Thoughts, ramblings and reflections of Mike, a United Methodist pastor and co-district superintendent Tri-State district of New England Annual Conference
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
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’tbe 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.
I am a United Methodist pastor. My wife and I job share. We have job shared since 1979. Currently we serve as co-District Superintendents for 74 churches in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. (A District Superintendent is like a district manager.)