My experience has taught me that when it comes to people and their particular coffee, there is a wide variety of likes and dislikes. The true purists like their coffee black and bold, while others may adulterate theirs with cream, sugar or some other concoction like hazelnut-mocha-caramel. There are even those elitist aficionados who will only drink their special brands, like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or some other particular type. Whether or not you have any particular allegiance or aversion to Starbucks, one thing most people recognize is that its success has as much to do with its hospitable store environments as it does with its coffee.
What is a “third place”? In the late 1980’s Ray Oldenburg wrote about the concept of the “third place” in his influential book, The Great Good Place. Ray described the “first place” as a person’s home, the “second place” as his work place, and the “third place” as an area where people can congregate apart from home and work. “Third places” have historically been very important for the building of community. Oldenburg suggests that societies throughout history have all had “third places,” and even goes so far as to suggest that they are vital for “civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and a sense of place.”
What does the concept of a “third place” have to do with coffee? Well, the reason that Starbucks coffee houses are designed as inviting casual places to hang out is that they have intentionally positioned their stores to be a person’s “third-place.” They want people to come and linger in their facility over a cup of java or tea, and a treat.
Have you ever considered honoring Mr. Starbucks, or some other coffee house near you, by having a “Coffee House Fellowship?” What could be better than enjoying the pungent smell of fresh brewed coffee and baked goods as you meet with others and share a spiritual conversation, especially one about the Good News, Jesus? This type of place can be a nice neutral environment to meet someone to discuss matters faith, or even provide them a friendly conversation as they struggle with life’s issues.
A number of us from the office have made it a regular habit to meet at the local coffee house, where we discuss a wide array of things happening in our spiritual walk or in the world around us. It is a great environment (one of many!) to show the world that following Jesus is more than a Sunday trip to the local church. In many ways, this is what the first-century disciples did when they took their faith to the local “agora,” the center of most cities’ business and social interaction.
If you are looking for a way to “jump-start” your fellowship, or even to get something going, then maybe the “Coffee House Fellowship” approach would work for you. At least one thing is assured; you will probably enjoy a good cup of coffee and make your Lord happy by your efforts.
 Oldenburg, Ray, The Great Good Place, (New York: Paragon Books, 1989).
 The Agora was the name of a specific part of the Greek and Roman cities, the center of town and public life. See Schoenheit, REV Commentary: Acts 16:19 at stfonline.org/REV