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A pleasing Aroma

Shannon Martens, head barista at Aroma Coffeehouse, makes a latte. The mission statement of Aroma Coffeehouse is to "be a place of warmth and inspiration that serves excellent coffee, invites kind connections and motivates people to love and serve our community." The coffeeshop is a ministry of Ridgepoint Church, Wichita, Kansas.

Brent Warkentin calls it a “wonderful, crazy idea.” After all, how often does a Bible study lead to opening a coffeehouse? But that’s what happened at Ridgepoint Church in Wichita, Kansas, when a group of women began dreaming.

Warkentin, lead pastor at Ridgepoint, likened it to past church risks, including launching a building campaign in 2020 at the start of the pandemic and a worship center expansion project in 2008 during the housing crisis.

“Sometimes I’ve equated it to when Moses led (the Israelites) across the Red Sea,” he says. “He stood on dry ground and held out his staff, and it parted and he walked through. Forty years later, Joshua led them into the promised land, and they had to step into the water before it parted. There was an elevated element of faith.”

Before running with the coffeehouse idea, Warkentin talked to part-time business manager Geoff Graves.

“Geoff, who is a ‘Yes’ guy, said, ‘Brent, let’s just give them six months and see if this thing fizzles out,” Warkentin says. “It wasn’t out of skepticism. Most new ideas fizzle out.”

“It was to prove our tenacity,” says Joan, Warkentin’s wife and a member of the study.

The existence of Aroma Coffeehouse, a ministry of Ridgepoint that seeks to be an inviting space for the community, is a testament to pursuing big dreams.

“We’re proud of this group,” Brent Warkentin says. “The Lord rewards risk.”

The women behind the dream and members of Aroma’s Board of Directors are (from left): Debbie Grimes, Debbie Allison, Lori Herrington, Joan Warkentin, Bonnie Schroeder, Carol Sweat and Tammy Ratzlaff. Photo: Ridgepoint Church.

Chasing a dream

The dreaming began when women gathered to study Mark Batterson’s In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day in Summer 2020.

“The book is about chasing your dreams,” says study member Bonnie Schroeder. “I said, ‘I know some of you girls have dreams.’”

As the women talked, they recognized dreams that could overlap in a coffeehouse. Mary Ellen Soden wanted to open a coffeehouse. Schroeder, a former preschool director, wanted to start a children’s storytime. Lori Herrington, a later addition who chairs the Aroma board, needed a meeting space for the young adult group she leads with her husband.

Each woman brought different skills to the table.

“I have so learned to appreciate every different personality, every different gift because you can so see why God put us together,” Joan Warkentin says.

The women took their idea to Graves, who tabled the discussion.

“I wanted to see if they really were going to come back in six months, to see if they still had the same fire in their belly and passion about it,” Graves says. “And they did.”

The women used those months to visit coffee shops and take notes.

“There were three of us in (Geoff’s) office in the fall of ‘20, and when we came back in ‘21, there were probably 15 ladies sitting there,” Schroeder says.

With Graves’ help, the women developed a business plan and began fundraising.

The project received $35,000 from Ridgepoint’s annual “Big Offering,” when the church gives 100 percent of one Sunday offering to ministries outside its budget.

Members of the congregation provided expertise. Someone in real estate development offered the first six months’ rent free—and a reasonable rate after that—for a former hair salon. The women’s husbands helped with demolition. A contractor donated time and materials. A painter donated services.

The women transformed the space resourcefully, utilizing lobby furniture from Chick-Fil-A, doors for tabletops and comfortable chairs free from the curb. The biggest purchase was equipment, including an espresso machine from Italy, and study member Carol Sweat found a local company to help purchase, set up and maintain it.

The name, “Aroma” comes from a coffee tasting, and one wall features the verse, 2 Corinthians 2:15: “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ.” Photo: Janae Rempel.

A “backdoor entrance”

Aroma opened June 13, 2022, featuring an open seating area, “introvert nook” and enclosed meeting room available to reserve during the day or rent after hours for events.

Aroma is a nonprofit LLC, and Ridgepoint is the single member. The name comes from a coffee tasting, and one wall features 2 Corinthians 2:15. With beans from a local artisan roaster, Aroma offers coffee and non-coffee drinks, baked goods and other food items.

As a nod to Ridgepoint’s Mennonite heritage, Aroma serves a peppernut with each drink. A description of these “tiny, big-flavored cookies” hangs on a wall alongside a photo collage of former church buildings.

Aroma sells merchandise benefitting Beauty for Ashes, which serves women rescued from traffiking in Nepal, and Naomi House, a Multiply small business center serving refugee women in Thailand.

Weekly events include live music on Friday nights, a young adult on Tuesday and a Thursday storytime, including a Bible story, hosted by Schroeder with two helpers to assist with crafts and snacks.

Graves works with the women weekly on financials and consulting.

“I always try to keep my ear to the ground to listen to what the customers and people are telling me,” Graves says. “I ask for the truth, and everyone seems to really enjoy it.”

Brent Warkentin calls Aroma a “backdoor entrance” to Ridgepoint.

“We want it to be comfortable, not overkill, with the Christian witness,” he says. “We’ll probably not know most of the fruit that comes out of this, and we’re okay with that.

The mission statement (is), ‘To be a space of warmth and inspiration that serves excellent coffee, invites kind connections and motivates people to love and serve our community.’”

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