Should churches be more like Starbucks?

October 21, 2010

My local Starbucks—and
probably yours too—has a large sign on each door that proclaims, "Take comfort
in rituals." When I'm being cynical, I read it as a multinational company
preying on our cultural longing for meaning by suggesting we can buy happiness
with a $4 cup of coffee.

But when you know at least
six local Starbucks employees, it's harder to be cynical once you're through
the door, especially when they greet you by name, ask how your day is going and
even give you free drinks from time to time just because. . .well, just
because. As Beau Weston observes,
these Starbucks employees are at least acquaintances if not on the way to being

So maybe we in the church
could move on from our cynical first reactions and take Starbucks's advice and
run with it.

Starbucks seeks to be a
welcoming place where community can thrive. A Friday business meeting or
sermon-writing time can be especially enjoyable at a coffee shop. Book groups
meet at our local coffee shop, as does a knitting group, bicycle club and
countless university study groups.

There are plenty of
rituals in our congregations too, but many of them fail to welcome as well as
some coffee shops. Do our churches judge visitors before they walk in the door?
Do our congregations offer rituals that feed and connect to the present day or
ones that merely echo past significance?

Are we seeking to make new
rituals in our sacred places of worship, welcoming folks by name, hosting
groups, sharing free meals? Or are we selling God short?