Billy Hogarth loves to serve people, whether it’s by a perfectly made flat white presented with a friendly smile or it’s pastoring youth and adults at his local church.
For the 23-year-old barista, there’s no disconnect between running a busy café called Larry & Ladd in downtown Adelaide, and on the weekend serving with his wife Chloe Nietschke at Journey Uniting Church, on its two campuses in northeast Adelaide and in the city.
Having worked in coffee shops since the age of 13, Billy said it was just how he paid the bills while he was growing up. “Then as I developed my faith more and more and came to know Jesus more, actually the principle and practice of serving people became something I really fell in love with,” he says.
“I was working for the previous owner for a number of years. And when he let me know that he was thinking about moving on and selling the shop, I just let him know that we’d be interested and here we are.”
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For Billy, the greatest honour in running a business is “getting to employ staff and contributing towards seeing my staff grow. I love what the shop brings and I love that our customers love it.”
Larry & Ladd’s staff are a mixture of members of Journey Church and people from the community who just applied for work. His business partner, Carlos Astudillo, who makes the food options off-site, is also a Christian.
“For us the spiritual principle of serving people and making people feel heard is important to us, but I think on another level workplaces are hard to be in sometimes. And I know that home can be hard to be in sometimes for a lot of different people. And I mean, people might only spend five minutes to half an hour in my shop, but my hope is that through our service and through our products, they might have a great time,” says Billy.
“Whether or not they know Jesus, I hope that we can just reflect him well to our staff, through our staff, to our customers.”
While he and his Christian staff are open about what they do on the weekend, they don’t preach to their customers. “If people are curious, we’ll answer questions, but then not, we give them a really good coffee,” he says.
Growing up with parents who have been senior ministers in Journey Church for nearly 20 years, Billy went through a period of doubt and anger in his teenage years. “Along the way, I had this transforming moment when I was 18. A pastor I knew spoke to me briefly, and just started encouraging me, and made me feel heard,” he says.
“I don’t for a second think that my church didn’t do that or my parents didn’t do that, but I was in a season where I wasn’t listening to truth, but for whatever reason, this woke me up and set me on the right trajectory again. And I think it was God’s great intervention into my call to ministry.
“Ever since then, I decided that I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything different – trying to help people know who Jesus is and help develop a relationship between them and him.”
So after doing an internship with Journey church, he became a youth leader and youth coordinator and then became a youth pastor.
For Billy, who attended a Christian school, it’s important to give people the chance to get to understand that Jesus wasn’t just a historical figure but that he’s here in the modern day.
“My parents worked hard to put me through a great private school, but unfortunately, like many schools of faith, the study of the Bible was more about studying history than it was about studying life,” he says.
“So I always found that different from going home and hearing about the real things that Jesus is doing in our church right now. So my great hope is that Christian-based schools would actually give opportunity for young people to know who Jesus is in a real personal way. That’s my hope and my prayer that there’ll be a way for that.”