Cafe Church

“God has set up shop where you live. The doors are open and the coffee is brewing” Leonard Sweet, The Gospel According to Starbucks

With the proliferation of cafés in society as safe gathering places, Café churches are gaining in popularity. Whether you’re looking to create a new informal service as either an addition to or bridge to church as you know it, create a fresh expression of church to engage with those who don’t come to your church or set up a café in the high street for mission, outreach or a place for church there are some common principles to help start and sustain your cafe church.

Passion Have a passion for café’s and church: Offer church in café culture. Café + Church = Café Church - for cafe church to succeed put as much effort into creating cafe as creating church. Even if you meet in a church building have a mindset that you’re setting up church in a café rather than café in a church. Gather a team that shares your passion.

People People go to cafés and coffee shops for three key reasons: 

  • The product; people want to drink good coffee
  • The place; they can come and go as they like (it’s a fluid place to be)
  • The pursuit; they go to enjoy good conversations with friends and family.

Product Drink more coffee - spend time in coffee shops, see how they do things, what can you learn from their context? Drink good coffee - serve the best you can, make it fair-trade but don’t compromise on quality. No instant coffee!

Place Make it a café destination - ambience, dress tables, banners, signs, papers, space to relax etc Open half an hour before your event. Make your event a pastime not a programme. Promote a ‘come as you are’ approach - welcome, relaxed, wallpaper music, play space, meet and pray space.

Pursuit Coffee talk makes good God talk. Promote conversations over presentations - speaking to friends is more important than what a speaker from the front or centre has to say. Use tables as much as possible; to talk around, to promote conversation and activity. Make it fluid not static - bitesize offerings, allow movement, adapt and evolve. Be creative - prayer waiters, discussion starters on tables, menus, quizzes, language. Use local talent - musicians, poets, storytellers etc. Have fun!

Pray Pray as a team - make space to do so before the event. Create opportunity for prayer and response during your event. Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in you.

Useful links and resources 

Café Church is by its very nature most effective when you create something that fits your local context. There are few off the shelf solutions or books to read;

  • Books - Leonard Sweet’s ‘The Gospel According to Starbucks’ is an essential read. More about why than how this nevertheless helps you think through what you’re doing and why café culture and church fit together so well. He has a series of helpful discussion questions in each section for your cafe church team to work through too. See more on it here.
  • This is the most off the shelf solution; Café church can be run in Costa; here’s a network that you can become part of and tap into their resources.
  • Cafechurch is an open, welcoming Christian community in Melbourne; an emerging church, a friendly inn, a place where fellow travellers meet, compare stories about the road ahead, and get the good food and drink they need to continue along The Way.
  • Liverpool Cathedral’s approach to café church here
  • Table Talk works really well in a café church setting. There are questions for a wide variety of settings and people.
  • Coffee and Tea. Fairtrade coffees and teas and hot chocolate. There are even fair-trade filter coffee bags for those starting out who can’t afford a filter coffee machine or want the occasional filter decaf to be available. Some options here
  • The best fair-trade teas around; especially good for greens and speciality teas. Note Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Fair-trade Teas offer especially good black teas especially good for: Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Earl Grey and even English Breakfast.
  • Fair-trade teas. Clipper’s Everyday Tea is a good alternative to Sainsbury’s English Breakfast. There’s a range of infusions; Redbush and Peppermint are particularly good. 

David Cundill, Fresh Expressions Enabler