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As part of Mecklenburg Community Church’s guest services ministry, The Grounds Bookstore & Cafe is an integral part of outreach and discipleship—providing a welcoming environment to visitors who may be unfamiliar with church, and offering key discipleship materials to those new to the faith.

Known as “The Meck,” around 80 percent of church attendees were previously unchurched.

Volunteers commit to two slots, or six hours, a month, and store director Alexis Drye guides them to either the coffee bar or the bookstore depending on their personality. “Oftentimes servant-hearted people will say they will serve wherever they’re needed, which is really sweet,” she observes, “but you need them to serve where they’re excited, because that’s what will get them up on Sunday morning at 7 a.m.”

There is orientation and training for both groups. Baristas need to know their stuff because while many visitors may be new to church, “they have been to Starbucks or somewhere like that, and so we need to have competitive pricing and quality.”

Bookstore volunteers are expected to bone up on the carefully selected inventory and be able to recommend two or three books from each section. They can check out books for free if they write a review to help other volunteers, buying it at cost or returning it if it is in good condition.

Promoting Services

Children’s storytime twice a month, often handled by former teachers among the volunteers, brings in newcomers: “Parents are always looking for something for kids to do and to encourage reading,” says Drye. The sessions are matched to what kids are learning about in church that weekend.

Two book clubs use The Grounds monthly, each facilitated by a volunteer; participants can get the relevant book at a discount. In fact, all books are offered at 15 percent off retail. “We want to be competitive in the marketplace,” Drye explains, “but mostly we’re concerned about getting resources into people’s hands and to do so not with such huge profit margins.”

The store remains open during service times, in part because there may be people visiting the campus just for coffee, not for church. “Homeschool parents meet there, and a couple of people use it as their home office,” says Drye. Staff also often uses The Grounds for different meetings.

Read more about The Grounds at cbaonline.org/TheGrounds.

—Andy Butcher