I was interested to see an advert from Bruntsfield Evangelical Church in Edinburgh for a Gospel outreach in a Costa coffee shop. They intended running a series of evenings in the coffee shop which was entitled "I'm not a Christian because …." The idea was to have a neutral venue to invite people to come and hear the Gospel from advertised topics with an opportunity for open Q&A in the Costa coffee shop which was still open for business. Rachel Towler (formerly McLatchie and an occasional Bible Class attender !!) posted the advert and I asked her to let me know how they got on. I was interested in their use of the Coffee shop environment in the city centre. I am posting her feedback below:-
"We had the last session of 'I'm not a Christian because...' the other week. Format of the sessions:
Arrived 7pm mingling and coffee-purchasing for 10mins
25 (ish) minute talk
5 - 10 min public Q&A
5 - 10 min informal discussion around tables
Firstly, I think the concept of holding the sessions the neutral territory of Costa on a busy main street worked well. This automatically gave it a less formal vibe, and heightened public awareness as folk walked along the street looking in. We had about 2/3 of the coffee shop floor allocated to us, but they kept it open for public use for the duration, so occasionally people would wander in and over-hear. In fact, one of the baristas who had served the coffees during 2 sessions even came back off-duty to attend a 3rd! The only problem with this venue was that we had to 'clear out' quite promptly after finishing (at 8pm). This meant there was only 5-10 mins time for informal discussion around tables at the end (after public Q&A), and this felt rather cut-short most weeks.
The topics seemed to work well in general as I think they were well-targeted at common objections to Christianity in any age-range or demographic. We had different speakers each week. Some were experts in a particular field specific to their talk (e.g. on the veracity of the Bible), whereas church members took on the less academic subjects. I wasn't able to attend the one titled '...because science has disproved God,' but I heard that this hadn't worked so well because it was too broad a subject with too many different expectations with regard to depth. Some people complained it was too shallow and hadn't really answered their questions, whereas others said it was way over their heads!
We know of one girl who has accepted salvation partly as a consequence this venture. She was someone who already frequented the church family services through a friend, but had previously always had too many 'stumbling blocks' holding her back. She found the sessions helpful in addressing some of her issues (e.g. about other religions, the reliability of the Bible etc). However, a regret about the series was that there weren't more non-believers there. There was always a great turn-out from the church, and fortunately every week there were at least one or two unbelievers, but it would have been great for us to make more of the opportunity to bring friends, work colleagues etc.
I guess with anything like this, if we were to repeat the series people may feel more confident to invite friends as they will now know exactly what to expect. Also, on a positive note, having listened to these talks as a church, we will now be more equipped to replicate these discussions at work, with friends etc. Hope that helps to answer any questions you may have. If any other queries please let me know!"