The Annex offers college students free fresh brew

Date Posted: 11/10/2022

By Lindsay Peyton

A&M United Methodist Church is creating a buzz with its coffee shop ministry. At the Annex Coffeehouse, the fresh brew is hot – and free – and the doors are open five days a week. When not acting as a study hall and gathering space for students from the nearby university, the Annex serves as a place for worship, small group meetings and college ministry events.  

“It’s really a front door of the church,” the church’s director of communications Alisha Bynum said. “Sometimes people, especially students, might be scared to go into a church – but not a coffee shop.”

She explained that the space is a former Lutheran church, purchased in the late 1990s. For a while, contemporary worship was held there, but then the services moved into the great hall. Later, the Annex building has been used for storage, and its beautiful stained glass hidden. 

In the meantime, a dedicated coffee shop opened on campus, with help from longtime members Don and Paula House. The vision was to create a welcoming space.

“The goal was that it was not just for church members but more community-based,” Bynum said. “They wanted a place for students to go.”

All faiths and backgrounds were welcomed at the coffee shop, which offered free cups of joe thanks to support from the church. A bookshelf contained Bibles in all languages. Funding from the church ensured that coffee would be offered at no cost.

“It became a really neat and thriving place – right before COVID,” Bynum said.

Then the pandemic forced everything to close down. This actually provided an opportunity to rethink the coffee house, Bynum explained.

A&M UMC realized that when the shop reopened, more room would be needed to allow social distancing. Besides, because of its increased popularity, expanding the coffee shop simply made sense. And the church had the perfect location – the Annex.

“Our leadership was like, ‘Let’s do this!’” Bynum recalled. The Annex was cleaned out, new electricity installed and the WiFi upgraded. Plumbing upgrades were made, and new furniture was purchased. 

The Annex Coffeehouse opened in fall 2021. An intern was hired specifically to manage its operations. 

Earlier that summer, Rev. Bryan Jody joined the church as college minister. He had actually served as an intern in 2010 at A&M UMC, when he was a university student. “I was in charge of the old coffee shop that was part of the church,” he said.

Now, Jody was back – just in time to open the new coffee shop. He worked with a summer intern to put in the countertops, storage, a refrigerator for sodas and shelves for snacks.

Jody keeps the place stocked with board games for game nights. There are also open mics at the Annex and worship. Students gather to study, and small groups go to the coffee shop to meet. The college ministry interns all have keys in case they need a gathering space.

Jody added that since all the coffee, soda and snacks are free of charge – even the homemade pastries church members provide – he is often asked by students if there is a catch.

The pastor explains, “There isn’t one. This is what we think you need, and the church wants to support you.”
This is faith in action, Jody said. “We don’t have to talk about grace. This is what it is. You just show up and get it. You don’t have to do anything."

Jody hopes that other churches consider a similar ministry. “It can be replicated,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be just like it is with us. What space do you have that isn’t being used to its full potential?”

The coffee shop is a place where conversations start, and where guests can come to feel at home. “We’re doing church – just in a different way,” Jody said.