A decade ago, my local church took a big step by leaving its 60-year-old worship space to build a new building on the same grounds. With that one act of faith, we rejuvenated the church to become more missional. Through the design of the building, music, preaching, and overall worship, a space was designed to reach future generations with the gospel. Over the last four years, the church has continued to transform as we have learned to be nimble due to the constraints of the pandemic and economic inflation that has affected giving and spiritual morale in the church. And we discovered the importance of just one cup of coffee.
See the Need and Learn to Adapt.
When the church moved into its new space in summer 2014, it started offering coffee in the lobby. After five years, the leadership realized that to be more welcoming, they needed to prepare for younger families, and one small way they could do that was to offer a broad selection of morning breakfast items, such as fresh fruit, granola bars, breakfast cookies and various juices, along with a new selection of donuts. The goal was to help young families rushing to church have one less thing to worry about on a Sunday morning. By tweaking the breakfast offerings and creating an attractive selection of items for families, the church was saying, “We see you, young parents. We see you, children and teens.”
You might wonder how that is missional. Missional engagement is intentional preparation and serving of community needs. In this case, the community is the local church. The need is to help facilitate providing a meal for a family in need. This simple act of caring opens the door for the parents to hear the message of heart holiness. It enabled the children to learn about Jesus and missionaries alike. For the broader church, to see Jesus moving in the lives of all age groups. And for God to be glorified in the simplest acts of faith.
It is a timeless reminder that small acts turn into significant transformation actions with Jesus.
Support Other People’s Ideas
Through the interactions with current members and guests each Sunday, the coffee area helpers realized that the families wanted more coffee (hot and cold), tea flavors (hot and cold) and more breakfast choices. As younger families invited their friends to church, the leadership saw the need to expand their breakfast area again. In consultation with the pastor, four ladies decided to design a new experience in an unused classroom. They created a coffee house vibe that is fresh and attractive through decorations of lights, high-top tables, flat-screen television that plays modern worship music, a couch, and an end table. Through specialty drinks and flavored syrup, they have used their barista skills to recreate a coffee chain vibe that has enhanced the original coffee area. Recently they added more specialty drinks with creative names that church members came up with.
The volunteers running the coffee house have done the design, feel, and purchase of needed items. In recent weeks they have begun training others to help step in and serve. As a leader, I saw the missional heart to connect with families and cheered on this local missional endeavor. Sometimes the best thing to do as a leader is to get out of the way and allow God to move.
Sustain the Vision by Meeting Current Realities
The world outside the church’s doors is rapidly changing. It is forcing the church to adapt or die. My local church decided to adapt and change. As the church entered its 80th year, research says that a church that old should be on the decline, but ours isn’t. Why? The church was willing to adapt to the times and to be more missional, not just on the outside in serving the community, but on the inside where there sometimes is pushback to new missional ideas.
One lesson an outside observer can learn is to sustain a long-term healthy vision of the church and keep progressing forward; the church leadership has to seek God’s will constantly. The change will not be easy; it is necessary to meet the needs of the current community that is around the church. Maybe your local church does not want a coffee house, but what does it want? What do you want to see happen inside and outside your local church?
Inaction is action. It stops progress and slows God’s momentum in the church. There is a tendency for churches to talk things to death. Let me encourage you to pray. Seek God’s will for your local church as you discover where he is at work in the community and prepare to meet him there. Know this truth; God is not done with your local church. He will use your heart and that of others to be missionaries near and far. Regardless of age and where the church is today, God can still use a mighty remnant to transform the world. Even through a cup of joe with Jesus, lives can be transformed through a missionally focused church.