Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Panera Ponderings

Panera Bread in South Portland is my office away from the office. They offer me coffee, free internet, a lively spot to meet folks and do work between meetings and meals. The place is set up to encourage folks to sit and visit (and of course eat.) The food is good, the coffee hot.

Now I don’t receive a kick back from them, but I must say I like their model. I am impressed by the folks who end up here. There are always lots of young adults. Some on computers, some studying, lots just talking with friends. There is a far representation of middle aged folks as well. Almost every time I am here I see people conducting business meetings and interviews.

I don’t know much about their business model, but they have found a niche for a successful business. According to their website there are now more than 1020 Panera Bread bakery-cafes in 38 states.

So what can we learn from Panera:

1. Atmosphere matters. The atmosphere we create makes a difference. It is true for restaurants, meeting places and for churches. What is the atmosphere in your church? If I came into your church would I feel welcomed or excluded? Would my first impression be of a place long past its prime or a place hopping with life, energy and vibrancy?

2. Know your niche. What is your niche in the community? Who is it that you wish to reach? Does the atmosphere of your church appeal to the folks you wish to reach? For instance if you want to reach people with young children is your nursery the nicest room in the building?

3. Offer something others do not. I eat and work at Panera because of the free wireless internet and the no hassle attitude. What does your church offer that others do not. It might be a program, class, service, unique mission opportunity, etc.

4. Don’t be afraid to change and rearrange. I’ve watch this Panera remodel, rearrange their seating and reconfigure their process for ordering food. How often do we change the way we do things in the church? Is the attitude in your church “Let’s give it a try and see what happens!” or “We’ve never done it that way before!”?

5. Be genuine. Don’t claim to be what you are not. If you are not a welcoming place for visitors, don’t claim it. If you don’t really value children or are afraid they will mess up your building, don’t claim to be child friendly. False advertising creates hard feelings.

Of course, the church is not a store, restaurant or bakery. But we can learn from those places and how they reach out to persons. Pay attention to the atmosphere, advertising, service of the establishments you frequent. See what you can apply from those places to your own situation. I bet it will make for interesting conversations.

So for now, I’m sitting in Panera, drinking coffee, writing and checking my email.



Saturday, March 24, 2007

10 Ways to Keep Your Church Hidden

My son Ben pointed me to a blog the other day titled Church Redone. The author identifies himself as “Joshua, a twenty-something guy on the east coast’ who is about figuring out what it means to follow Jesus. In a recent blog, “10 Ways to Keep Me from Discovering Church”, he identified 10 ways many churches (maybe your own) makes it hard for young adults (and just about everyone else) from connecting to a church. . The link is; where you can find all the details. Here is the list:

  1. Don’t have a website .
  2. Be completely inactive in the community
  3. Don’t answer your phone
  4. Allow misinformation :
  5. Lack clear signage :
  6. Have insufficient parking/seating
  7. Ignore Visitors :
  8. Respond half-heartedly to inquiries
  9. Be evasive about your beliefs
  10. Lie to me

I hope you will take Joshua’s experience to heart. How can you help other discover your church. Many of our congregation are wonderful but simply do not reach out to those outside their doors. Long gone are the days when most people will simply walk in off the street. Long gone are the days (if they ever were) when “everyone” knows the time of services, that worship changes times in the summer, even which door to enter to get into the sanctuary.

With Easter around the corner, how will you be more welcoming to those seeking a faith connection?