NW coffee house as gospel outreach

NW coffee house as a gospel outreach
By Sheila Allen
NW Baptist Convention

LONGVIEW, Wash. — While many people go to great lengths for good coffee, creating a space to interact with people was uppermost in the minds of Valley Christian Fellowship in Longview, Wash., as they spent the last 18 months in a new venture. With a newly opened coffee shop named the Electric Bean, the plans have finally come to fruition. The goal is not to have services in a coffee house, but to reach different types of people, according the Quincy Follweiler, associate pastor at Valley Christian Fellowship.

“We hope to meet the unchurched, those disenchanted with previous church experiences, folks who just enjoy this type of atmosphere,” Follweiler said. “During this process we are balancing the delivery system of the coffee house without compromising God’s word. We are constantly double checking ourselves to stay on task.”

Valley Christian had an earlier foray in combining coffee and worship when turning a nearby house into a café for a Saturday night worship service, with music kicked up a notch for those looking for a lively experience.  The effort proved so popular that the church added a second service on Saturday night and one on Sunday morning with a videotaped sermon for the Sunday service in the café from Lance Caddel, Valley Christian senior pastor, while the regular service occurred at the church.

“Lance was the first one to mention a video café ministry, because he saw that I had lots of experiences with coffee house ministry and was passionate about it,” Follweiler said. “My wife, Bonnie, and I coordinated it with a good team. I am just amazed how God has used it to reach out to people. We have seen people with a Buddhist heritage whose son has come to know the Lord and someone with a Wiccan background at the café.”

While the church has held the three café services at the house for two years, the space was small, and the team began looking for a location with a different mission in mind for a group with its’ own identity.

“We talked to the city about commercial space, but could not find something appropriate that was zoned for a church or had enough parking,” Follweiler said. “Businesses do not have to meet the same parking requirements, so a group in the church formed a non-profit business after consulting with the church elders and leaders, bringing them on board. The group then rents the space to the church, which is acceptable according to city standards.”

The non-profit formed a board which is filled and governed by Valley Christian members. The funds used to transform the space from a former mechanic’s garage to the modern facility it is today were all from private donation.

“This is a victory point for us,” Follweiler noted. “We have not taken out any loans or borrowed any other money. There were also no church budget funds used at all — this was all done by God’s people and gifts totaled between $80,000 and $90,000. We are excited because how often do you see a business without a huge debt behind it?”

The Electric Bean has been deliberate about first impressions and carefully selected their décor. The group wants to focus on their mission of being community oriented and positive arts.

We don’t want people to think this is a church coffee house and lose people that would stereotype ‘Christian coffeehouse,’ according to Follweiler.

“What we want is a coffeehouse that is run by Christians, and how that will be known is by the hearts of those who run it,’ Follweiler said. “This will happen through everyday conversations and relationships.”

Work continues on an attached area that will house children’s space during weekend services and can be converted to a conference room for various groups to use during the week. The church hopes to host Friday night concerts, open “mic” nights, painting artists, guitar lessons and college groups at the coffeehouse, among other things.

“This is something more than coffee,” Follweiler said. “Coffee is not the biggest deal there. We are stepping outside the box and taking risks, which God will bless if you keep him and his kingdom at the center.”

Follweiler urges others beginning new ministries to not move so quickly that they are unable to see the vision and mission of what is to be accomplished.

“Take ample time, have a well thought out plan and share the vision effectively,” Follweiler said. “But as you are trying to move thoughtfully, don’t become stagnated. Be more concerned about what God wants than others. Having Lance communicate so well has been such a positive for us and he is always about people first.”

The church will begin with a Saturday night service in the space that will hold 167 people and then add others services as things grow quickly or become crowded. The Electric Bean will not close during services, but post a sign welcoming patrons in.

Currently, the coffee shop is staffed with volunteers, including John Coleman, the manager who has trained all the baristas and other staff, with hopes to move to paid staffing in the months to come. “This has taken a huge amount of people to see this accomplished,” Follweiler said. “There is another handful of people that have given an extreme amount of devotion in their area of expertise to pull this together. It is so exciting to be able to serve in this way.”

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