Sometimes you need to with smaller groups of people in your ministry in an environment where it more personal and the church which seems too formal. The café has become the town square in our western culture, people are always catching up in a café. You only have to be in ministry for a short time before someone asks you out “for coffee”. Whilst the reasons for meeting in a café may vary, it has become the prefered place for hosting smaller church meetings.
In my 10 years of ministry consulting I have been to a variety of ministry meetings in cafes and restaurants Usually I ask the person I am meeting to pick the location because they know their area better than I do. Many people pick a popular spot which has a downside; it is hard to get a table, it is very noisy, or they know everyone in the room so it is hard for them to focus. One time a person picked a café where the tables were 20cms apart, so not only could we hear the conversation of the table next to us but the table next to that as well.
After writing a post on holding a church meeting in your home, it got me thinking about how to make the most of meeting in a public space such as a café. You can meet in a cafe for a discipleship or mentoring session. You could catch up with your ministry team to debrief and event or plan a future event. You could meet with someone to give them pastoral care or to held them discern a major decision. You can meet in a cafe because people are dropping in and out at various times.
So here is my list of recommendations for holding a church or ministry meeting in a café:
- The bigger the better – find a café with a lot of tables and enough room for you to get some space away from other patrons; if you know that the café is always full then don’t go there for a church meeting. If a café needs a booking to get a seat go there with your friends but not with your ministry team. Pick a café where you can seat everyone without sitting on top of another group of people.
- Conversation not coffee – some people pick a place for the best coffee in town but the atmosphere doesn’t generate conversation. Most of the cafes that are “trendy” and serve great coffee are small, packed and often have loud music playing. Pick a place where you know you can talk as the purpose of your meeting is conversation not great coffee.
- Avoid the traffic – avoid a café in the busy section of a shopping mall or that has all the seats in a busy walkway. Sometimes people don’t want everyone seeing who they are talking to you, especially if they want to talk about an issue they are struggling with. If someone might end up crying then get a table near the back. If you really can’t be seen by members of your church then go to a café in another area.
- Don’t order messy food – don’t order the messy cake with extra cream or anything that might be fussy or difficult to eat. If the person you are meeting with is sharing something personal you need to concentrate on them not your food. Usually I just order a coffee and a glass of water or if we are eating I will order a muffin so it can be shared.
- Check the opening times – there is nothing worse that picking a location and it isn’t open when you are planned to meet. Some cafes that open for breakfast close early in the afternoon while others that are open for late night coffee don’t open for breakfast. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a conversation and the owner asking you to leave because they are closing up.
- Not too expensive – there are some cafes that think their food and coffee is so good that they can charge anything they want, but don’t force everyone you meet for coffee to pay top dollar. Most people will pay $3-4 for coffee so avoid the places that charge $6 for a latte. If you are meeting with someone who can’t afford anything then suggest this up front so they will at least have something. Also don’t expect your team members to pay for you all the time.
Finding a good place in your area that is suitable for holding a small meeting or ministry catch up is like finding gold, once you find it you will go back time and time again. If you are always meeting with people from your ministry in a café then do your research and find one that suits. Please leave a comment about your experience of holding a church meeting in a café.
markoffaith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald