Grounds for good
Austin Decker was a junior in high school when he realized the impact of the coffee shop he’d started at Triad Baptist Church in 2010.
“About 50 students got $300 or so each to go toward their camp or mission trip which all came from sales at Awake Café,” he said of the enterprise which combined his love for coffee and missions.
“I remember meeting daily with Chad Watson (the current middle school pastor at the time) to talk shop and finances. We bought equipment, syrups, coffee, and trained our staff — all to raise money for our youth group mission trips. Blending the business aspects of coffee with supporting church ministry was so exciting.”
The shop quickly outgrew its humble origins of passing out coffee drinks through a window from the kitchen to customers in the hallway.
Thanks to one of many building projects that transformed the Triad Baptist campus, Awake Café got its own space in the Youth Room. With equipment, décor and a menu to rival commercial counterparts, Decker added preorders and deliveries.
“Leaving Awake Café wasn’t easy,&rdqu; he said. “I took a full-time ministry position in Illinois, but still wanted to hear how Awake Café was growing and succeeding. Buying coffee to further the Gospel of Jesus Christ will always bring a smile to my face.”
Triad Baptist member Cindy Johnson now runs Awake, and is seeing orders start to pick up even if not yet to the pre-COVID totals of $200 to $300 each Sunday. She started about four years ago, first learning the ropes from her son, Logan, who managed the Awake before leaving to start his career.
Each Saturday, Johnson does an inventory and buys any needed supplies before starting work 8 a.m. Sunday. Managing the student ministry members who work alternate weeks is one of her favorite parts about Awake. Her customers are another.
“I love doing it because I get to meet so many people and we so many regulars,” said Johnson. “When they come in, we know what they want.”
Hampton Still is one of the two student ministry baristas at Awake, working shifts every other week with teammates Noah Chandler and Payton Gatewood.
“I’ve worked at Awake since the eighth grade, or about four years,” Still said. “It’s fun, and I love the people. I definitely did not like coffee but ended up liking it by making the drinks here. My favorite is the crème brulee coffee.”
Kyle Cox, student ministry pastor, said coffee shop profits go into a scholarship fund that allows more members to participate in experiences like the week-long FUGE Summer Camp for youth at Liberty University.
“We will definitely leverage those funds to help reduce the cost for multiple students to attend FUGE this summer,” he said. “Our students love serving the church in many different ways, and the coffee shop may be one of the most fun. The warm, friendly faces they have when they serve coffee on Sunday mornings is contagious.
“Jesus told us to be ready to serve others, but He went the extra step of showing us how far we must go to serve one another when He knelt to wash his disciples’ feet,” Cox said.
“Brewing coffee or making smoothies or a cup in a Keurig for someone may not be as humbling of a task as foot washing, but serving in Awake develops the habit of seeking to meet others’ needs. That is the heart behind missions and the heart of the Christ-follower.”
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