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Coffee, Coaching, Church, and Community

A new church plant in Kansas City will focus on sharing the love of Jesus through coffee and community partnerships to benefit kids aging out of foster care.
When Kansas City’s newest AG church launches next Easter, it will be neighborhood congregation, coffee shop, and apprenticeship training program rolled into one.

Neighbors Church will worship in a city-owned community center across the street from the 1,200-square-foot coffee shop it is currently renovating. The new congregation’s pastors belong to the Marlborough Community Coalition. The grassroots organization seeks to revitalize the area, located on the south side of Missouri’s largest city.

“Marlborough is a forgotten part of Kansas City,” says Co-Pastor Justin M. Roberts, 31, currently on staff at the sponsoring Midtown Church in the downtown area. “We’ll be doing things for the community and have menu items that might not work in other coffee shops, like carrying lemonade and snack packs, and be affordable.

“The average latte in Kansas City ranges from $6.50 to $7 and we’ve been able to bring it down to $5. A plain cup of coffee is $3 to $3.50 and we’ll price it a dollar lower. A lot of coffee shops are excited about what we’re doing and have been very supportive.”

Amanda M. Berger, 28, associate pastor of Midtown Church, says Justin and his wife and co-pastor, Samantha, approached church leaders a year ago to discuss their calling to start a church in a needy area and, at the same time, help foster children.

The Robertses are parents to two daughters and a seven-year-old son who came to their home as a foster child.

“They’re passionate about coffee,” Berger says. “There are few small businesses in Marlborough. They want to help the coalition and bring safe spaces and viability to the neighborhood. We are the parent-affiliated church and will share a common vision—to reveal God’s kingdom in Kansas City.”

Neighbors Church is already hosting home groups known as “micro churches.” Three groups of eight to 16 participants meet weekly to review prayer requests, a Scripture reading, and share in discussion of the passage.

Neighbors is helping re-establish a spiritual presence in the area.

In recent years, nearby churches of various denominations churches have all closed. Coalition members also see a need for youth activities and small businesses, meaning the church checks the box for all three priorities.

With seating for 50 and another 50 on a front patio during warm weather, Neighbors Coffee will be overseen by Samantha Roberts, with Jordan and Sam Weaver acting as co-shop managers and mentors.

Mentoring employees will be an integral part of the shop; Justin plans to have two apprentices initially and quickly add to those numbers. The apprentices will be 18-year-olds aging out of the foster care system, a precarious time for young adults who lack a supportive family and further government assistance.

A native of Yuba City, California, Roberts gained an appreciation for the struggles foster kids face through his best friend in Bible college, who bounced around until he was adopted by a Christian couple at age nine. Andrew told Justin how rough he had it in foster care and how many families weren’t good to him prior to his adoption.

“It changed the trajectory of his life,” Roberts says of his friend ultimately being raised by Christian parents. “It affected me to see what a good foster care family can do for a person and a good Christian home, too. Foster parenting became a passion of mine in college and when I met Sam, she wanted to do it as well.”

In addition to steady employment, the apprentice program will include instruction in coffee roasting, customer service, store maintenance, and offer services like resume writing, public speaking practice, and help applying for scholarships.

Neighbors Church also plans to maintain a supply of shoes, clothing, supplies, and gift cards for foster parents or others handling emergency child placements.

Roberts says they are aware of the plight of foster families since a couple years ago their son showed up at their home with only the clothes on his back.

An integral element of the new congregation will be a focus on loving neighbors and sharing the gospel with them.

“We’re going to teach techniques on loving our neighbors well, like getting along with a difficult person,” says Justin, a graduate of Evangel University. “We will teach people to use every-day gospel opportunities. Trust is gained by having simple conversations.”

This kind of ambitious program takes money. Initial support is coming from Midtown and the Church Multiplication Network.

Neighbors is also doing fund raising. By mid-October, it had collected $55,000 and hopes to net another $40,000 by the end of 2023.

As part of that effort, in April it began offering a line of coffee mugs, T-shirts and other merchandise, which helped raise $6,000 in six months.

Justin and Samantha’s hopes are expressed in Neighbors’ vision statement: to nurture a holistic environment to all by revealing the kingdom of Jesus together in their community.

“We hope to see a community emerge that is successful, helps the foster community, and also helps the neighborhood,” Justin says.

Kenneth C. Walker

Kenneth C. Walker is a freelance writer, co-author, and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has more than 4,500 article bylines and has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books.