April 9, 2012 Tony Morgan

Is it Starbucks or is it church?

StarbucksYesterday morning, my family attended the first Easter services, then we volunteered at the second two services. Since I’m serving on the guest services team, I was able to pull my youngest daughter out of her class after my job was done welcoming everyone to the third service. That saved her from having to sit through the same lesson for the third time. And, it provided an excuse for me to head over to Starbucks and grab a coffee.

Yes, Starbucks is open on Sunday mornings. And, yes, that even includes Easter. The team who served me was very friendly. There were a number of customers seated both inside and outside the store. If people congregate at Starbucks on Sunday morning does that make them congregants? If so, Brooke and I qualified and our table was positioned very close to the barista’s pulpit.

What caught Brooke’s attention when she entered the store was the apple fritter in the glass case. What caught my attention was the large sign just inside the entrance promoting the opportunity to volunteer in my community. That’s right — Starbucks is focused on community service this month. Does that make Starbucks missional? Or, does the fact that they serve apple fritters make them attractional? I don’t know if I’m supposed to love their strategy to reach new customers and make caffeine converts or not. I’m so conflicted in my spirit.

By the way, here’s the video from the Starbucks website inviting me to volunteer to serve my community:

If you are a church leader, this Starbucks initiative should raise two challenging questions:

  1. Is my church as intentional as Starbucks is at reaching my community? I can assure you, this isn’t a completely altruistic endeavor for Starbucks. At the end of the day, it’s all about their stock price and the bottom line. Obviously, they’ve come to the conclusion that community service helps them sell coffee. This strategic initiative helps them fulfill their mission.
  2. Is my church any different than Starbucks is at reaching my community? Just to shoot straight with you, this “outreach” that Starbucks is engaging looks identical to many local missions efforts I see in churches across the country today. And, if we don’t effectively connect the mission to the message, the church looks no different than Starbucks. (Other than the fact that their marketing is better and our coffee is not as good.)
So, you tell me. Is it Starbucks or is it church?
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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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