By Jennifer Johnson
When Robert Bess began serving as senior minister at Love Chapel Christian Church (Erwin, TN) in 2008, average attendance had dwindled down to just a few dozen people. Earlier this year, the church averaged 90 people on a weekend. But as we go to press, Love Chapel is seeing almost 150 people each weekend and is getting ready to welcome many more.
The church achieved this amazing growth in just four weeks by repurposing a building on its property that usually sat empty, turning it into “The Love Chapel Connection Café.”
Lots of churches have coffee shops, but Love Chapel’s new café offers more than gourmet coffee—it’s a worship venue, as well.
“Our main worship area was almost at capacity each weekend, and we knew we needed to make it less crowded if we were to continue to grow,” Bess says. “Our café has become the place for a very popular second worship service that’s created room in our worship center while attracting unchurched people who had never visited us before.”
Love Chapel holds services in both venues at the same time. “One team of musicians and leaders gets the service going in the main worship center while I preach in the café,” Bess says. “Then I preach in the worship center while a few of our musicians provide acoustic worship in the café. Communion is offered at both services, and everyone gets done about noon!”
Bess says his leaders thought he was crazy when he suggested the idea, but they visited some churches with similar projects and decided to go for it.
“Our people are realizing we can worship God in new ways,” Bess says. “Of course there are some folks who don’t like it, but we can’t just stand by and say ‘either come to church and do it our way or don’t connect with God.’ We got to the point where it was either do something or do nothing, and I don’t think God would be happy with nothing. I told our team that, worst-case, we’d have the best-looking fellowship hall in the county!”
The church’s boldness is paying off; after just four weeks the café service is almost full and Love Chapel is planning to add a second one.
“We’re excited to see what God might do with this,” Bess says.