A coffeehouse service is a wonderful opportunity to use your imagination in a setting where you have more freedom to present the gospel in creative ways, especially if your church tends to be more traditional.
For this service, use your fellowship hall or another casual space, rather than your sanctuary. Set up this space as you would for your coffee hour, complete with coffee, tea, and juice as well as snacks like doughnuts or other food appropriate to your theme.
Because the atmosphere is casual, the following rules apply:
Rule #1: It’s coffee hour, and it’s all free! (Parents love this rule.)
Rule #2: Feel free to get up and get a cup of coffee or juice and a snack at any time during the service. (Kids love this rule.)
Rule #3: You may remain seated during the entire service, if you wish. This is, after all, a coffeehouse. (The more seasoned members love this rule.)
Rule #4: Participation is strongly encouraged but not mandatory. (Introverted members love this rule.)
Rule #5: It is OK to have fun in church. You can have fun and still feel the awesome presence of God. (We all love this rule.)
Our church has used a wide variety of formats for the coffeehouse service. For a “Walk to Emmaus” coffeehouse after Easter, the participants went to different stations around the fellowship hall to take part in activities that would invoke spiritual reflection and discussion. One coffeehouse was mainly composed of three humorous but enlightening readings performed by volunteers taking part in a “readers’ theater” presentation. We even did a Super Bowl-themed service on Super Bowl Sunday.
Set up tables so people can easily face forward toward the area where the lead- ers and drama team will stand. If you plan to use projection, set up a screen or use a blank wall at the front of the space. You’ll want a keyboard or piano in the space for leading music. Set materials for activities on each table.
Holy Grounds Coffeehouse Service
Prelude: Piano or praise band
Here we share the coffeehouse “rules” (see above) and invite people to greet everyone at their table and at the tables around them.
Song: An energetic one is good here. Something like “Halle, Halle, Halle” (SNC 44, SWM 134) works well. Hand clapping is allowed, even encouraged!
Lord, wake us up! Wake us up with coffee, with food, with conversation, and most of all with your Spirit. Make us aware of your presence. Make us alive in your presence. Help us share your presence with all we meet.
The Lord’s Prayer (sometimes we sing it)
We often use an easy-to-understand short drama. One of my favorite authors for these is Martha Bolton. We use a readers’ theater format so no memorization is necessary, and we try to include people of different ages. That makes it easier to get volunteers.
Traditional Hymn: We usually use a very traditional hymn after the drama, accompanied by the piano or praise band. Hymns like “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “Blessed Assurance,” and “Amazing Grace” help us to prepare for our prayer time.
Blessing of the Table
One unique thing we have done at the coffeehouse services is to have each table write a special blessing to one other table. These are put together with the input of everyone at the table, including the little ones. We collect the blessings and randomly distribute them so everyone has a blessing, but not their own. Some folks like to share what was sent them.
Prayers of the People
We have found that the coffeehouse is a wonderful, informal setting for sharing prayer concerns and praises. The leader writes them down and repeats them as they’re called out from the tables, then we pray about them. Because of the informal setting, it seems like many folks feel more free to share what is in their hearts. This segment often takes up to twenty minutes.
Contemporary or Folk Song: We have a praise band that plays about every six weeks, and we like to schedule them for the coffeehouse. They are great at leading an upbeat song, either a popular contemporary song or a folk-style hymn.
Feeding on the Word: Seeing, Hearing, Tasting/Smelling, Feeling
I try to use a very sensory-rich narrative for the Bible passage. For example, one of my favorites is Mark 1:1-15, known as the “prologue of Mark.” When I used this one I asked specific tables to use their senses and imaginations to interact with the passage. One table thought about what they were seeing, another table focused on what they heard, another on what they tasted or smelled, another on what they felt. When people share their responses, they’re often quite profound.
Here we ask people to look deeper into what this passage means for them. What does this passage lead them to do, if anything? Some amazing answers have arisen. One woman shared with everyone, “I now know something God has wanted me to do my entire life.” She did not elaborate, but it was obviously meaningful for her.
Concluding Hymn/Song: We try to choose a song everybody knows.
The Parting Table Blessing (in unison, spoken to the others at your table):
Today we shared refreshments. May God refresh you with his Spirit.
Today we shared the Word of God. May God’s Word give life to your life.
Today we shared fellowship. May the God of creation walk with you.
Go now in peace, my friend, and may God’s peace go with you every step of this life’s wonderful journey.
Postlude: Piano or praise band