Thursday, August 28, 2008

Latte Lutherans 4: Faith and Starbucks

As I have mentioned before, between seminary and my first call as a pastor I had the privilege of working at Starbucks. Two of their big keys to success as a corporation, from my perspective, were their understanding that they take care of their employees first and their desire for customers to make Starbucks their “Third Place.” As someone who is now called as a pastor, I think both of those notions are ones that we could stand to embrace as a church.

While I was employed at Starbucks several business magazines rated it as one of the best places to work. One of the big factors in those high rankings was they took care of their employees (i.e. offering benefits for working minimal hours). They made the employees a priority (i.e. offering competitive salaries and providing training beyond the minimal skills). This grew out of a notion that if the employees are happy, they would work harder for the company and would better care for the customers. Consequently, they felt, they wound up with better customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What if we took that approach as congregations? Imagine if at budget time we had people saying things like, “I only get two weeks of vacation, but I wish I got more. Let’s give everybody on our paid staff four weeks of vacation.” Imagine if we put out “compliment boxes” for or council and committees instead of “complaint boxes” for them. Imagine if we provided “benefits” at committee meetings, like spending half our time in committed prayer and bible study so that we might be fed spiritually as leaders. I have to imagine that the leaders would be happier people and consequently those to whom we have been called to minister along side of would find far greater satisfaction.

I was intrigued by Starbucks notion of “Third Place.” They talked about people spending quality time at home and at work. It was their goal for Starbucks to become peoples “Third Place” where they felt comfortable, welcomed, at home, and spent their time. It was this notion that drove how they treated people, how they arranged the store, and quite frankly just about everything they did.

What if we took that approach as congregations? Imagine if we genuinely engaged with people we don’t know real well instead of just our friends we already have. Imagine if we arranged our gathering spaces to encourage people to interact with one another instead of just shuffle people along like they were at some amusement park. Imagine what it might be like if local congregations became a “third place” for all people.

Starbucks might be a corporate giant, in part what some people might even deem and evil empire. However, I have a hunch there are some things we could still learn from them as a church.


LutheranChik said...

I'm intrigued by the idea of making church a "Third Place." And accentuating positivity. As I get deeper into lay ministry, which necessitates learning where the bodies are buried, so to speak, in our parish -- finding out all the interpersonal conflicts and complaints and other stuff that I wasn't entirely aware of before this gig -- I wish we had a means of redirecting all the griping and negativity into positive energy.

pb said...

I think you nailed such a key challenge in the church, change from the negativity to a positive vision. We have, it seems, a natural instinct to dwell on the negatives of the past (sometimes even the present) instead of the amazing things that God is up to in our location and inviting us to join in on. We see what we are lacking (our scarcity) and consequently miss out on celebrating what we are blessed with (our abundance) and we get bitter and negative. Then, at least for me, it's not the sort of atmosphere I want to be my "third place."