TREND Houses of worship opening franchise restaurants and other businesses on church grounds
HOW IT STARTED Pastors were looking for ways of reaching out to congregants and luring in new ones
JUDGMENT CALL A burger and benediction--supersize it
In the steel-mill town of Munster, Ind., members of the Family Christian Center don't have to go very far to order a tall vanilla latte or a grande cafe mocha. The church has opened a Starbucks right in its lobby. The coffee bar, above, part of the church's Heavenly Grounds Cafe & Bookstore, doesn't sell much coffee--about 200 cups a week--but that's not the point. "It tears down walls and the perception that church is stuffy and cold," says Melodye Munsey, co-pastor (with her husband Steve) of the 6,000-member nondenominational church. "People can come in, relax and be with their friends in a wholesome and positive atmosphere."
Family Christian is just one of several churches around the country that are starting businesses in an effort to make houses of worship more inviting. In Wells, Maine, the Messiah Christian Church has opened a fitness center, with memberships selling for $300 a year. And Houston's Brentwood Baptist Church will open a McDonald's in July, part of a new lifelong-learning center located next to the church. The burger joint, complete with a drive-through window, will be jointly owned by the church and one of its members. It will be managed by the church. "It's a holistic approach to reaching people," says the Rev. Joe Samuel Ratliff, pastor of the 10,000-member Baptist congregation. "We're trying to help people not only spiritually but physically, emotionally and economically." Fries with that?
--By Michelle McCalope