By Naomi Giles
Cafes have become the meeting place of our culture, and Coast Community Church is discovering how rich that intersection can be.
Recently launching their social enterprise Better Days Cafe, Coast is finding a sweet spot that puts them in proximity to their community as well as getting them involved in responding to real needs.
Better Days Café was birthed through their charity arm Coast Community Care applying for a State government grant. They were over-joyed to find the wider community got behind them to vote for their application, which enabled them to secure the $150,000 grant.
Jeff Nagle, Pastor of the Tumbi Umbi campus, says the Café connects all the community activities at their facility, responds to youth unemployment and aims to be a blessing to the local community.
“Whether you are participant, a customer or a staff member our vision is that through connecting with the café days and lives will be made better,” says Jeff.
Better Days Café launched on May 1st with hundreds of people turning out for a joyful celebration.
But the vision of the café was affirmed even before it officially opened while the café staff and participants were still training and settling into their roles. It was then they had an encounter which would add weight to the meaning behind the Café’s mission.
A local man who was deeply distraught after the sudden and tragic death of his daughter in Queensland came to the Café in the hope of finding some help. As he shared the story with one of the volunteers and with Jeff, they were able to be present and then respond with practical care. Vouchers were provided to give him fuel and food to make it to Queensland.
Jeff explained that the café also provided a safe space where he could be listened to.
“Just to be another human being present with him while his heart was falling apart was so important,” says Jeff. “We were able to sit with him in the dirt, pray with him and help him make his journey safe.”
Jeff says encounters like this help the church understand a little bit more about what this café is really all about, and how it can become a central point of life and faith together.
“We’ve now got people from our church that are almost loitering in the Café just in case there’s an opportunity for ministry, we’ve got home groups choosing this will be the place they meet,” he laughs.
Even Sunday mornings, usually set-apart for worship services, are spilling over in to the café. When the service is over some of the Coast people head in to the Café and are connecting with those who are still lingering over their breakfasts.
“When you go to a café you don’t expect that other customers at a café that don’t know you are necessarily going to say hello to you, but that’s what’s happening in this café. It’s becoming the friendliest café on the coast!” says Jeff.
The impact of the café is across the board, with some of the young people employed coming through adversity. Jeff explains they have established a beautiful partnership with the Salvation Army, who have been working with young recruits over the long term to help them gain meaningful employment.
“For one of the young people, this is his first job at 22 years of age. It’s taken the Salvos 18 months of coaching to get him to this place and they are thrilled to see him happy, smiling and interacting with customers,” says Jeff.
Jeff believes the Café coming at this time following Covid restrictions, has meant it’s been shaped differently.
“Fairly early on in Covid we realised that the strength we had within communities was really where church needed to be present and felt. For the past 12 months we really have been preaching an outward focussed, community oriented, and evangelistic gospel. Our formation as believers is always for the sake of others,” says Jeff.
The Café is some of the good fruit to emerge from the Covid challenge, providing Coast Community Church with the scaffolding to live out their commitment to connection with the wider community.
And the community is responding. Those who live nearby are visiting regularly and others who come to the area during the week for sports or other programs, are coming back on weekends to bring family and friends.
“It’s moving faster than we ever thought it would,” says Jeff. “We’ve recruited two participants already, and will soon be employing a third. It’s pretty clear that we are going to need more!”