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Christian Coffee Houses

January 6, 2006, 9:45 PM by Angela Kennecke

In the 60's, churches moved their services outside and introduced acoustic guitars into the liturgy. It was all part of a movement by young people to change the church along with a changing culture.

In the new millennium, religion has moved out of the church and into the coffee house.
Now patrons can order up a cup-of-Joe with Jesus on the side.

Wednesday night has traditionally been church night, a time for religious education, bible study and faith gatherings.

That's all happening on this particular Wednesday night. It's not inside a church, but rather a coffee house.

Music Minister Jonathan DeGroot says, "I don't think God ever intended for us to be inside four walls. I think the church without walls has been his idea, God's idea all along and I think we're just starting to catch on a little bit in Sioux Falls."

Cool Beans doesn't label itself a Christian Coffee house, but it's clear that religion in embraced here.

Cool Beans Manger, Clay Anderson says, "It's owned by Christians. My goal is to create a marketplace where everybody can enjoy themselves."

When Cool Beans opened three years ago, Anderson says his advertising budget was really non-existent. It's simply been by word of mouth that the company's open philosophy has attracted more and more Christians to the coffee shop.

Customer Jeff Alvey says, "We know it's a supportive atmosphere, we know people here have same thoughts and philosophies."

Jeff Alvey and Doug Grinsell formed a friendship 10 years ago during the Promise Keepers movement for men. They still meet once a week for bible study and spiritual growth.

Customer Doug Grinsell says, "Besides just the friendship there is accountability. We talk about challenges in our relationships at home, work and if there's an area we're struggling with we hold each other accountable."

Those bonds of friendship and inclusion are also the goal across town at The Firehouse Underground.

Sue McComber of The Firehouse Underground says, “Our mission statement reads we're a gathering place for conversation and acceptance."

Sue and Mike McComber opened The Firehouse nearly four years ago, but the idea was anything but new.

Sue McComber says, "This coffee house is modeled after a previous ministry open from 1967 to 1982. That coffee house was active in our lives when we were young people."
In fact, the original fire house got its name because it was a fire station.

The old sign and wooden sculpture, now hang in the basement of the Gorley building downtown.

McComber works to create the same spirit that she found inside the original building.
“The minute you walked in the door there was a welcoming and warm atmosphere, a spirit of acceptance about it," she says.

Today pictures of modern Christian rock groups line the walls and college and high school kids come and go. But the message remains the same.

McComber says, "When you come down here this doesn't look anything like church, doesn't feel anything like church, but there's the same purpose to be able to share your faith, be who you are."

21-year old Ryan McCormick is old enough to go bar hoping, but he'd rather hang out in a coffee house.

McCormick says, "I'm not a big fan of bars, come down here, have a cup of coffee, hang out with Christianity people and have fun."

Clay Anderson says, “You have that atmosphere, but you don’t have negative side effects of smoking or booze."

And while both Cool Bean and The Firehouse Underground are run as businesses, success is measured differently.

McComber says, "We're a coffee house, so it's a retail environment, but we don't have that retail goal.

Angela asks, "Does God belong in a coffee house?"

Anderson answers, “Yeah he belongs everywhere."

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