What the Church can Learn from Starbucks

Last week Rachel and I had the opportunity to visit Starbucks' headquarters thanks to Erin, a friend of a friend of Rachel's who was kind enough to give us a tour.  Being a huge Starbucks aficionado, I was thrilled.

When you walk into the lobby you'll see two things on the walls: the Starbucks mission statement and a timeline of their history.

I had never heard their mission statement before touring their headquarters: To inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

I asked Erin if the mission statement is something that the employees are aware of and think about, and her response was that they most definitely do.

Curious if the corporate mission had made it all the way down from HQ to individual stores, I texted my friend Tim Holland—who manages a Starbucks in DC—and asked if he knew the mission statement.  His response, "You kidding? Of course I do." And he proceeded to write it out.

When I asked if his baristas know it, he said, "I make them recite it to me. No better way to get them to buy into the culture than teaching them our history and values. Both are encapsulated in that simple statement."

The Starbucks mission statement isn't just something that's on the wall.  It permeates the culture and affects how the company operates, from the CEO all the way down to the front-line barista.

In the last 25 years, Starbucks has grown from a small company to a huge international corporation, but when the recession happened a few years ago they took a hard hit.  Their response?  Refocus on the mission.  The results speak for themselves.  They recovered and are growing again.

Before he left Earth, Jesus gave the church a mission statement: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

The mission of the Church is to move people closer to God, if they don't know Him to help them get to know Him and if they do, to help them know, love, and obey Him more.

While Starbucks has spent the last 25 years experiencing phenomenal growth, the influence of the western Church has declined markedly. I can't help but wonder if at least part of that is attributable to a loss of focus on our mission.

Tim said that not all Starbucks stores are as focused on the mission. "Those [managers] are comfortable staying where they're at and keeping their baristas put, too.  There's too much talent in our stores to ignore its development potential. Really sad."

Pastors, is your church like Tim's store, with a laser focus on the mission and leadership that is committed to seeing the mission lived out?

Or is it more like the stores where the managers "are comfortable staying where they're at and keeping their [people] put too"?

The End – Day 1 Part 3

After we left Sara’s we joined the rest of the team who were playing with some of the children who live on Entoto mountain. I did my signature move (some might say my signature mistake), picking up a small child above my head. Kids love it. The problem of course being that every kid wants to be picked up an unlimited number of times, and the eight year olds that come up to you weigh significantly more than the four year old you picked up first. Anyway, it was fun. It had been a while since I had hung out with a mass of kids. I was only there for a short while before we packed up and headed back to the hotel and then off to dinner.

To get to and from the mountain, you drive through a market area. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the chaos there. Pedestrians, cars, buses, and the occasional donkey share the street. When we made our first short van trip from the airport to our hotel, the Addis Guest House, I thought that Ethiopian driving was right up my alley, aggressive. By the end of the day I was proven wrong. Driving here is crazy. Most of the streets have no speed limits. Of course, it doesn’t matter because you can’t usually go that fast anyway. There are too many cars, people, et cetera in the streets. I’ll try to post some pictures at some point, but nothing I’ve shot does it justice.

For dinner half the team went to the Bier Garden (for food, not beer). My half went to Kaldi’s, a Starbucks rip-off, and a good one at that.1. They use a very similar green and white logo, and the inside could be straight out of a Starbucks. Of course, Kaldi’s serves food as well. Here I got my first taste of a hamburger in Ethiopia. I found out later that they put Ethiopian spices in the meat, giving it a distinctly un-American hamburger flavor.

And that was pretty much our first day.

1A side note, Kaldi’s beat Starbucks in a trademark infringement lawsuit because Kaldi’s beat Starbucks into Ethiopia.