There have been so many of you, leaders, pastors, and lay-people alike, who have contacted me about starting a Credo House in your area. Columbus, Anchorage, Peoria, Norman, Huston, India, Orlando, Athens (GA), Austin, Scottsdale, Stillwater, South Oklahoma City, Ft. Worth, San Diego, and just about every other city you can think of are among the crowd of anxious Credo House hopefuls who are asking me to bring Credo there. This has only intensified since Christianity Today did an article about us.
(Don’t know what a Credo House is? Click here.)
First, let me tell you what an overwhelming joy it is to see the response that the Credo House concept is getting. We wish nothing more than to see this concept bring glory to the Lord all over the world. Part of my original hope and dream, some of you may remember, was to have a Credo House serving people and local churches in every major city in America. Now that Credo House, Edmond, OK has been such an overwhelming success, we have been considering the next step.
However, I can hardly keep up with all of the requests. In fact, if I were to fully engage in all the buzz and excitement about Credo House, it would be a full-time job. But I still have classes to teach, curriculum to develop, lattes to make, and sermons to preach. So forgive me as I have created this post as a general overview about starting a Credo House in your area.
Here are five criteria along with five questions to ask for those of you who want to bring a Credo House to your city:
Many of you get it. But you don’t get all of it. But don’t feel bad, neither do we. Well, let me rephrase. Our DNA is an incredibly exciting and maturing adventure that we observe developing every day. What Credo House Ministries is all about is what Credo House Coffee Shops are all about. Credo House Coffee Shops are an extremely timely and creative manifestation and implementation of our vision to see people believe more accurately and more deeply in Christ today than they did yesterday. We try to be irenic without being pluralistic. We seek to engage but not be combative. We hope God uses us to educate the church but only seek to aid the local church in their education. We pray that we are divisive yet bring unity. And (don’t miss this) we truly do seek to have the best coffee and service of any coffee shop in the city, though we are much more than a coffee shop. The coffee house is not an afterthought, but rather a bridge allowing us to connect with our generation. This is our DNA.
Our vision and the way the ministry is done is so unique that it will be very hard to successfully plant a Credo House without having the future “Fellow” of said Credo House live with us for a while. He has to be infected with this passion. Transferral of this vision does not happen over the phone or via text. It has to be seen and lived to be truly understood.
Question #1: Do you really catch the vision?
Criteria #2: Local church support.
This does not mean that you have one church in your area that wants to have a Credo House. In fact, if there were just one church wanting to sponsor it, it might cause some concern (no matter how big the church or how many friends I have there!) . Credo House Ministries is a broadly Evangelical ministry. We have done much over the years to keep ourselves from being associated with any particular Evangelical tradition. We are not Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Dispensational, emerging, Reformed, charismatic, or cessationist. We serve all of these traditions and seek to reach out even to those who are outside Evangelicalism, focusing on the central issues that have united Christianity for two thousand years. Therefore, we have kept specific associations at arms’ length.
The more support from the leadership of local churches, the better. This can come in the form of a petition to get a Credo House signed by local pastors who commit themselves to making the Credo House known to their members and taking part in the events that it sponsors.
Question #2: Do you have the support of local churches in your area?
Criteria #3: Initial financial backing
The nature of the Credo House is definitely a coffee shop. That has been said. But it much more. It is an events center as well. We host events every week where there is not even standing room. When that happens, the coffee shop end of what we do gets put on the back burner. Turn off the espresso machines, stop blending frappuccinos, and definitely don’t steam any more milk. We have to talk and as powerful as truth is, it simply cannot be heard over all the coffee machinery. But we don’t want this. Simply put, here at Credo House Edmond we underestimated how successful the special events, live music, and weekly theology studies would be. On top of these, so many people want to use the space for their own meetings, small groups, outreaches, book signings, and “movie nights” that Credo House does not directly sponsor. All of these fit into the DNA of what we are doing, but don’t fit into the facilities. Right now, we have a 3200 sq ft building. Due to space issues, when an event starts, the coffee stops. We need an even bigger facility. Ideally, per the initial plans we’ve drawn up, Credo House Coffee Houses will be closer to 7000 sq ft (maybe larger). This would provide room for larger events without shutting down the regular coffee business (or the pool tables!).
