Cafe church

Mark from Germany asks about running a cafe church (coffee shop church for Americans).

Hi Mark.
Yes, I know lots of café churches and have even been involved in starting them, or pastoring them. My first one was in 1989, in Portland Oregon.

I usually recommend that people find a café that is appropriate and ask permission from the owner to start a regular event/conversation/spoken word/whatever you decide to call it. This solves most of the logistics – rent, who makes the coffee, coolness factor, etc and also it lets you start up immediately.
The only drawback is privacy, and I remember once we got too big and wanted more privacy to pray over people, and we had to move the group into a house.
But you have gone the other way, in creating your own café scene. Churches that do this often get stuck in a basement of a church building because they cant afford anything else.
But they can work.
I offer the following suggestions for your cafe church.

1. Go WiFi. Give people the option of surfing the net wirelessly during the event. You might want to think about what you want them to look at or track online that will enhance the theme.
2. Preaching is awkward. Open mike is better. Have lots of people give short stories, poems, readings, whatever. 5 minute limit.
3. Coffee shop dynamics and aesthetics mean that people can look if they want but they don’t have to. You have to win their attention. Don’t force everyone to give attention.
4. Obviously people will be getting their coffee and tea during the event. Make it easy for them to get it anytime without interrupting anything.
5. If you use an open mike, anyone is allowed to share. You will have non-Christians get up and read their poetry or thoughts as well, so be prepared for that. It sometimes helps to have a host who can guide the event and then have the final word.
6. Music. I would go for either a DJ who can create a relaxing background soundscape, or I would go for a guitarist who may lead some accoustic songs from a stool. No more than 2 or 3 musicians. Less is more. Don’t put a band up there – overkill!!!!
7. If people are sitting around at tables, which I assume they are, you can create some exercises or table-based discussions that get them interacting and contributing.

If anyone else has suggestions for Mark and his café church in Germany, leave them below in the comments section.

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

9 Comments

  • Melbourne Australia – try http://www.cafechurch.org
    Sydney Australia – try http://www.cafechurch.org.au
    There’s also a full-time cafe owned and run by Christians in the west of Sydney, but they try to keep a low profile for the sake of mission. They don’t want to be a ‘Christian cafe’ (whatever that is) so I won’t post their URL.
    Re: Mark from Germany – cafes in church basements work great if they’re done right, but only if the motivation is to run a cafe. You can’t sustain a cafe as an excuse for mission…
    I’m part of cafe church in inner-city Sydney Australia. We are a church, with our own building which we use as an artspace/musicspace/community centre during the rest of the week. For us, cafe church is young adults and every evening incorporates conversation of some sort. We don’t do corporate singing and it’s different every week. Food is snacks and cake, a range of herbal and other teas, good drip filter coffee (the least hassle), juice, water, sometimes wine or beer.
    Website is http://www.cafechurch.org.au and egroup is cafe-church@yahoogroups.com.
    Cheers,
    Glen Powell

  • ok, so i did not realize “cafe churchs” already exsist! it was put on my heart at a young age to start a cafe and intergrate it with a church where youth kids can practise building relationships with the community around them and eventually share Christ with them, i have been clueless on how God wants me to get this started but have worked on a business plan. i hope that you can help me in anyway for ideas and encouragements (what can i do now that will prepare me for such an adventure?) culinary classes? thank you so much
    peace love hugs
    colette

  • my husband and i ran a coffee house/cafe for three years in ellicott city, maryland. it was a full time business, but our focus was missional living…we posted a proverb of the day, we had open mic nights and musicians…we had a “ministry” on sunday nights called xscape, which was an open discussion on faith. we would have christians, wickens, buddhists, atheists, etc..in a room discussing their faith. the conversations and relationships built were amazing. since our Jahva House days, we have been on the mission field with YWAM. but, God has brought us back to America and has birthed a vision for coffee house missions. we are currently praying about where God wants the first cafe-church established, and we pray to build a network with other cafe churches in order to encourage “staff exchanges” (ie: an opportunity to do serve in other cafes with a focus on missions)…there is a need for relationships to be built..for us christians to serve those around us, to love them and to let them see Jesus in our committment to them…plus, good coffee never hurt bridging the gap! if anyone is interested, please feel free to email us!
    peace…kristin

  • Hi and God Bless you!
    I am inspired to open a cafe house too but I don’t have a clue how or what to do. God gave me the unique name “Kum Kick A Kup Kafe”. I envision pure fellowship and young entrepreneurship. I desire to use primary young people to manage and run the day to day business. This I believe this will encourage the neighborhood merchants and other organizations to invest in the untapped potential of it’s young people.
    Again, I have a God given name but no experience – Is there any advice or criticism I can glean? Thanks in advance!!!!!smile!!!

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