A few months ago I was thinking what can we do the night before Halloween that is different for students. My first thought was a Costume Coffee House. It is has been about 4 years since I did a coffee house for students. Whenever I started talking about the idea of doing one for this youth group, the first question was “what is a coffee house” or better translated “are all we going to do is sit around a drink coffee? Teenagers don’t even like coffee! That sounds so boring”.
I’ve done 4 or 5 coffee house for students and another one for youth leaders. All of them have been at least somewhat successful. Here are a few steps:
– Find an affordable coffee caterer– It is true that most teenagers do not drink grandpa’s unleaded Folger’s instant coffee. They do like mochas, hot chocolate, ciders, chai teas, caramel lattes, etc. Most caterers are going to have a minimum that they require. Make sure that minimum is very realistic and that if you missed it by a few kids it wouldn’t be the end of the world for your budget. Most coffee caterers that I have worked with have a price that is near $5 per person for unlimited drinks.
– Set a reasonable price – Depending on your goals, youth group, and budget you could charge $5 and break even on this event. I felt like that might be too much for the first time out so we did $2 per student.
– Create a cool environment – Probably the best thing we did was theme it around the 1980’s because it was the night before Halloween. We had prizes for best costume and for best 80’s dress. As you can see I dressed up as Pac-Man, my daughter was a strawberry from the Pac-Man game, and Jennifer was Blinky the ghost from Pac-Man. To motivate students to dress up we allowed them to attend for FREE if they wore something 80’s. I’d say a little over 50% of the students dressed up for the event. We put out round tables with bright colored table cloths and a pumpkin centerpiece. I’ve put out round tables with crayons and a table cloth students can draw on before. I’ve hung up some old Christmas lights to change the lighting. Use lamps and candles on your tables and stage. There is a lot of super creative things you can do to make your room look different.
– Worship – I’ve almost always done this as part of our student worship service because it allows us to change things up for a week. Change is a good thing. Typically we do a more acoustic set or a talent show for this event. I always do a message geared towards lost or fringe students.
– Promotion – One of the most important thing was getting students on board with this idea early. I had a meeting with our student leadership team to see their thoughts about the coffee house and what creative ideas they had for it. By the end of the meeting, they had gone from not sure to totally on board. Lots of excitement just from them being a part of this decision.
– Goals and Evaluation – I had 2 goals with this event. One is giving students time to build relationships. The older I get the more important I see these events as opportunities for our students to slow down and build biblical community. I think we meet this goal. The other goal was outreach and unfortunately we just did not have many visitors. Many of our students asked friends to come, but I think for a few reasons they could not make it.
I thought it was a great event for students. We didn’t hit all of our goals, but overall it was a big hit. Here are a few pics from the night: