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!