Starbucks® and Church Multiplication

by Mickey Noel

mickey-noelFrequently my morning routine includes a stop at the closest Starbucks for a “venti no-whip extra hot mocha latte.” The barista behind the counter at the shop near my home has gotten to the place where she anticipates my order. Nice folks—those folks at Starbucks.  
But there is more to learn at Starbucks than just great coffee. In September Starbucks reached its 32nd year of existence. While it took nearly 25 years to reach 1000 locations, the chain has more than sextupled that figure worldwide over the past seven years. From 1996 to 2003 the chain grew from 1,015 locations to 6,300. Now you will find Starbucks in airports, hotels, street corners, and even grocery stores. 
This company is demonstrating the power of multiplication. By building a company based on clear values (“our employees will enjoy working here”) and vision (“we don’t just sell coffee—we provide a coffee experience”) it has methodically built a following around the world and spawned many competitors who aim to replicate the Starbucks story.  
Howard Schultz envisioned a non-threatening gathering spot outside of work and home where people could gather to relax, talk, and enjoy good coffee. This “third place” in Schultz’ concept was the vision for the individual units of what is now a multiplying coffee empire. According to Schultz, “people come for the atmosphere and camaraderie.”1 
The church should go to school on the Starbucks story and think long and hard about the needs of people today to have a place where they can not only “come for the atmosphere and camaraderie,” but experience authentic grace-filled Christian community. In a frenetic, depersonalizing, and dehumanizing world, the church can offer an unusual “third place” for folks to find relief from stressed out lives. Most people will probably experience Jesus in a community of faith before they will meet Jesus personally.  
There is no reason why the church cannot experience the same kind of multiplication curve when we establish clear guiding values, focus on our clear compelling message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness, and build true Christian community—the real “third place” people seek for their lives.  
1 Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO Starbucks®, 1997.


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