The Roast Provides Alternative to Bar Scene in Tennessee College Town
By: Judy Hamilton
What exactly is a social ministry? In a nutshell, it’s a ministry that follows the teachings of Jesus, whose own mission was social outreach and service to others. Jesus demonstrated such service and instructed others to do the same.
The Salvation Army corps in Lebanon, Tennessee, did not have a community center. There was no place available to do ministry, so it decided to create one. “Our Lebanon Corps team is four to five years old. We wanted to create an alternative, something to do besides hang out at McDonald’s, Wal-Mart or a bar in Wilson County,” said Sergeant Tom Freeman, the corps administrator along with his wife, Sergeant Raechel Freeman.
“We didn’t need another chapel or building. We needed an alternative to drinking alcohol and an alternative to the bar scene. We are located near Cumberland University, and the bars really target that age.”
So, in April 2013, The Roast opened. It’s a nonprofit coffee house that offers live music and other social activities.
“We are a ‘pay what you can’ coffee house. We have a suggested price. One person will give you more, another will pay less, but it works out,” Sergeant Tom said. “We’re volunteer- and soldier-led. No one is paid. We’re open Friday and Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight. We have a huge variety of people come in – from high schoolers to college students to families. We get folks who are regulars, and they come after work. We’ve seen many friendships form, which has been awesome. We’re loving it.”
In addition to having coffee, espresso, smoothies and Italian sodas, The Roast offers unique ways to entertain and minister.
“We have a ‘Cup for the Wall,’ where people can write some encouragement or a blessing or a mini-prayer, and when someone isn’t able to pay, they can get the cup of coffee and the message. We’ve had live music, karaoke and open mic; often, they’ll bring a buddy with a guitar.”
Watching the popularity of The Roast increase has been rewarding for the Freemans. When asked about the impact of The Roast on the community, Sergeant Tom conferred with his wife and said: “The Roast is The Salvation Army’s community outreach that helps bind together generations, whole families. When The Roast’s not open, it’s outreach time. We have prayer groups and a young adult worship group from several different churches.”
“Whenever other groups come in, they say this was the best meeting ever. There’s so much prayer going on in the building. It’s a binding agent for churches to come together and to work together. We are a safe space to make meaningful connections and friendships while keeping open to the Holy Spirit.”