Nehemiah's Coffee House reaches goals

Nehemiah's Coffee House reaches goals

Forest Lake Baptist Church built Nehemiah’s Coffee House in order to reach out to the community in an innovative way. Layton Dudley

Peyton Shepard

For Forest Lake Baptist Church, Nehemiah’s Coffee House is not just a hangout or a business, but a chance to reach out to the community in an innovative way.

Aaron Barnes, college minister at Forest Lake, said the church’s vision has always been to have a coffee house. The opportunity presented itself to the church when, after years of negotiations, they purchased the Christopher House, a plot of land located next to the main church. The original plan was to use the Christopher House as the church’s coffee house, but after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, a large amount of damage to the house caused the church to reconsider.

“We could have renovated the house, but we didn’t feel comfortable with the structural integrity and having people inside, so we tore it down and rebuilt it,” Barnes said.

He said the rebuilding inspired the name Nehemiah’s, drawing from the Bible story where God tasks Nehemiah with rebuilding the fallen walls of Jerusalem. 

“Nehemiah and his men rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days, and it took us 52 weeks to rebuild for the coffee house from the ground up,” he said. “It was all just in God’s timing.”

Barnes said one of the church’s main goals in opening Nehemiah’s was to offer lower-cost coffee. He said the church does not make money from the business, and the shop is run by a staff of volunteers.

“We couldn’t have the overhead of paying a general manager and employees and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “We figured if college students love to drink coffee, I bet they’d like to make it, too.”

Despite the target group being college students, volunteers of all ages participate in keeping Nehemiah’s going, Barnes said.

Emily Couch, the church’s director of multi-housing ministry and a Nehemiah’s volunteer since 2013, said she enjoys volunteering because it allows her to build relationships with the people who come into the shop.

“We have a lot of regular customers on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “As new customers start to come in more and more, you just get to that deeper level of conversation with them, about the Lord, about their spiritual walk, their lives, and that’s probably the best part to me about our shop.”

Both Barnes and Couch said the coffee house definitely serves its purpose as an extension of the church’s ministry.

“It’s a very non-threatening environment,” Couch said. “It gives people a place to talk to others and find a common point of interest in coffee. It creates a very easy gateway to talk about Christ and allows us at Forest Lake to reach out to people.”