer. [Yes, you can pray anywhere else… and drink coffee anywhere else, too!]

    If the narthex isn’t designed for “meeting and greeting”, do it in the fellowship hall before Sunday School. Or do it there anyway…and have your coffee there.

    One congregation I know, has coffee available in an adjacent building, convenient to the church (and SS classrooms) but the chatter and the smell of coffee are kept out of the sanctuary.

  22. We have a coffee shop in our church, it bothers me to see people bring their coffee in the sanctuary. More churches are becoming social clubs and have no respect for God we also had two teenagers bring their cans of dr pepper in the pew it ain’t right.

  23. @Patty #76

    The Dr Pepper is no worse/better than the coffee. It’s the adults who are setting a bad example. How/when did we become a nation of toddlers…everyone with a bottle/drink cup in his/her hand ALL the time!?

  24. @helen #77

    It’s the kiddies from years ago whose parents provided them their sippy cups and Cherrios in the back of the nave (aka the “kiddy pews”) that now, as “adults,” haven’t kicked the habit, thanks to Evian, SmartWater, Starbucks, and 7-Eleven.

  25. Once we open up a business it takes about 10 seconds until the money changers bastardize the mission of the church.

  26. Church coffeehouses can be God-led outreaches that demonstrate God’s love, exercise hospitality, and attract populations traditional outreaches cannot begin to touch. I’ve seen a variety of subjects hit upon in this discussion and I would like to give my input as both a sister in Christ and as someone who has witnessed the hands of God move through a church coffeehouse.

    There are a variety of ways to organize a church coffeehouse. Some offer free self-serve drip coffee to people walking in in order to help them feel welcome. The cost of coffee is incurred by the church in that case as a hospitality or welcoming expense. Others accept donations for pastries and use funds towards specific projects. Still others charge set prices for espresso based drinks and direct funds towards ministries. While church coffeehouses require an initial start up fee to fund equipment and supplies, most money handling coffeehouses are able to generate enough profit to not only fund their own costs, but to financially benefit the entire church. My church’s coffeehouse, for example, directs all profits towards sending volunteers to bible camps and on missions trips. If it doesn’t make a profit, everyone must pay full prices and the coffeehouse is shut down so the church does not have to worry if the investment turns. Stewarded properly, a church coffeehouse can be a financial wellspring that pours into other ministries.

    Of course, buying and selling in the church has always been a touchy subject because of Matthew 21:12-13 where Christ condemned the actions of the priests and those selling sacrificial animals. I would like to discuss this passage a bit deeper and give a cultural context for it. To begin, we must look at Jewish laws and understand that the Israelites offered specific animal sacrifices for specific purposes, often in payment for sin but also when babies were born or covenants made. Not all Israelites lived a stone’s throw from temples and traveling with livestock is difficult. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26 we see that God gave the Israelites permission to sell their livestock for traveling purposes and use that money to buy sacrificial livestock upon arrival at their destination. In this case, we see that buying and selling for Holy purposes is allowed. Moving forward to Christ’s time, recognize that those selling animals in the temple were selling overpriced, blemished animals and essentially robbing their own people which required the animals to practice their ceremonies. To compound the problem, Jewish people were required to pay steep exchange rates when switching their money over from Roman coins (considered idolatrous because they held the face of Caesar) to Jewish coins. The systems in place were literally robbing the people. No one has to buy coffee to accept the gift of salvation and most church coffeehouses have cheaper than average prices. My final word on Matthew 21:12-13 is that in Luke 2:24 we see Mary and Joseph buying a pigeon to sacrifice in honor of Christ’s birth (read Leviticus 12:1-8 for the specific law.) If Christ’s own parents are purchasing an animal in the church on his behalf can all buying and selling be wrong? In short, buying and selling in the church is not abhorrently wrong, but finances, as with all that comes from God, must be used in a way that glorifies him.

    Coffeehouses that generate money can be used as training grounds to teach God centered values of money. There are a variety of different structures for coffeehouses, so I will discuss the structure of my church’s coffeehouse to explain my premise. I manage my church’s coffeehouse: CampGrounds. CampGrounds is operated by high school and college age students that work to fundraise their way to bible camps and missions trips. Profits send students to camp and relieve the financial burden families would otherwise incur. Everyone in CampGrounds is a volunteer and all understand any money exchanging hands is not their own; it belongs to God. As manager, I instill that we are simply stewards of profits, equipment, products and people. With each transaction we have the opportunity to show others the love of Christ through hospitality, quality products, honest conversation, and by using resources responsibly. High school students and young adults can learn about God’s will for money through a Christ led outlet. This is the first money handling role many volunteers step into and it is a far better outlet than secular options to experience handling cash.

    Instilling solid financial values into volunteers is probably the least important function of CampGrounds in comparison to everything it does. The most important function of CampGrounds is to serve the body by loving the way Christ loves through showing kindness and hospitality to everyone entering the church. We strive to accomplish this by serving wholeheartedly, selling quality espresso drinks, giving free drinks to new attenders and dedicated volunteers in other ministries for encouragement, offering free drip coffee for everyone all the time, and by hosting a venue for fellowship in our cafe. Behind the counter, I have personally witnessed many relationships form in line for coffee that started with two strangers who would have stayed strangers had it not been for the coffeehouse. Christ ate and drank with the disciples every meal including holy meals that fit the culture of the times. Is it unusual to think that a modern Christ would have had deep discussions with us over coffee?

    Volunteers are drawn closer to God through serving in CampGrounds. They learn firsthand how to serve in any position the church needs and to love other people as Christ loves us: by accepting them as guests, showing them kindness, and breaking down walls by offering basic creature comforts. An earlier commenter named Michelle stated that she felt welcomed by the church because of the familiar smell of coffee. Unfortunately, she was denied free coffee essentially shutting the door. Our church attempts to make people who may not have ever attended church feel welcomed by hosting a coffeehouse and giving first time guests free coffee. There are no words to describe what it feels like to have the ability to demonstrate Christ’s love in a practical manner. Empowering volunteers this way plants seeds and encourages them to step out and serve in other ways. Coffeehouses teach volunteers how to recognize the needs of the body and enables them to address those needs.

    I hope this has cleared up some confusion around church coffeehouses. If stewarded correctly, they are effective, hospitable outreaches that foster fellowship and unite the body. Besides selling coffee, they can host events, give volunteers valuable job training skills, and help people that don’t usually attend church to feel more comfortable. The key to successfully managing a church coffeehouse is to remind volunteers (especially yourself) that the coffeehouse exists to serve the body of the church as Christ does. If it becomes a financial burden or a distraction than it should be eliminated. At best, it provides the church with a warm environment, place for conversation, job training facility, financial wellspring, and a heartfelt smile directed towards someone who afraid to go to church for 20 years.

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