Friday, February 01, 2008

Church growth and a cup of Starbucks...

I have a bit of a different perspective on Starbucks... considering my wife works at one. And I have to admit, if you were to read through my blog, you would find that I love Starbucks. I especially love that Apple (iTunes) and Starbucks have teamed up for some things. I just think it's cool... and my wife is tired of hearing about it.

Well, last year Starbucks did something really dumb. They started trying to compete with McDonalds!!! You know, double quarter pounders, Ronald McDonald and bacon, egg and cheese biscuits. Instantly I recognized it as a church growth principle that we've talked about several times before, but I wanted to wait until the numbers were in...

Well, the numbers are in...
Starbucks stock is falling (40%... I know, we have some)...
Sales are struggling...
Stores are closing (100 low performing stores)...

Why? Starbucks isn't Starbucks anymore.

Two articles (HERE and HERE) came out yesterday in the New York Times and a customer actually passed them along to my wife. And as I read them that statement kept coming back to me over and over and over... Even though it never said it in the article, the idea was that Starbucks wasn't Starbucks anymore. It had changed and become something different.

In an effort to get things turned around, Starbucks is bringing back Howard Schultz who lead the country from 1987 - 2000. The first couple of paragraphs of one of the articles tells the story... in my opinion... check it out:
"As part of a turnaround plan, the beleaguered coffee giant said Wednesday that it would discontinue warm breakfast sandwiches at its stores and focus instead on healthy breakfast options and high-quality baked goods.
“In short, the scent of the warm sandwiches interferes with the coffee aroma in our stores,” said Howard D. Schultz, the company’s chairman and chief executive."

When you walk into a Starbucks, it smells like McDonalds... not coffee. And they are exactly right. It smells like sandwiches because they started selling sandwiches. Why?
-Trying to compete with a McDonalds.

Now, you might say, that's just a coincidence... But it's not. Recently the Starbucks stores in our area started opening a half an hour earlier... 5 am... why, you ask???
-Because it seems that McDonalds down the road does (in my opinion).

Here's another short snipet: "Mr. Schultz has said he wants to refocus on the “customer experience,” recapturing some of the magic of the chain’s early years, when employees — who had heard the term barista before Starbucks came along? — made the drinks by hand and customers were excited by top-notch coffee.
"Mr. Schultz faces a difficult task: He has to slow down the company to make stores feel more like hip neighborhood coffeehouses while also delivering the steady growth that investors have come to expect from Starbucks."

Now, I love Starbucks (I'm sipping on some home ground stuff right now...). I love to go to Starbucks... it's one of my favorite offices away from the office, but I have to admit, there are some problems with the stores.

So... what's the church growth aspect of things in this article?
Simple... two things:
1. Churches need to focus on those who are coming in their doors and those who may come in their doors.
2. Churches need to do what they do best and not worry about what everyone else is doing.

What always seems to happen in churches is that churches develop something that they are known for... AWANA... Students... Children's... College... Great worship... Powerful preaching... and they do it and do it well and people come for what is done well. But then that church notices that another church down the road is doing something different well. So they begin to adapt their programming to meet the competition of the other church. Rather than continuing to focus on what they are doing.

It's like a "Pizza Hut" looking across the street at "McDonalds" and saying, "Hey, we can make cheeseburgers too!!" Then in that situation, they take a location that makes pretty good pizza and they ruin it because they start tying to sell cheeseburgers. Or if "KFC" should look across the street at "Pizza Hut" and say, "Hey, we can make pizzas too!!" Then they take a place that is known for chicken and mess it up by trying to cook pizzas. Or if "Starbucks" should look across the street at "McDonalds" and say: "Hey, we can serve breakfast sandwiches too!!" In the end, everyone loses. Because we don't have any place that makes good burgers, pizzas, chicken or coffee. (Not that McDonalds, KFC or Pizza Hut actually make that great of stuff... but you get the picture...)

One of the problems with the scenario is this: Churches have begun or have always seen since the Reformation movement (16th and 17th centuries), the church across the street as competition rather than companions in Kingdom work. We see the baptist church... the community church... the presbyterian church... as someone that we need to run out of business rather than someone that we should celebrate and partner with in working for the Kingdom of God. (Differences in opinions and theology aside at the moment.) There is a church... Millcreek Baptist Church... being built about a mile down the road from FVCC. Is that church God's church or competition?

When a church tries to do something outside of its nature and tries to provide something inconsistent with its identity and mission, everyone loses. The church loses its way. The people lose what they have found at that church. The staff at that church lose their passion because they are doing something outside of their giftedness. God loses because that church isn't doing what He put it there to do.

Seems simple enough:
People like coffee... Starbucks has good coffee... Sell coffee.
People like things done well... Churches do certain things well... Keep doing things well.

Simple, but hard to stick with.



  1. All I have to say is "Go to Caribou" and "The Hedgehog Principle". (Google it...)

  2. I didn't realize that it actually had a name... "hedgehog principle."