These ideas are based on the experiences of an international café run by Christians from various churches in Reading who wanted to set up a café in a neutral venue, away from church buildings. We recognise this is just one model and there are other successful international cafes run in different ways. It has been a great opportunity for people from various churches to work together and there have been wonderful times of building relationships with internationals and sharing the gospel. It is up to each group to decide how to share Christ with those attending but there are some ideas below.
- Establish why you want to run an international cafe. For example, you may run an English class and have lots of women coming along. You’re wondering how you can have more contact with whole families. A café could be a great place to start to build these relationships.
- Pray. Share your idea with your church leadership, the wider church and other like-minded churches in the area. Ask them to pray and dream with you as you continue to think about it. As the café is established you may wish to regularly update the churches involved and ask for prayer.
- Find some willing volunteers. These don’t need to be ESL teachers but they do need to have a love for internationals, the English language and sharing their faith.
- Funding. Will the café be funded by your church? You could encourage people at church to ‘sponsor a coffee for £3’ and contribute in that way or there may well be a grant you could obtain from a local charity. A local charity has supported the international café in Reading so that the team is able to give each visitor a voucher for a free drink when they arrive. The host café has been more than helpful in supporting this system. It means that service is faster and the bill can be settled in one go after everyone has ordered drinks.
- Find a suitable and central ‘café’ location. Be very upfront and honest about your intentions for the café as you talk with the venue’s management. Who knows what opportunities you may have to share your faith with the staff at some point too. Perhaps, in your discussions with them, you can agree on a set price for your drinks each week.
- Decide when you will hold your café. If you are wanting to include children, holding the café in the early evening may work well, especially if shops are shutting then too. As you talk with the venue’s management, you want to work with them to secure a time which is good for them too; a time when they are lacking customers. In Reading, holding the café on a Saturday in the early evening was ideal for families and it meant that the café had trade at an otherwise ‘dead’ time.
- Decide on the kinds of activities that will make up the café session. There are a myriad of table and board games out there which can be used or adapted for those with only a little English. Choose games that will encourage people to talk, get to know each other and have fun. For some tried and tested ideas of suitable games take a look here
- For some tried and tested ideas of suitable games take a look here
- Build your team. You may wish to have a core committee as well as additional helpers who come along to help out but don’t have specific roles or take part in major decision making. As you establish the committee, think about the various roles to be filled such as overall leader, treasurer, administrator, someone to oversee activities, someone to ensure tracts in various languages are stocked up etc. In order to build a sustainable model, you could have a rota so that no one has to be there every time. We have found that this, and the fact that we only meet on the first and third Saturdays of the month, have meant it’s a realistic commitment for those involved.
- Be intentional about the ethos you want to work to from the start. Why not have a vision statement, code of conduct and statement of faith that all involved are asked to read and sign up to. This is great for the unity of the team and ensures that everyone knows what’s expected and where you’re heading.
- Think about how you want to share the gospel. Initially it may be that you want to work on building relationships and share your faith as and when you have the opportunity in conversations. However, do be upfront at the start of each session as you welcome everyone, that this is run by Christians. As you go on, you might want to have a specific ‘slot’ in the evening where, for example, members of the team take it in turns to share testimony. You could also think about running a simple Bible study after the official ‘café’ is over and invite people to stay on. Whatever you decide, do have literature in various languages laid out on the tables for people to take away.
- Keep in touch with the team and supporting churches through regular prayer updates and specific prayer meetings. We have found that emailing the whole team after each session with some encouragements and specific prayer points has really helped encourage us all to pray, even if we were not present that particular evening. Also, do prioritise updating the local churches so that you are well supported in all you’re doing. This may be through a short PowerPoint presentation in the morning service or an invitation to share a slot in the leadership team meeting.
For more in depth guidance on setting up an iCaf, as well ready to use resources and forms, check out our publication – Sow to Reap – available for purchase here.