Missions Misunderstood » Blog Archive » The Mom-and-Pop Church (Part 2)

Posted October 4th, 2008 by E. Goodman

In March of this year, Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, announced major changes for the Seattle-based corporation. From the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2008, Starbucks’ stock fell forty percent. The market was over-saturated. The brand name had become synonymous with globalization. In his annual address to shareholders, Schultz announced a sweeping overhaul of the company’s strategy, focus, and product line-up.

In a memo sent to Starbucks executives earlier this year, Schultz wrote:

“Over the past ten years, in order to achieve the growth, development, and scale necessary to go from less than 1,000 stores to 13,000 stores and beyond, we have had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, what some might call the commoditization of our brand.”

Schultz realized that the efficiency, growth, and size of his company actually worked against it. It turned out that by selling music, eggs for breakfast, chocolate-covered graham crackers, and trail mix, Starbucks had lost touch with its most loyal and active customers. The CEO vowed to get the company back on track by returning its focus on the coffee, reintroducing manual espresso machines, and soliciting input from customers. Its plans are simple- make stores more like the Mom-and-Pop shops.

In 2004, the 20,000-member Willow Creek Community Church began a research project to study the effectiveness of its ministries. The inquiry may have been motivated by a decline in the rate of numerical growth. Last year’s release of the results of the study cause quite a stir among evangelicals. Even Willow Creek’s pastor, Bill Hybels, expressed some surprise.

“Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back, it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.”

Apparently, the results challenged some of Willow Creek’s assumptions about what made them successful. They had attributed much of their growth and success to the quality and variety of their many programs, but the study showed that church members were looking for something deeper and more personal. Hybels committed to radical changes and a return to what people really need- a more personal, more focused, and less programmed.

Growth. Programs. Streamlining. Pragmatism. Efficiency. Megachurches are like Starbucks. What Starbucks did for coffee, the megas did for Christianity; they made it accessible for seekers, comfortable- even trendy. Church Snobs, like Coffee snobs with Starbucks, criticize the movement as “watered-down” and impersonal. Nevertheless, giant churches grew (and continue to grow).  But to what end?

To be continued…

Filed under:Church, Missiology