What you need to know to run an International Café
If you are thinking of running an international café, there are so many things to consider. So, to help you cut through the overwhelm, we’ve created the international café checklist. Here are 10 key points to think about, designed to help you plan and prepare for success. Here goes…
1. Identify and share the vision. This ensures all volunteers are on the same page.
Which of these may objectives apply to your café?
- help with integration into our church family
- show a Christian welcome to internationals
- help with English in an informal setting
- deepen relationships which can be continued outside of class
- show Jesus and share faith at the right time and invite to church events
2. Decide on café days and times when you can easily attract volunteers
Before or after a church service may be a good idea. If volunteer numbers are low to start, consider running the café once or twice a month to start, rather than each week. Keeping to term times can also be welcome to give some structure and allow time off for volunteers to re-charge.
3. Identify volunteers
Be clear what kind of roles you need filling. These often include:
- welcoming: a friendly greeting
- serving refreshments: kitchen
- leading: running the session and up-front presentations
- getting alongside: to develop conversation and relationships
- setting up and cleaning up
4. Outline a Suggested structure of typical café
This really helps the café as everyone will know what is happening, no matter who is leading. Here is one suggested outline:
10-15 mins: welcome/refreshment (maybe something to do on walls as they arrive)
5-10 mins: leader does upfront lead-in to theme (see ideas for café themes)
45 mins: Internationals at tables with volunteers for continuation of theme discussion etc.
5 mins: round-up. Short goodbye, trail what’s next and invite to church service
5. Who is the café for? This may sound obvious, but…
- Is it for all internationals or a target group?
- Is it for male, females or mixed?
- Are you going to make it “family friendly” or for adults only? Might you need to consider creche and DBS/safeguarding issues?
6. Differentiation for levels
It could be you have different tables for lower, medium and higher level of English and students can join whichever they want. You may be strategic and ask volunteers with a TEFL or who are used to speaking to internationals to work with lower-level tables.
Will your café be free or will you charge a nominal amount, or ask for donations for tea and coffees? If a leader incurs costs – what is reasonable? Can they claim this back?
Can you get posters into libraries, inform other churches and get a space on the church website? You may also contact the local council. Be clear on how internationals can access the café, so include the full address and postcode, contact name and email address and whether they can just show up or not. Covid: masks or no masks? Hand-sanitiser. Will you ask them to do an LFT test before coming?
It may help to explain your Covid policy (briefly) on all publicity.
9. How will you keep in touch with people?
We asked our internationals to sign up to be in a WhatsApp group, which means that we can keep in touch with them. We have a separate email group for volunteers, but consider your communication tool. What’s going to work best for your volunteers and helpers? Be careful with other peoples’ contact information. Ask your church if you are unsure about what data you can collect and store.
10. Generate ideas for themes
You may need to brainstorm with your team, get ideas from the web or you could be led by the expertise of your volunteers. In time, could members of the international community prepare and explain aspects of their culture, food or celebrations to the rest of the café?
We hope you find the above helpful as you prayerfully consider an international café checklist for your church and how best to reach internationals.
Watch out for popular international café themes, coming soon!