Royal-Tea for Community

“How can we invite an unchurched community to partner with the church for global impact?”

This is the question I have long wrestled with, and to be truthful; we are only beginning to find a few pieces to the puzzle. Royal-Tea, our tea and coffee shop in LeClaire, IA, is how we are attempting to satisfy the question. Royal-Tea is 100% Volunteer run, and we funnel profits into Compassion International for children in Africa as well as a few other global projects through Gospel For Asia, and Options in George, South Africa. At a local and regional level we respond to requests for help at various fundraisers and events.

One of the major challenges with starting any business is ‘profit share.’ We didn’t want to negatively impact any of the businesses around us, so we began renovating our century old downtown property without a clear idea of what it would become. As we worked on the renovations, we pictured ourselves rebuilding homes in third-world nations. It was almost like a mission trip to us during the renovation season. Our prayer was that we would be like ‘the sons of Issachar’ understanding the times and knowing what to do.

TEA!!! Our metro area is home to nearly 450,000 people, and there was no brick and mortar tea specialty to be found. That was our window.

Just after we opened, Teavana–our largest competitor, closed its storefronts opening the market even more to us. God knew what He was doing with the timing. As we closed the second half of renovations, we studied tea like crazy and found good sources of fair trade and organic teas. On November 11, 2017 we opened as a loose leaf tea store, retail only. By May 2018 we were a full blown coffee/tea spot. (Coffee came later after the local cafe closed its doors.) Today we have 85 teas and lots of coffee choices. We even made it into a popular travel-blogs list of 10 best coffee shops in the midwest. Click Here to see the list

June of 2018 we invited a business partner into our space – Ulmie’s Nest. Rather than paying ‘rent’ the donate a portion of their gross sales to our mission and volunteer with Royal-Tea. The mission is contagious and the community is quickly getting onboard.
What we didn’t ask for, but got:
  • We didn’t ask Royal-Tea to be another ‘self-serving’ non-profit; as in something mainly used for Church subsidies. Riverside Church finances the full renovation, and the first years utilities as a missions deposit. Now Royal-Tea is in profit after it’s first year (an uncommon thing for most businesses) and helping with building fund projects and utilities at Royal-Tea.
  • We didn’t ask to be acknowledged by local media, but have been in newspapers, radio stations and even invited monthly onto a local TV show as the entire metro area has gotten excited to partner and support our mission.
  • We didn’t ask for additional funding from other community members, but have found favor several times with checks in the mail from city events-committees and christian community members as far away as Washington, and ‘passer-byes’ in travel campers.
  • We didn’t ask for another church coffee shop: but we got that too, totally by accident.

Royal-Tea has quickly become part of our community’s DNA, not just at Riverside, but in our city. Half of our volunteers do not attend our fellowship of faith, they just believe in the mission and want to be part of something that matters to them.

We have taken a couple key points from our experience with Royal-Tea: Pray and move, don’t wait for every solution and fund to be in place; if God asks you to do something, do it. Or rather, in the words of our movements founder, “Dig the hole and God will fill it.” The second key point is that when we do something like starting a business without the intention of feeding the local church, but with a global mission instead: God feeds the local church. We have never seen anything like what God is doing in our fellowship of faith!

If there are any of you looking to join us in our mission, or looking to start a similar mission, we would love to make ourselves available to you. Please contact Pastor Anthony Flanigan if you’re inspired to do something similar at 715-302-8457 or anthonylivingwell@gmail.com
And feel free to visit royaltea.org to order some tea for yourself!
Written by Pastor Anthony Flanigan, Senior Pastor of Riverside Church, LeClaire, IA, and Chad Garrison, HD Foursquare

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