Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee

Guess what I have noticed??? Starbucks is popping up all over the city.

(This post is about an observation and not a plug for a company. Remember that when you comment.)

For some, Starbucks is all about the experience, I like to think it is about the coffee, either way it is still a relaxing place over a good beverage. Starbucks has a huge vision. It started with about 100 stores some 15 years ago to an institution that finds itself in over 37 countries with thousands of stores. The company now opens more than 2,000 coffeehouses per year, an average of six new stores a day. Starbucks goal is to have 40,000 stores worldwide. WOW.

I hang with some people who have a problem with big churches, and big business and what I find is that these same people complain about and try to discredit the ministry of churches and business’ that are approaching huge numbers. Why?

With Starbucks they are trying to sell more coffee, creating more experiences. So is the church thinking too small? Don’t get me wrong, I like small but I also like big…is there a problem with that? Can’t we have both? Can we not continually grow smaller? It has a double ring to it….(not a double/double :) )

Do you know that Starbucks carefully determines where each store is located as a matter of fact every detail is calculated. So, Starbucks is very deliberate in its ‘evangelism’ while the church appears to be passive or scared in our approach to spreading the Gospel. Why? Is it possible that the church is trying to put GOD in a box by limiting how he chooses to reach people? Or is it because we are afraid of taking a hit from others who think that they know the only expression of the church is small? How is the church doing at creating an atmosphere?

Even the concept of a “third place” is becoming a big topic of discussion with some of my friends. The alternative to a church, yet, in some respects, still a church. This ‘third place’ is popular even for Starbucks, but it uses the coffee product as glue that draws people. Starbucks is a community…they even know my name…and they feel free to suggest different drinks for me.
What about the church…why is it that many are so focused on arguing about issues as opposed to being in individual’s lives talking and walking and listening and suggesting a good cup of coffee? GOD uses a variety of different approaches to get people's attention and transform lives. I don't think GOD's done with us yet and, I don't think he's done redeeming people's lives, but are we limiting GOD in what he can do? Is a coffee store doing a better job than the church?

And for those who are not into Starbucks…check out this site….


RosalieG. said...

There are many different sizes of Starbucks too, some several levels high. My guess is the one you go to where they know your name, is the one you regularly go to and probably small enough to be able to "remember" it's clientele. If you went to a different, larger one they most likely wouldn't know your name. In a large church, an individual can come and go and no one ever remember their name. Even the greeters never get beyond just a handshake. What's that all about? Simple assimilation can be instigated. I'm sure that sales clerk was trained to get to know your name. She was trained to take a personal interest in your coffee choices.

Front door people might be the only one that talks to a person when they go to a large church. Can those front door people be trained to say, "I didn't catch your name?" and then try to remember it each week in their hello? Can they be trained to instigate idle chit chat, thereby making a person feel known?

Franchising church's is a very interesting concept, and perhaps you will be the one to do that. (and become know all over N/A for doing so)(I know that wouldn't be your motivation).

What does franchising a church take? There are two different ways of franchising I'm aware of. One is to sell franchises to outside individuals where they abide by certain rules and pay a royalty. The other is Corporately run stores. I'm not sure if all of Starbucks are corporately run or not. When they are corporately run, I believe there is better quality control. I'm sure you've seen some franchises that when you go to one it is clean, modern, etc., then you go to another that looks run down. Chances are the run down one is that way because the franchisee didn't want to spend the money bringing it up to date. Where the other one has access to corporate funding to stay competitive.

What does that translate into for church? Well, Soul Sanctuary is blooming because of it's brand. In it's case, it's brand was determined by it's President or pastor (under God's inspiration and leadership of course). So the key is, how does one franchise, but retain brand consistency?

Perhaps a biographical look at Colonel Harland Sanders would be inspirational. He was a Christian man with dream. Colonel Sander's determination was that his chicken would be cooked to specifications with no deviations from his secret recipe. Although stores sprung up everywhere now numbering 32,500 in more than 100 countries and territories,, the product was always the focus. There is a quality control department at the head offices of KFC to ensure product development and consistency. There are store managers, regional managers and a corporate Operations manager to make sure guidelines are followed. There is a Facility department to ensure facilites are up to snuff, and there is a Business Development department that looks at direction.

What if Soul Sanctuary were to franchise(plant churches)? Corporately-run, other churches would remain under the control of the mother church and perhaps share resources. Soul would assign the Manager/Pastor who would be given some independence but report to and be supported by the mother church. The mother church would be responsible for the finances, facilities, resources, etc.

Or, Soul could franchise (plant) churches that would run with independence. They might retain the Soul branding, but run with their own financing, resources would be for a fee, etc.

Each Soul franchise would look and feel similar in some way. Of course, this would require a huge component - Finding mini Gerry's. Hmmm. Is that possible? I can't see a lead pastor running back and forth to serve all franchises, except on a "check-in" type of basis. So this begs a huge problem, finding "Managers" with as much charisma.

