Onward Part 3

This is another in a series about “Onward” by Howard Schultz.
Schultz remarks:
“I still remember what it was like when we started building the company. Every day we were fighting for survival, doing whatever we had to do. We rolled up our sleeves and left our egos at the door. Every small gesture mattered, and so much of what Starbucks achieved was because of partners and the culture they fostered.”

This quote so accurately portrays the feel of a new church plant that if the names were changed I could believe that this came from a planter. He mentions “fighting for survival”. There is a marked difference between the fight for survival of a new, growing church plant and the fight for survival of a dying church. In the new church, survival is a huge motivator. In the dying church it is a de-motivator. For the new church, the fight for survival is a good thing – driving the people to do just what the Starbucks folks did, and roll up their sleeves. I served on the core team of Coastal Community Church in Virginia Beach www.vbcoastal.com. I was amazed at the level of commitment coming from that core team. I remember thinking that any church with a dozen people who were this committed could make a huge difference for God’s Kingdom.

The ego thing is also important. Inflated egos always get in the way of God’s work. When everyone sacrifices their ego to God’s vision, amazing things begin to happen – whether in a church plant or an existing church. Often, egos are one of the biggest problems in dying churches. A few people feel compelled to try and run the church their way, and refuse to submit to the authority of their leaders.

Schultz mentions “small gestures”. Growing churches typically pay attention to the small stuff – particularly when it comes to making people feel welcomed. I am constantly amazed that the churches who need new people the most don’t even do “small gestures” to make guests feel welcomed. The church where I am a member www.crossroads.cc is downright fanatical about giving people a great first impression – from the greeters who meet people before they enter the building to the great gift bags given to first time guests. We have heard so many stories from people who come back and join the church about how important these small gestures were in their decision to return.

Finally, Schultz mentions the “partners and the culture they fostered.” Starbucks refers to their employees as “partners” (and they treat them like partners). A lot of pastors would do well to learn the importance of treating their people (especially their leaders) like partners. It is so much easier to build a positive and healthy culture when the whole team is working together.

Here are a few questions to ponder over that next cup of coffee at Starbucks:
What small gestures make people feel welcome on their first visit to your church?
How do you motivate your people to roll up their sleeves and leave their egos at the door?
What are you doing to intentionally build a new culture in your church and community?

Onward Part 2

Howard Schultz wrote in his book “Forward”:

“But the entrepreneurial journey is not for everyone.Yes, the highs are high and the rewards can be thrilling. But the lows can break your heart. Entrepreneurs must love what they do to such a degree that doing it is worth sacrifice and, at times, pain. But doing anything else, we think, would be imaginable.”

This is such a good description of all of the successful church planters I know. They are entrepreneurs in the true sense of the word. They create something out of nothing. They are willing to sacrifice greatly to achieve their vision. This strength can become a weakness later as the adrenaline rush of planting gives way to the consistent, hard work of growing a church and developing leaders.

The Logic of the Network

I just finished listening to the audio version of “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell. This book, which was written several years ago, has some great insights into how viral movements begin. One observation he makes about networking comes from the invention of the fax machine. He says that the first fax machine cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create and cost somewhere around $2,000. The irony is that this machine was worthless until a second one was sold. And, in fact, the more fax machines that were sold the more valuable they became (and ironically the cheaper to buy).

That is the nature of a network. It’s value is derived by the number of people in the network. Gladwell goes on to mention that when he first got email so few people had it that he would only get a very few emails on any given day. As email became more popular (the more people in the network) it became a more valuable communication tool.

However, what inevitably sets in is what he calls the “Time and nuisance Factor”. When the network grew large, suddenly he was inundated with hundreds of emails in a day. At that point, it loses some of its value. He began spending less time on any individual email, and deleted many of them. We’ve all been there.

His book was written before the days of Facebook. This social network has changed the world in ways we would never have imagined. The overthrow of the government in Egypt has been referred to as the “Facebook” war because social networking allowed for coordination of this loosely nit network of protesters to maximize their efforts.

Of course Facebook suffers from the “Time and nuisance Factor” since the more “friends” you have, the more useless information that comes your way. But we shouldn’t discard the power of this social networking tool to communicate with and mobilize people instantly. I am constantly amazed when I speak to pastors about Social Networking, only to have them tell me they don’t waste their time on things like that. And, surely, you can waste a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook! They are ignoring powerful tools that can be used in ministry – and not just for reaching people under 30. Statistics show that the fastest growing demographic for Facebook is people in their 50’s.

Just as in Gladwell’s “Logic of the Network” thought, a church page on Facebook becomes more valuable the more people who connect with it. In the church where I am a member, the vast majority of the people now get church news first from Facebook, and only later through email and almost never from “snail” mail.