The National Coffee Association reports, as of 2015, over 75 percent of Americans drink coffee, making it second only to water. Churches, ministries and entrepreneurs have harnessed coffee's popularity into an opportunity for outreach and faith development. As you prepare to launch a Christian-based coffeehouse, you need to consider how you'll reach your customers or visitors -- including those not comfortable with traditional church or religious settings.
Beyond the Walls
Using a fellowship hall or other church space for the shop can save you on rent expenses. It can even serve as an extension ministry of your church. It is not, however, without some risks. The owners of Jacob's Well Christian Coffeehouse in Rockville, Connecticut, warn that opening a shop in a church might keep away patrons who want a neutral place not connected to a church. It can especially turn off those who haven't regularly attended church, who left due to negative experiences or just don't share your church's denomination. Aberdeen, South Dakota's Red Rooster Coffeehouse is planted within two blocks of a high school, music store and apartments serving elderly and economically-disadvantaged residents. The coffeehouse occupies the main floor an office building with attorneys, accountants and dentists. If you choose the fellowship hall, feature stand-alone pole lights with dimmers and cafe-style tables and tablecloths.
Making the Drinks
Coffee4Missions recommends you go with used equipment when you can. According to the coffee supplier, used equipment costs 20 to 30 percent less than new. When it comes to espresso machines, though, Coffee4Missions says buy new. As a rule of thumb, according to Coffee Makers USA, plan on spending
- $2,000 to $5,000 for a semi-automatic espresso machine
- $5,000 to $20,000 for a super automatic espresso machine
- $500 to $2,500 for espresso grinder
- $500 to $2,000 for coffee brewer, with $100 for airpots or thermal dispensers
- $800 to $1,500 for coffee grinder
Music and Expression
Christian coffeehouses typically function as mini-performing art centers. Christ's Coffeehouse, a ministry of Tulsa, Oklahoma's Christ for Humanity, features contemporary Christian music. Jacob's Well books musicians across a diverse spectrum of music styles such as folk, country, contemporary and rock. Crossroads Books and Coffee of Peoria, Arizona, includes readings and story-telling as part of its live performance schedule. Christ's Coffeehouse holds "open mic" nights for patrons to sing, play instruments or read poetry. The owners of Jacob's Well suggest that you encourage whoever takes the microphone to give a testimony.
Study and Reflection
Advertise the shop as a place for Bible study groups, book clubs, discussion groups, talks and worship services. As reported by the National Catholic Register, St. James Coffee of Rochester, Minnesota, has hosted speakers on subjects such as religious vocation and Catholic doctrine. Crossroads Books and Coffee offers a conference room for larger groups. Acts8 Moment newsletter notes that The Abbey in Birmingham, Alabama, serves as a "church" building for Episcopal Eucharist services.
Spreading the Word
Jacob's Well's owners say it's best to take a broad approach to publicity and advertising. Send press releases to radio and television stations and newspapers even if they aren't geared toward Christians. Use church bulletins, flyers, the Internet, email and social media to tell people about your place, its grand opening and any special events.
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- Jacob's Well Christian Coffeehouse: The Awesome Potential of Coffeehouse Ministry -- Some Tips Based on 30 Years Experience; Drew M. Crandall
- The Underground Railroad: Starting a Coffeehouse Outreach
- Crossroads Books and Coffee: Home
- Coffee4Missions: How To Start Guide -- Set Up -- Starting a Successful Church Coffee Shop or Cafe
- National Catholic Register: Cuppa Catholicism -- Perfect Combination for the New Evangelization
- Acts8 Moment: Lessons from a Coffee Shop With a Church
- Christ for Humanity: CFH Chronicles; April 2013
- Coffee Makers USA: How to Start a Coffee Shop -- Costs and Considerations
- National Coffee Association: Market Research: Coffee is Americans' Favorite Beverage Next to Water
Christopher Raines enjoys sharing his knowledge of business, financial matters and the law. He earned his business administration and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a lawyer since August 1996, Raines has handled cases involving business, consumer and other areas of the law.