Church Coffee: How To Start A Cafe In Your Church Lobby

(I am no longer on staff at Grace Church, but I leave this post up because it has been some help to people.)

I am the Pastor of Group Life & Creative Communication at Grace Church in Granger, Indiana. That means I work with others to organize Home Groups and help people connect as they make Grace Church their home. I also get to be creative and use my passion for photography and design to connect what we are doing with the hearts of people.

I have dreamed of owning a coffee shop for a long time. Who knows some day that may become a reality. But a few years ago I began dreaming about having a cafe in the lobby of our church. I sat on it for a while, but this spring we got the green light to make it happen. This post about how we did it in hopes it will help someone else do the same.

Here are a few steps that I went through during this process.

1. Have a vision that is bigger than just coffee.

I love coffee. I love good coffee. “Church coffee” is notoriously bad. It’s usually poor quality because it was mass roasted, ground and bagged months and months before it ever reached your church Bunn Coffee Brewer or (God-forbid) percolator.
But, the vision for our cafe, which we call 2:42 Cafe, has a higher purpose than just serving good, quality coffee. We want to tell people we love them by greeting them with a pleasant aroma and a smile. Its a way of saying “we love you and are glad you are at Grace Church” without having to say those words. That is the real reason we serve coffee in our lobby.

2. Serve rather than make it self-serve.

Since our vision is to tell people we love them and we are glad they are at church it is important the coffee is not self-serve, but rather a place where people are served. It has become a great place to get people involved in serving others!

3. Do it right.

After you have #1 figured out, then make sure you do coffee well. We buy our coffee from Herman’s Boy in Rockford, Michigan. I have been drinking their coffee for over 15 years and it is good stuff. You can call up Jeff and he will take your order over the phone, they will roast it fresh and UPS it out promptly. Make sure you order it “whole bean” if you can. Once coffee is ground it should be brewed within 7 days.
We started with a $40 burr grinder from Target, but the grind setting wasn’t fine enough for drip and the capacity made it so you had to grind coffee constantly so we bought a used industrial Bunn Grinder on Ebay for $300 and that made a huge difference! We were able to use less coffee because of the fine grind and save money in the long run. Fresh coffee is important!
Also, provide cream and sugar. Even if you are a coffee snob, most people aren’t and they like a little coffee with their cream and sugar. Spend a few extra dollars and get cold half-and-half…and yes, those flavored creamer packets too. Powdered creamer is of the devil. Also, don’t let your coffee sit on the warmer after brewing. Twenty minutes will bake the oils out of the coffee and produce a burned coffee that will not say “we love you” at all.

4. Work with what you have.

We had a ready made place in our lobby for the cafe (see pics below) and we did the remodel for less than $500. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just a counter or table big enough for a coffee satellite server or two and a coffee doctoring station and you’re set. We cut a wall in half and put a counter on top made of laminate flooring liquid nailed to plywood. We up-cycled some chairs we had already (thanks to Adam who has an auto body shop and paint booth for painting them). A girl in our church who is a great artist made the made signage.

5. Go for it!

Once you work through the appropriate channels and have the backing of the leadership… make it happen!

Before

After

IMG_4441

Comments

  1. I don’t even like coffee and it sound good…..Good job Kyle

  2. Deanna Doctor says:

    I LOVE that Grace is doing this, Kyle! And I really appreciate the intentional and philosophical approach to serving coffee. Chat a practical way to communicate “we care” – a well-brewed cup of java that invites people into our fellowship! I may just have to come back and visit.

  3. Great article Kyle! I love how you are determined to love people through this ministry.

  4. Thanks for reading Brad!

  5. Hey Deanna! Thanks for reading. It would be great to see you all again. Thanks for your work where you are too!

  6. Thanks Grandma! I still remember Grandpas method of drinking coffee. Maybe that’s why you don’t like coffee?? 🙂

  7. Opening a similar cafe in our church lobby. The person in charge is not particularly interested in understanding the business aspects of operating the cafe under the ‘church’ heading. As business administrator, I am in the position of making sure we stay within governmental guidelines. We will be charging for coffee and other food/drink items in order to fund our outreaches. What can you tell me about setting up the finances, sales taxes/reporting, establishing personnel to operate the cafe, etc.?
    Is it a good idea to have a separate finance person for cafe matters? Just want your thoughts, as you seem
    to have had good success. (Blessings to you, in the Great Name of Jesus, by the way!)

  8. Hello Kyle, we have recently done a very similar thing within our lobby. I do have a question for you however. Do you guys charge for the coffee as a way of financing the purchase of coffee? Do you only do basic coffee, or step into some iced or other types of coffee?

  9. Hey Billy,

    Great to hear about your efforts to love people in Lafayette!
    We do not charge for the coffee. We had an existing line item in the budget for coffee and we used that and added a little to it. We did put out a donation jar which worked well for the first month and then tapered off. Donations cover the cost of creamer and sugar each month.
    We only offered three kinds of regular brewed coffee. Regular, Bold and Decaf. We also offered Hot Chocolate and tea bags for Tea. (We bought Tazo tea bags and put them in this rack http://smile.amazon.com/dp/B003D4EXPS) We tried doing a latte type drink but found it took too long and the line backed up and it was too expensive, so we stayed with Coffee, Tea and Hot Chocolate.
    Hope the info helps!

  10. Chris,
    So sorry for the long delay in response.
    I am not a finance guy by any means, and we did not charge for coffee so I really don’t have much information on the “rules” for that when it comes to a non-profit selling things. I would think it could easily be handled in-house by you, the business admin. Selling coffee to fund outreach is a great idea!
    As to establishing personnel, I gathered a team of about 16-20 people which made up two shifts (one for each worship service we had) of at least two people per shift and I tried to have four teams so that people only had to serve once a month except for 5 Sunday months. What actually ended up happening was a smaller group of about 10-15 people really loved it and they ended up being committed to it so much they worked on a more regular basis. This ended up working very well for us though! It was a great, non-threatening place to begin serving.
    Hope this helps. Thanks for reading.

  11. Wendell Fields says:

    Good Morning,
    I am writing you due to sometime that the Lord has place in my heart to do. I believe that he has called me to develop and form a coffeehouse ministry. The set up would be a church service on Wednesday and Sunday while drinking coffee, teas, smoothies, and eating different pastries. On the non-worship days, it would be a coffeehouse with a bookstore and internet connection. But there is one problem, I don’t know how to even get started or how to maintain. Could you please help me with this? I don’t have big time money or thousands upon thousands of money. So I’m asking for direction and guidance. If you could email me at wendblew@yahoo.com it would be greatly appreciated.

  12. Hey Wendell, Thanks for the comment. I love the sound of your idea! Very cool. Are you thinking you want this to happen in a church or in a shop separate from a church building?

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