A UMC Coffee House

Yesterday, sitting at Starbucks and working on sermons for this Saturday and beyond, a thought came to me. I know this may not be realistic, especially since I’m ignorant when it comes to the logistics of the big turn wheel we call the UMC, but I thought it was fun.

It seems like all the extension ministries deal with campsites (again, this may reveal my ignorance of the UMC). But I feel those extension ministries really only benefit churches and the already church-goers.

I was thinking, how cool would it be if an annual conference or district decided to experiment and build/buy a coffee shop as an extension ministry, extending ministry to the non-churched or nominally religious.

I don’t think it would be necessary to have the coffee shop overtly Christian. So it couldn’t be named like UMC Coffee House or UMC (C for Coffee). But something like Common Grounds or One Cup or something else cheezy like that.

It would provide a place for people to just hang out. And each night of the week (minus Sunday) would offer ministry opportunities and/or fellowship opportunities.
Like Mondays could be a meeting place for an Anon. group.
Tuesdays could be bible studies and/or small group fellowship for singles, (maybe males on Tuesday and females on Wednesday) and how sometimes it’s just hard to be single and how lonesome it can get when everyone else around you is pairing up.

Thursdays, I don’t know… could be a night where people gather and talk about religion and politics and how one influences the other, and how one SHOULD influence the other.

And Fridays could be live music (and it doesn’t have to be Chrisitan music) and Saturdays would be the worship service.

Of course, the place would have to be big enough (or two stories) where people who don’t want to be a part of any of these things can still come and enjoy coffee. (And doubly of course, the coffee would have to be real good).

I’d go and spend a lot of time there. I’d probably also meet up with parishioners and youth members at this place.
This thought came to me as I was reading Alan Hirsch’s Forgotten Ways. In it he writes, quoting Edward de Bono, “patients generally prefer the doctor to use the known cure rather than seek to design a better on. Yet there may be much better cures to be found. He rightly asks how we are ever to find a better cure if at each critical moment we always opt for the traditional treatment.” (emphasis mine). His church actually experimented with purchasing a coffee shop, which is where the idea originated.

Or maybe, instead of pursuing ordination, I should muster, borrow, steal (joking.. kinda) money to open up a coffee shop of my own and pursue ministry in this way. The good thing about that is no more complaints from parishioners. But what’s worse? A customer’s complaint or a parishioner’s complaint?

11 thoughts on “A UMC Coffee House

  1. Hey, isn’t Starbucks closing a bunch of stores nationwide? We could buy them up!

    What if we took it a step further and actually did this kind of stuff in a bar? Kind of hard to have an AA meeting there… but talk about a place where it’s hard to be single while others are “pairing up” as you said so well.

    Great post!

  2. Hi Joseph,

    Grace to you and peace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

    I just stumbled upon your blog via Wesley Report — Shane mentioned this post about your UM coffee shop idea it in his morning report on 01/07/2009.

    I wholeheartedly support you on this. It’s funny that you write about this at this time. I have just finished my DCOM papers for certification (haven’t even submitted them yet) and wrote this in response to the question about my future usefulness as an ordained elder:

    “If we are to be effective in evangelizing and proclaiming the Gospel to those whom have not yet entered the Church, then we must build relationships with our brothers and sisters who do not yet know Christ’s glory. To this end, I enjoy informing fellow United Methodists that commissioned and ordained elders and deacons should be appointed to work in coffee shops, bookstores, and any other social centers where people congregate.”

    Not surprisingly, we United Methodists have been beaten to the punch. Several Eastern Orthodox congregations are having great success with this model.

    Check out the website for Agia Sophia bookstore in Colorado Springs (a ministry of Holy Theophany Orthodox Church) at: agiasophiacoffeeshop.com/

    This coffee shop has everything you mentioned — two stories, enough space for group meetings, a wonderful selection of books, and a great menu.

    Several of the young adults in my annual conference (Florida) have taked about doing this for some time — our favorite cheesy coffee shop name is Higher Grounds.

    If you ever find a DS or bishop that would support this, let your readers know. I think ever lay and ordained minister under 40 in the UMC would want to be part of this.

    Awesome post — I’ll definitely keep checking back.

  3. Joseph – I think that you are right on with this idea. I think that running a coffee shop would be a great deal of fun – and could be effective in helping connect people with Jesus.

  4. Nathan, thanks for your comment. dude, good luck on those papers. and thanks for the link.

    andrew, I just remember seeing all those people at murky coffee, and how great of an atmosphere it was to just have a deep discussion about anything,

    Hyun, haha. dude, i never went to a PC bang, and don’t plan on to. but i think it would be a neat idea. I’m just accustomed to coffee shops.

  5. i remember going to a coffee shop run by a church in seoul that was a functioning coffee shop…

    we actually have both church in a bar (that started in a tattoo parlor) and church in a coffee shop in our conference in Pittsburgh… we tried church in a mall but it did not seem to fly in the first attempt. Trick is that it is hard to be a church and a fully functioning business…if it is non-profit, it is hard to sustain itself since most of the people are not giving. it has to be supported like a mission so people in the churches have to get it and get behind it. how could we use our resources better to support the mission fields?

    http://www.hotmetalbridge.com is the church in a bar that started in the tattoo parlor

  6. We currently have a “Full Cup Coffee House” Worship Service on Sunday mornings, and have talked about extending this to a more functioning coffee house in the community.

    The Coffee House Worship happens in our fellowship hall – lit by Christmas lights, serving coffee and pastries, with live music. The sermon is projected onto a video screen and they’re at about a 5 minute delay from worship upstairs where the sermon happens live.

    We’ve pretty much maxed out the space and are debating if we start a second service at another location or just add a second time. If we went to another location I have a feeling that the functional coffee house might come to fruition!

    For a non-UMC version of what you’re envisioning check out http://ebenezerscoffeehouse.com/

  7. Close by my home there was a coffee house run jointly by a local Methodist Church (that is now closed, sadly) and many other local churches. It was a great place. Big, roomy, generally a really awesome place to hang out and drink some good coffee.

    It was the old parsonage building that had been converted.

    It was really fun to go in occasionally on an evening and see a youth group or two hanging out and having fun. Once I was nearly bowled over on the patio as they were doing Turkey Bowling near Thanksgiving!

    Sadly, after being open for about a year and a half, they closed. I’m not 100% sure why they closed, but I believe they just weren’t profitable. Given that the church it was sharing property with closed a few months later, I suspect there was a link there too.

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