The “Solid Rock Café” coffee house ministry at Trinity UMC in Rahway is providing an alternative way to bridge the gap between the church and the community through creative, inclusive outreach. Photo provided

Coffee Shop Ministry Connects Church with Community

August 1, 2017 | | GNJ News

RAHWAY – In the late 1980s, Roy Vilallva noticed that his community in the Philippines was becoming disenchanted with the traditional church service structure.  He decided it was time for a change.

Vilallva, a musician and minister, turned to his fellow musician friends for help. Many of them were Christians but played at nightclubs to make a living. He asked them to volunteer some of their time to form a band. He then approached the owner of a local Chinese restaurant and asked that the band be allowed to play during dinner. And with that, a coffee shop ministry was born. The band performed Christian praise songs while the diners ate, bringing them closer to God and providing a form of worship for those who needed it.

When Vilallva moved to the U.S. in 1993, he noticed the same lack of interest in traditional worship — especially among the youth and teenagers in the community.  After working with music ministries in several churches, Vilallva took over the music ministry at Trinity UMC in Rahway. On January 4, 2008, he opened the doors to Solid Rock Café, a coffee shop ministry modeled after the one in the Philippines. The object was to offer an alternative to traditional worship services and bring people closer to Christ through music.

The café runs every last Friday night of each month from 7 to 10 and is open to everyone. Held in the Fellowship Hall of Trinity UMC, the program starts with Vilallva’s band playing popular praise songs for the crowd. The band is made up of talented youth from the church and they will also often invite bands from other churches to visit and play. After enjoying the music, participants play games, sing together, and perform at the open mic. There is a short meditation and the night ends with more singing. Food and drinks are provided by the church and there is an overall feeling of hominess and comfort. The atmosphere is perfect for nurturing a love of Christ and introducing fellowship.

Christian Jamadre has been attending coffee shop services for five years. For him, the best part is catching up with everyone.

“On Sundays we can get wrapped up with all the program planning and Sunday activities,” he said. “Coffee shop is more designed to encourage sharing between participants.”

Many are inspired to share their experiences of enlightenment with their fellow worshipers. Vilallva believes that this is an essential part of service. Healing through music and sharing stories has become increasingly popular. For him, the most gratifying thing is when an attendee accepts Jesus Christ into their life. Coffee shop services have grown and there are typically 20-30 participants, with people bringing new friends along each time. Jamandre tries to bring along friends, saying, “For those who are apprehensive about attending a Sunday service, it is a more relaxed, less traditional experience. For those looking for something in addition [to Sunday service] it provides another platform to be with fellow believers and share about their lives and experiences.”

The next Solid Rock Café coffee shop ministry is set to be held on Friday, August 25, and all are welcome to attend for worship, fellowship, networking, or to seek out inspiration to explore modeling this type of outreach ministry.