As well, each Credo House comes fully equipped with a “Fellow” (the pastor/scholar of Credo) and a “Monk” (the manager/head barista/and “co-Fellow”). These are both full-time, salaried positions (not to mention all the part-timers).
All of this is to say that the minimal initial commitment for starting a Credo House will require around $500,000 in backing (and that is without even purchasing a standalone building – it is only leasing). Most of this will go toward the build out which includes A/V equipment, sound partitioning, bookstore stocking, coffee equipment, meeting code regulations, custom paintings, art and decor, office equipment, etc. The remainder would be set aside for the two staff positions for the first two years of ministry. Some places may require more of an initial commitment, but rarely do I see it costing less.
Question #3: Do you have the initial financial donor backing to get this off the ground?
Criteria #4: Initial membership commitment
Credo House Coffee has a membership. No one has to be a member but it has some amazing benefits. For $25 a month one gets 10 free lattes/coffees/bakery items/sodas per month. They also have free access to all of the formal courses sponsored by Credo House (for example, The Theology Program). Along with this one gets an initial package of books, DVDs, and a t-shirt. It is really a no-brainer and we have had great success with it here.
The more people who commit to membership before we plant a new Credo House, the better. We would like to see anywhere from 250-500 initial commitments. This will help guarantee the success and stability of the Credo House beyond the initial financial backing. This initial member commitment will be tightly connected to local church support. In some churches, one announcement from the pastor may be enough to get this commitment. However, in other cases, it will take a lot of leg work. The best way to pull this off is to have a representative of Credo House come to special “Bring the Credo House” meetings with local pastors and congregations.
Question #4: Do you have an initial membership commitment?
Criteria #5: Credo House Fellow
I have so many applications from people who desire to be Credo House Fellows, I don’t really know what to do with them. It is so exciting to see how a taste for our vision can stir the soul. Current pastors, seminary professors, students in seminary, and lay people alike all want to be Credo House Fellows. Why not? It fits a specific pastor-scholar niche that is not really available in most churches.
However, the Credo House Fellow is a very particular type of person. Not only does he fulfill the requirements of #1 (DNA), but he is also theologically trained, gifted in teaching, and passionate about the local church. He is irenic, gracious, self-motivated, and able to lead. He must meet all the requirements of 1 Timothy and Titus and, do not forget, he has to be able to make a perfect latte, passing the live latte artwork test which will be given, at random, seventeen times over a two-month period. He will have a urine test to see if he has been drinking Starbucks (again, random).
Question #5: Is there a Fellow ready for your city?
Now, before you give up on your city, realize three things:
1) God is big! If he wants a Credo House in your area, the above criteria are not even speed bumps. Yes, it will take a lot of leg work and we don’t have the manpower to pull it off for the hundreds of petitions that we have but, Lord willing, you can.
2) While each of these criteria are important, we understand that each of them may not be fulfilled to perfection before we turn our eye toward your city. You may have the initial commitment of $500,000, local church support, an understanding of the vision, but no Fellow in mind and only 50 member commitments. This does not necessarily disqualify your city. However, the more of these that are in place, the more we will feel and see the Lord’s guidance to your area.
3) Your coffee shop does not have to be a Credo House. While Credo House Coffee Shops are very different and share in the blood of Credo House/Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, we certainly don’t have solo dibs on this idea. If you cannot become an official Credo House, we certainly don’t mind being imitated. You may not call it a Credo House, but having a neutral theological coffee shop and events center that is theologically themed is a great idea (at least I think!). I know of many who don’t meet our criteria but are trying out the concept nonetheless. Some have traveled here to get ideas. I share about what we have learned, bless them in the name of the Lord, and look forward to hearing what happens.
We love to see people who desire to join in what we have going on. We will keep our eyes open for potential Fellows and I do actually look at every single resume that I get, but a good resume and an understanding of what we are doing is not enough. Here is the reality that we have at Credo House Ministries: we are not going to expand too quickly. Dallas is the place right now that meets most of these criteria and I have been the one doing most of the legwork. But it is not even a sure thing yet. We still have more than half of the initial commitment to raise and are unsure about who the Dallas Fellow will be (it may be me). But no matter what city we go to next (or even if we never expand), we are grateful for what God is doing here in Edmond, OK. While we want nothing more than to give you a taste of the honey that we have found, we don’t want to get ahead of the Lord. That is why these criteria have been thought out with as much wisdom as we have.