The Fresh Expressions initiative (with a team and website based in Warwick, England) encourages new forms of church for a fast changing world. It works with Christians from a variety of denominations and traditions.. The Fresh Expressions Newsletter (http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/e-xpressions/jun10bonus?newsletter-view) has a creative exchange of ideas on new expressions or forms or styles of being church. This article asks the question: Is there more to café church than meets the eye?
Coffee and fresh expressions often seem to go together
But these café churches need careful thought and can take many different forms:
Café-style events on church premises
At a church in West Ealing, London, between 40 and 70 homeless and disadvantaged people attend café-style worship each week, with about ten leaders and helpers.
People sit round tables, eat doughnuts and drink coffee. A band leads the music. Someone may share what God means to them. There can be a talk, followed by discussion round tables.
Christian events in a commercial café
Events in cafés such as Costa Coffee, which wants as many of its UK outlets as possible to host a church. These events may be described as ‘coffee with a conscience’ or ‘church – but not as you know it’.
Some involve presentations and discussions on contemporary issues, perhaps with reflective worship. They can be seen as the ‘Willow Creek’ of café church – seeker-sensitive events, but not in a church building.
Christian events in a community centre
Events at the heart of a village, town or estate. One church provides a weekly language café for ethnic women in the neighbourhood.
The women sit round tables, have afternoon tea and are invited to discuss a topic to improve their English. A prayer board allows women to post requests for prayer by the team, and has sparked conversations on spiritual themes.
Commercial cafés run by Christians
Taste & See is a café in the centre of Kidsgrove, Stoke-on-Trent, open six days a week and run on a for-profit basis.
It has a back room converted for quiet, meditation and prayer, as well as for spiritual conversation and events that support people on their journeys of faith. It represents a Christian presence within café culture.
Cafés set up with non-churchgoers
A group of Lutherans have set up Café Retro, run as a commercial venture in the heart of Copenhagen.
The leadership team of five all attend church, but the other six teams – bartenders, renovation, events, design, PR, international concern and mission trips – are roughly 50% churchgoers and 50% not-yet-Christians.
Mission within cafés that already exist
This is, perhaps, the ultimate step into café culture. Neil Cole describes an example in Organic Church (Jossey Bass, 2005).
His evangelistic team went into one of their local coffee bars, played pool with the regulars, chatted about girls, life and the rest, and in time found opportunities to share their Christian faith and start a cell church.
You can share your experience or find out more about these different ways of being café church (including things to bear in mind when you start) by visiting the Share page, Café church.