I just finished reading a book called "The Starbucks Experience" Most people who breathe know the success story of Seattle-based Coffee Giant Starbucks. While Starbucks has had a great marketing plan and growth strategy, the thing in my estimation, that has made it a movement and not just a coffee house, is the experience inside the doors.
I know, I know, many of you feel that the Starbucks of today is radically different than the Starbucks of yesterday. The coffee is still good, there is still an experience, but it is not what it was right? Starbucks like any movement has deal with and figure out the transition from passion to movement…from movement to machine…from machine to monument…and then if there is any energy left, from monument back to movement if possible.
The church has to deal with that as well. People will come in and receive an experience that transforms them, changes them, gives them hope. Then more people come, and more people come, and soon the experience naturally undergoes change because the people quotient, or the people dynamic necessitates that it change to address the needs of more people.
Here is where most movements become churches, and get stuck in the monument mode.. They need to re-structure their original experiences to accommodate the changing culture as they grow-and generally something is lost. Many do transition well, while there is some loss, the gain is even better.
In the book "The Starbucks Experience" I think they nail what it takes to create the experience with the 5 principles of the book:
1. Make It Your Own: Stop trying to copy someone else. You can’t deliver what they deliver and you probably don’t want to…Be you.
2. Everything Matters: This is even more true for a church. From the parking lot to the nursery. From paint colors to music choice…this sets the tone of the experience for people. Will the small things hinder or help people encounter God.
3. Surprise and Delight: In otherwords, leave them wanting more. Most churches over-sell and under deliver. I would say under sell and over deliver…your experience will multiply!
4. Embrace Resistance: Listen to what people are saying. Listen to their struggles. Listen to their dreams. They might be different from yours, but they will give you insight into the Holy Discontent that surrounds the church today like L.A smog. Consider how you can address and change that mind-set through your experience. Empower people to make a difference without a ton of red tape!
5. Leave Your Mark: Never let your church be an end in and of itself. The church exists with a prime directive to change the community and culture through grace, truth, mercy and love. Give back with no expectations and no agenda other than love.
Those are great experience makers…the next question is how do you sustain it over the long haul. Day in and day out. I remember when I was in Disneyland last summer with my daughter Emma. We were standing in line (surprise, surprise!) and I was listening to some of the Cast Members talk. In years past, the dialog between Cast members that I heard was always positive and upbeat, but on this day, it seemed that most every cast member was not exuding that Disney sparkle, rather they were tired and angry workers who couldn’t wait to get off shift or be somewhere else.
What once was an experience where customers and Cast Members were all transported to a different world, had become an amusement park that was cool, but had lost the Magic. Disney knows how to create magic and ethos…but now how do they sustain the movement without the nuances of everyday life creeping into the attitudes of the cast members?
In otherwords, what I am trying to say here is that every member of a church is critical to creating the experience . Just as a disgruntled Disney Cast Member can crush the mood of a wide-eyed customer…a disgruntled church member can run off people coming to experience God like a plague of locusts!
The church has the opportunity to create an experience that is more important than coffee and extreme rides…we create the experience that produces life change, transformation, eternal destination differences!
So…here ya go…how do we sustain a life transformational experience? What do you think we need to do. What creates and keeps the magic? Does it matter to you?
It matters to me because people matter to God.