Managers in the Christian realm are to have a sense of "calling". I'm not sure you can run a church like a business in this regard. The office of a pastor is unusual and requires a background of specialized education too.

Sometimes managers are promotions from within an organization - a great Starbucks sales clerk is made manager one day. Can this be done in the church? Maybe old rules about how churches are staffed need to be rethought. Maybe franchises can be put in the hands of the disciples. (Isn't this how some other denominations run ie. Brethren?)

Yes, I believe God can grow something (new concept) out of nothing that currently exists. I think it is an idea worth tossing about.

SoulPastor said...


Thanks for the post. But the sad thing is that there are about 4 SB's where they know me by name and drink.......

Next post.....addiction????!!!

Anonymous said...

In church terms, would that make you a church-hopper?

Re: Addiction - depends, are your visits based on consumerism or relationship building?

SoulPastor said...

Man, I cannot say anything without being nailed against a wall!!!

Good Question Anonymous...
I would have to answer your question as affirmative. I go out of convienience...but I will add that at least I pay "top dollar" for my experience...

RE: Addiction...can it be both?

Misty B said...

I used to work for my Dad. It was myself, my Dad and another employee. When I moved on from that I decided that I never wanted to work for a company that small again. I just didn't like the stress of being involved in a small business.

Now I work for one of the largest privately owned companies in the world. I like that. I enjoy knowing that there are almost unlimited possibilities for things I could do. I also enjoy not having to worry about the stability of the company.

Some people really have a problem with the 'corporate world.' My experience has been that my co-workers genuinely care about customers and want to make a difference. I have also seen them make some costly decisions that were done just because it was the right thing to do.

On the flip side in order to maintain what the church would call unity we have some rules/initiatives that negatively impact our business unit or even things that negatively impact groups of people. I go along with these things because I understand that I am not going to agree with every decision. As long as I am not being asked to compromise my values it is okay (I have never been asked to compromise my values.)

In the church context I wonder if it is possible for really large churches to have unity and still have room for differences. In a smaller context these differences can be worked out in relationship. In a larger church either they have to tolerate some lack of unity (having churches within churches) or have to create policies and cut things out that threaten that unity. Often, just as in my work, I can just accept things I don't agree with. However the very nature of church makes it much more likely that the issues at hand are related to things that are at the core of who I am.

That said I know that God can and does work all these things out. I am sure that there are some large chuches where they are able to manage the balance in a healthy way. I just wonder if a lot of people's opposition to large churches is about wondering if everyone will have a voice.

Anonymous said...

Starbucks' strategy is to open new stores in strategic locations that will put other smaller coffee shops out of business. This dog-eat-dog mentality is the basis of their expansion philosophy. This territorial and formulaic growth strategy is not something I would call admirable. It's simply a good example of capitalism at its fiercest! And it's not a good mentality to have while trying to spread the Gospel. It will only lead to certain churches thinking that they are right while all the other churches are "doing church" wrong.

I shudder at the thought of a world with franchised, duplicated churches. And I shudder further at the thought of a church trying to model itself after successful multi-national corporations. The Church's main strength is found in the diversity of quality relationships! It is not found in mass, calculated, superficial conversion techniques!

SoulPastor said...

Anony…. I somewhat agree and disagree with you here. I agree with the ‘dog eat dog” mentality but the reality is that not everyone likes SB or Tim’s or The Fyxx or whatever or coffee for that matter. There will ALWAYS be alternatives to everything, it is the nature of our capitalist society. And long before capitalism rose to prominence in our culture people often felt that their own interpretation of scripture was right and all others were wrong. We have built into our nature that we have to be right…..

You said “I shudder at the thought of a world with franchised, duplicated churches” and I would say that already has happened in the form of denominationalism to some degree. You said that you “shudder further at the thought of a church trying to model itself after successful multi-national corporations” and I would say that there are those churches out there...

I agree with you that “The Church's main strength is found in the diversity of quality relationships!” and that “It is not found in mass, calculated, superficial conversion techniques!” Lots more to say here but not enough time….

Maybe over a cup of coffee at….

RosalieG. said...

Yes, when you think about it, WOW. Those of us brought up in the church were immersed in franchizcism!!! (is there such a word?)Okay, maybe it is "ecclesiasticism". I see it now, denominations built churches all with the same blueprint, pulpits and altar tables, a piano and an organ, and special seats for the speakers. Remember the ones that posted the hymns on a little hymn board? And then they would find the happiest, smiling man to lead the music with his waving hand...

Just as we've evolved from the one room school house, what's wrong with churches evolving? As for the need to evolve, it is the way God designed things... "There is a time and season for everything under the sun..." Life is lived in a spiral of change. Just look at how you can't hold back your child from growing. Change is part of life - it's how God created it. Change isn't a bad thing when fundamental values and the Truth is foundational.

So what does God ask us to consider about changing the ways we deliver his message?

I think it is interesting that Anony said,
"The Church's main strength is found in the diversity of quality relationships!"

