by Michael P. Murphy
There’s a new trend brewing on church campuses these days.
Andie’s Coffee on the campus of Chaparral Christian Church in Scottsdale, Arizona is just one of many in a growing trend we see in large churches these days—a coffee shop or a coffee stand where customers can step up to a counter and order a handcrafted drink prepared just for them by a friendly barista.
At least once a week I can be found in the indoor dining area or outside on the patio at Andie’s Coffee, which happens to be located at my home church. Like most good coffee shops, the serenity is stimulating. It’s a good place work on a manuscript and focus on my work, but it never bothers me when a friend stops by to talk and our conversation lasts an hour. The coffee is pretty amazing too.
Yes, it’s a business, but does it work as a ministry? Let’s take a closer look and explore the concept of a working coffee shop on a church campus and get to know some of the people who work there.
Forming a Bond
“Working in the coffee industry, you kind of form a bond with people,” said Melissa Grieco, a barista at Andie’s. “You’re making a drink and people like it a certain way, but if you please them they want to talk to you. I think the coffee shop environment promotes that. I love it.”
Melissa remembers the days when she was a barista at a shopping mall coffee shop in her native New Jersey. The pace was hectic, the customers were not always friendly, and her boss didn’t mind the baristas giving them some attitude. She enjoys the slower pace at Andie’s. Better yet, she loves interacting with the customers.
“You meet new people, they let you into their life, and they tell you about their day,” Melissa continued. “If they’re upset they’ll tell you how they’re feeling. I think that’s where the relationship comes from.”
Melissa is amused when a customer walks in and asks if they have to be religious to get a cup a coffee from Andie’s. One customer even asked if people have to be Christians to work there. They don’t. For Melissa it’s always personal. She knows her customers by name, and they know her.
“I would say that working at a church coffee shop is really fun,” she said. “I love talking to people, hearing their journey of their religion, why they come here, what brought them here to this church, and what they like about it. I like serving them coffee. I’m not sitting down with them, but I interact with them.”
Building a Community
Most customers outside of the church have no idea how this coffee shop came to be known as Andie’s. The naming of Andie’s Coffee was actually born out of a tragedy. Meet my friend Doug McManus. It’s best for him to tell the story in his own words. Pretty powerful stuff, huh?
Andie’s Coffee opened for business on Valentine’s Day 2016. Created from the ground up by Stacy Shirvinski, Chaparral’s Community Impact Director, Andie’s has become a vital part of what church leaders refer to as “building a community.” The coffee shop is a perfect compliment to CrossFit Chaparral, which occupies the same building. Not coincidentally, a great deal of Andie’s business comes from here. It helps that the menu items go way beyond the normal sugary fare one might expect from a coffee shop, with protein shakes and sport drinks being quite popular with the CrossFit customer base.
A preschool occupies the building next door. Young moms and dads often stop by to get a drink after they drop off or pick up their children. In the spring and summer it’s not unusual to see parents, usually moms, sipping their handcrafted drinks while sitting around the splash pad near Andie’s patio area. The church leases its rooms to businesses for weekly meetings, and these patrons often come in for coffee. There are certainly walk-in customers, many of whom come after reading the positive reviews on Yelp.
A monthly menu feature is a special mission drink, with proceeds going to a designated charity. With its beautiful outdoor patio Andie’s is a perfect setting to host birthday parties, movie nights, and game nights. A partnership with Uber Eats recently began, while other ideas in the works are a farmer’s market and pet adoption event. Andie’s also hopes to work with local foster care agencies to help train future baristas from the kids who are aging out of the foster care system—this will help provide a job skill to give them a positive start for their future.
Life Is More Than Coffee
“This is maybe just personal for me, but I view everything I do as a ministry opportunity,” said barista Emily DeVore, “being able to work in a coffee shop and build relationships, talk to people, and get to know what they do.”
Emily’s employment at Andie’s was something of a happy accident. As a student at Arizona Christian University, she was in charge of connecting with Stacy when Andie’s catered an event at the school. When she was told Andie’s was looking to hire someone part-time, Emily offered herself and got the job.
Emily recalled one of her ministry moments: “I had a customer come in who just finished a hard weekend with her family, and she needed someone to talk to. I listened, she talked and ended up crying. I asked her if she wanted a hug, and she said yes. It’s moments like that where coffee’s great, but life is more than coffee. I’m glad we can provide a place where people can feel comfortable and talk and cry if they need to or share stories. People feel comfortable talking to me, which I’m very thankful for.”
With a total of 5.5 years experience in the coffee industry, Cory Rocha was the perfect choice to manage Andie’s when it first opened two years ago. Now he is Chaparral Christian Church’s youth minister. How’s that for a career change? He still puts in a few hours a week as a barista at Andie’s.
“When I took this position, I was getting tired of working in a commercial setting,” he said. “I really wanted to get into ministry anyway. I could see the two blending with the position itself.”
Cory understands that coffee shops are a place where you get a wide demographic of people, be it high school kids or a construction worker coming to get coffee. It’s intriguing to him that every morning you don’t know who you’re going to have. The baristas at Andie’s don’t push their faith on the customers, but it’s important to him that they know why he’s there. It’s all about engaging with people and having a good work ethic. Going the extra mile on the job and setting a good example is how ministry happens.
“I don’t really see it as an outflow of a paycheck,” Cory said. “I see it as an outflow of Christ working in me. In that way, it’s ministry in the things that you do, having patience with people and being accepting of who they are or trying to be a peacemaker when drama happens.”
Cory sees a future with coffee shops establishing a church, not just coffee shops integrating into established churches. He has a friend in ministry who started a church plant in a strip mall coffee shop that they own. Throughout the week it’s a regular coffee shop that, in turn, finances the church.
The long-term vision for Chaparral is similar, hoping that the CrossFit gym, preschool, and coffee shop become profitable enough to finance the church’s operating costs, with the tithe going completely to mission programs and helping others.
So, does a church coffee shop also serve as a ministry? The answer is yes, especially considering that fellowship is one aspect of the Christian walk. In a coffee shop, you get so many different people who come in. It can be like the pub of old, where you simply hang out.
Perhaps this is because a place like Andie’s Coffee provides everyone common ground.
posted on June 12, 2018
Meet the Author:
Michael P. Murphy is a happily retired dental laboratory technician who now lives the life of a freelance writer in Scottsdale, Arizona. His articles and stories have appeared in The Lookout, Encounter, Straight, Live Wire and R-A-D-A-R. His 1990 novel Wise Up, Zack for Christian teens was published by Standard Publishing. (You still might find it if you dig deep enough on a used book website.) Michael is also a feature writer for Wander AZ, a travel magazine for Arizona tourists.
All photos by the author, Michael P. Murphy.