27 September, 2023

Playing It Forward for Families, Churches

by | 1 January, 2011 | 0 comments

By Jennifer Taylor

The team from Cartwheels & Coffee has been asked to open new locations in Colorado, Kentucky, and even Portugal.

“The best ideas come from creative solutions to problems,” says Chris Barras, lead pastor at Area 10 Faith Community (Richmond, Virginia).

The idea was doubling the use of a rented space to both minimize costs and maximize community engagement. When Barras and his team planted Area 10 in 2008, they were fortunate to score the famous Byrd Theatre as a meeting place. But the location had no room for a children”s ministry.

“We wanted to have low overhead as a church so we could be more generous,” Barras says. “By renting a retail space down the street from the Byrd, we”ve been able to have room for our staff offices and weekend activities while launching a business that serves our community and helps to cover the rent.”

The church describes Cartwheels & Coffee as “the playland designed with parents in mind.” While children enjoy the indoor playground, music classes, and story times, adults can catch up with friends, savor a specialty coffee drink, or use the free Wi-Fi to answer e-mails. Parents pay a small admission fee for each child and””except for designated “night on the town” babysitting nights””are responsible for supervising their kids while there.

Area 10 actually started the business a month before the church”s first services.

“Volunteers from the Area 10 launch team painted and worked on the build-out of the 1,600-square-foot space,” Barras says. “It was great to introduce ourselves to the community by saying, “˜We”re the church that brought you Cartwheels & Coffee.””

The good word-of-mouth keeps growing, and the play place continues to grow in popularity. A full-time employee manages the day-to-day operations (and leads the Monday morning sing-along), and the company expanded the space an additional 900 square feet last summer.

Private birthday parties, including a coffee barista, exclusive use of the café and playland, and balloons and snacks for the kids, are a hit with local families, and some parents purchase three-month memberships.

“We”re definitely interested in helping other churches and church planters use this model to lower their overhead costs,” Barras says. “We”re making everything from our instruction manuals and permission slips to our graphics and forms completely reproducible. And I”m dreaming of ways we can give more and more money to our city and to people in need around the world.”




Jennifer Taylor, one of Christian Standard”s contributing editors, lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Read her blog at www. christianstandard.com.

Do you know of a church breaking new ground or leading innovative ministry? Send a brief description and contact info to [email protected].


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