He/she didn't say its strength is in the delivery of the message. Perhaps this is what Starbucks was thinking when designing their enviroment, to make an environment conducive to building a diversity of quality relationships.

On another note, I don't think Starbuck's mandate is to put other shops out of business. Their mandate is to make money. They identify key markets where people already are and offer a choice. Sometimes other places do close down. Starbucks seems to offer what the "today" public wants - comfy seats and extravagant beverages. How did they determine that? How were they ahead of the rest of us? How did they know we would want this?

My daughter visited a new one and said, "I don't think I'll ever drink coffee, but the atmostphere made me feel cozy, like I WANTED TO READ." How is it Starbucks made this connection between "reading" and coffee?

Key point - strategic market, superior or at least up-to-date atmosphere and product.

Key point for church - be current and strategic.

As for market share, the marketing term is to "cannibalize" the market. Wikipedia puts it this way, "... when companies, particularly retail companies, open outlets too close to each other. Much of the market for the new outlet could have come from the old outlet."

This may happen with churches - people want change in their lives, they change churches - but the church desiring to franchise (or grow smaller) wouldn't do it with the same motives as a business. Churches believe in the product - to deliver the gospel and to make disciples. I'm sure the purest motive is "how can we do that most effectively in these changing times?"

And, should Soul cannibalize the market, isn't that better than the church losing more customers completely? And, wouldn't it be a good risk to take if it "may" draw some new customers?

Anonymous said...

I would say that although the diversity of quality relationships adds flavor and possibly stretches us to some form of personal growth, the churches main strength has to be in the common belief of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Anything other than that puts us on a shaky foundation. I do understand your point though. I'm just being nit picky. :)

Scott said...

I think it is funny how we associate church-goers with being a customer. I understand we are using the Starbucks analogy, but still, if all church people are is consumers, we wouldn't get anywhere.

A couple of things based on Rosalie's comments.

1. Starbucks is of course out to put other companies out of business. This is Business, of course. If starbucks could shut down Tim Horton's, they would, or at least buy it up for themselves. This is called competition, and competition in the market. Regardless, we live in a capitalistic society, Starbuck's main goal is to be the best coffee company, whatever way possible. You can't compare a church to starbucks in this sense.

2. I don't think the church has a problem with evolving, just look at the history of Christianity. The problem is we have run out of serviceable methods that don't piss people off. People have become much to critical of directions the church is going, selfishness has become the norm. I don't think people are seeing the bigger picture anymore, so evolution is impossible. We have no more revolutionaries. Where is the Che Guevara of Christianity? Evolution is only possible is the people are evolving too, and I don't see that happening.

I think the problem is that we are looking at a company, enthralled in capitalistic nature, to help us figure out why are churches aren't working. I think the problem is inward, it starts with the people and goes from there. Franchising and all that jazz is foolish to think about. We can't even seem to get church right now and yet we are always thinking about how to make more churches. Why not figure out how to "evolve" properly first and then start talking all this other crap.

Also something to note, if we are going to compare:

Starbucks gives a crap tonne of money to different organizations. People in the church find it hard to give anything.

Starbucks mission statement includes things such as "community" and "diversity".

These are the things the church should be focusing on, if comparing to a multi-billion dollar company. The things that make the company work and succeed.

And look, those are all things the people can do...Funny, and none of those have to do with evolution or franchising, they have to do with people helping other people are reaching out.


SoulPastor said...

Simple response..
Scott wrote "Starbucks is of course out to put other companies out of business." I would venture to say that you are wrong in this assumption and that they company would agree. They are offering an alternative. They would never knock out Tim's, especially in cheap Manitoba!

Scott said...

They would if they could, or at least they would buy it out like i said. It's a business, and like in any good, profitable business, its good to buy out the competition, or force them either out of business or into a position that they have to sell.

Look at major corporations like AT&T or even Electronic Arts which now own many major video game publishers.

Starbucks, while they are an alternative, they aren't out there to be friends with the competition. Their goal is to be better at what they do so they attract more people an eventually wipe out their competitors. Tim's offers more services, so they aren't direct competitors, but look at Second Cup, they have shut down shop for the most part since Starbucks came around.

I think it's pretty safe to say that it's more then an alternative.

Anonymous said...

Second Cup makes a better vanilla latte... just had to say that.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by a "third place"?

SoulPastor said...

"The Third Place" is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace.

In his book 'The Great, Good Place' Ray Oldenburg argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

Oldenburg coins “first” place as our home and those we live with. Our second place is the workplace — where we may actually spend most of our time. Third places, then are "anchors" of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in our day is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to our current societal needs. Churches can be included in this catagory. But there is also a trend of people who move out of the church and gather (Let's say) in a local pub or a coffee shop. It effectively becomes the third place.

Oldbenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true "third place": free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance);involve regulars - those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

Misty B said...

I have the Cheers song running through my head.

It's interesting to me that in my mind the things you (and the author) refer to as the third place have a relative importance much higher for some people. Say those who live alone or those for whom life at home is not a comforting and welcome place.