Church-based coffeehouse supports counseling work

RYAN TRARES Daily Journal Published:

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) -- The evening rush had hit Coffeehouse Five, bringing a line of people to wait for their smoothies and coffee.

In tables and overstuffed chairs throughout the small space, they sipped on cappuccinos and lattes. Soft brown tones and low light create a welcoming atmosphere. Christmas music redone by contemporary artists played.

The scene could have come out of any Starbucks. But for every cup of coffee or chai tea they took, the patrons were helping the mission work of a Johnson County church.

While Coffeehouse Five has the look and feel of a neighborhood cafe, it's actually the engine that helps support local counseling efforts.

The model is an example of area churches diversifying their fundraising efforts. By starting coffee shops, cafes and restaurants in their buildings, they can make money to help pay for addiction therapy to disaster relief to clean-water projects in Africa.

The church lobby coffeehouse has become a tool to help further the causes that congregations find important. A sense of community is one of the primary draws to street-corner cafes, and churches offer that already built in.

By building on that atmosphere, congregations can appeal to a new demographic and bring new people into the church, all while aiding their mission work.

"It's welcoming and inviting. They can sit down and talk with their friends, then have a cup of coffee and take it into the service," said Kathy Stahlhut, who oversees the cafe. "It promotes relationships and getting to know each other better."

Church leaders thought the cafe could be more than just a place to serve coffee and doughnuts after worship. They envisioned opening it up to the public, said David Strange, executive minister at Greenwood Christian Church.

"Every weekend, there's a line, and there's always good traffic during the week as well," Strange said. "When we first started, we wondered how it would work, but it didn't take long to catch on."

The cafe is open in the mornings for three hours, and before and after worship services. People can order anything from hot chocolate to cinnamon rolls to specialty mochas.

Profits from the cafe go to the church's evangelism ministry throughout the year. Greenwood Christian Church supports church training in Mexico, medical services in Ghana and school construction in Papua New Guinea.

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