How Starbucks has Changed the Church Coffee Hour

Back before Starbucks, lattes and cafés, all anyone needed to stay happy was a cup of whatever coffee was dumped into the machine and a splash of half and half. Over the past few decades, coffee has become not just a drink, but an experience. People enjoy the atmosphere, the camaraderie and the ambiance a coffee shop brings.

Why are we even talking about this?

Because people are not going to come early or stay after church services anymore for a stale cup of Folgers. Coffee and social hours need to match the experience a local coffee shop can bring, or people are going to head out the door immediately after services.

We know budgets are tight, but that shouldn’t make a difference. There are many ways to make the coffee hour meaningful without spending a fortune. Here are three:

Engage Members: Consider having different church groups (Bible studies, choirs, mission groups) host coffee hour. This strategy helps keep the event from becoming, well, stale.These groups can donate fresh baked goods and better quality coffee for everyone to share. Stress the importance of presentation. Ask for donations of nice trays and platters. Create a checklist for groups to follow so it’s as easy as possible for them to participate.

Expand locally: Ask a local coffee shop or bakery to donate coffee or treats to the cause. Agree to put signage promoting the shop on the table with the donated goods. If people know they can get their favorite local treats right at church, they will be more likely to stay.

Set the Scene: Don’t just plop a table in the middle of a hall and throw some cookies and Styrofoam cups on top. Make sure the space is set up so people can mingle. Place it where people will know it is there, but not in the middle of the crowd, so people will have room to move. Bring in a small couch or soft chairs. Use a tablecloth. Have volunteer “baristas” willing to pour coffee and greet people.

Mix & Mingle: Staffing this event with roaming greeters might be as important as having volunteers at the doors. And members will mingle with each other, but they need to also mix with visitors. Otherwise, all the delicious coffee in the world isn’t going to make up for this.

Why go the extra mile?

New visitors are always walking through the door. They’re looking for a connection to Christ and a connection to the community. A well-run church coffee hour can do both. With just a little tweaking and leg work, you can transform a stale tray of donuts into an anticipated, weekly social gathering.