Churches walk tightrope to make money work

By Gary Mitchell

The Coffee House, a new Christian coffeehouse in Portales that features a wide range of coffees, teas, iced drinks and pastries, has been picking up business.
“It’s been going great,” said Pastor David Markham of Victory Life Church, which sponsors the coffeehouse. “We’re having a steady walk-in business in the mornings and evenings. Since our grand opening, it’s been steadily on the increase. We’ve added bagels and hot baguette sandwiches.”
The Coffee House officially opened for business on April 3 at 605 W. 18th St. in the IGA Center next to Beall’s and just up the street from the church’s main sanctuary and facility at 801 W. 18th St.
The facility has become a gathering place for church members and their friends, as well as other community residents, college students and coffee and tea lovers of all ages.
“It’s gone beyond our expectations,” he said. “It’s a fun, relaxing atmosphere. And there are very few places where people can go late in the evening around here, so it’s nice to have this open now.”
Markham said that while The Coffee House maintains a Christian theme and atmosphere, it’s open to everyone.
“Everyone is welcome,” he said. “It’s a clean environment that’s smoke-free and alcohol-free. The entertainment we have will be Christian-oriented. But we don’t shove it down people’s throats. We want to be a light to the community.”
The members of Victory Life Church contributed the necessary funding to start The Coffee House as a community outreach and place for fellowship and ministry.
“We have a charge with a small profit built in,” Markham said.
All proceeds from the non-profit business go into maintaining The Coffee House and supporting the church’s youth outreach, he said.
Plans are under way to turn the back of the facility, which contains another 3,000 square feet, into a Christian youth center that will have basketball, games, music and entertainment for teens.
“The Coffee House is basically paying for the utilities and rent so we can have a facility for this kind of outreach,” he said.
The Coffee House is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Christian-based businesses have been expanding in the Clovis-Portales area, including the development of the “Master’s Center,” a business complex being designed from the former Furr’s grocery store at 21st and Prince streets in Clovis.
Local business leaders Sid Strebeck and David Petty, along with agribusiness leaders Kent and Stan Ware, purchased the building in January to develop the complex.
“We have it about half leased,” Strebeck said. “We’re still looking for other tenants. People like the location and the concept. Christianity by its nature is conducive to good business because of the Golden Rule. If you treat people the way you want to be treated, it makes for good business.”
Michael Covington, general manager of The Master’s — A Parable Christian Store, sees the store’s upcoming move into the new complex as an enhancement of its mission.
The Christian bookstore and a travel agency, National Travel Systems, will be among businesses relocating to the 55,000 square-foot building.
“It dovetails with our mission statement — to provide Christ-centered product in a Christ-honoring atmosphere with Christ-like service,” Covington said. “It’ll be a fun place for anyone to come here. It’s a neat outreach tool. We’re excited about it.”
Some critics of Christian or faith-based businesses say those retailers — and even ministers or churches — are in business to make money by appealing to people’s religious or spiritual instincts.
“Every good Christian bookseller has asked this question — Is what I’m doing tantamount to being a moneychanger in the Temple (that drew the wrath of Christ)?” Covington said. “It costs money to make the products, and our margins here are tremendously slim. Our heart is ministry.
“When people say, ‘You’re playing on spirituality to make money,’ that’s judging, and only God can judge,” he said. “We’re here to equip the body of Christ for the work of ministry. Our motive is ministry, but our method is retail. Our goal is not the bottom line, but we have to watch the bottom line — or there won’t be any ministry.”