Conversation Café

Rainbow’s End Conversation Café?

The idea of a café associated with the op shop has been mooted in the past. Given the traffic through the op shop, the idea has merit. Although no one has taken up the idea, it leads me to take the idea a step further and suggest that a ‘conversation’ cafe might be a valuable outreach tool.

The conversation café movement is international in scope, and you can read all about it at If we were to apply the idea to Leopold Uniting Church, imagine the following:

The meeting room is set with tables of four, each table with a small flag on a tiny pole that can be raised and lowered.  The tables are covered with butcher’s paper (newsprint) and each one has a jar of coloured textas. On the white board, in large letters, is printed the theme for the day. The theme changes daily, but today the topic is, “Is Leopold being well served by its political representatives?”

In smaller print on the white board and also on the menus on the table are printed the conversation cafe method of operation.

  • Patrons who sit together decide whether or not to welcome others to their table.  If they are open to others, they ignore the little flag on their table, which will be in a lowered position. If they are want to keep their conversation private, they raise the flag so that others will know not to intrude.
  • Patrons are encouraged, but not required, to discuss the day’s theme.
  • Patron’s are encouraged to use the textas to write comments from their discussion on their ‘tablecloth’ (the butcher’s paper).
  • Patrons are advised that their comments will be summarised and may be printed in the church newsletter, the church website and/or the local Leopold newspaper.

The idea behind a conversation cafe, apart from providing a meeting place for the community, is to stimulate ‘authentic’ conversation and associate the church with the discussion of important issues in people’s lives and the life of the community.  Furthermore, it would be source of information that could be published in local media, thus creating additional interest in the café.

If this idea is to be taken up, it would require investment, especially in the hire of a proper espresso machine, and in order to make it work, it would need someone who has always wanted to run a café to be in charge.  There are health regulations to be met, baristas to be trained, supplies to be sourced, etc, so the ministry required here is quite specialised. In addition to staff to prepare and serve, people will be needed to collate the information that is written on the ‘tablecloths,’ and someone will have to be charged with the job of summarising and publishing it.

A conversation café is no small operation, but then neither is an op shop. We have been blessed with the ministry of Liz Smith, and as a result, we have a successful op shop.  Perhaps God will send a Café manager, too.