May 25, 2011

The Experience

As I have shared before, I find Starbucks and their concept of doing business interesting. I guess they captured my attention first because they had the ability to sell a $5 cup of coffee. I mean really, its just bean-juice, right?

Now it hasn't escaped me that there are some coffee beans that are of a higher quality than others. But you can still get a reasonably good cup of coffee at a third of the price. And when Average Joe wants a cup of joe, price matters.

But after going to Starbucks a few times to see my daughter, who is a "partner," (meaning they pay her to work there) I realized that Starbucks wasn't actually selling coffee. They were selling an experience.

In his book, Onward, Howard Schultz, the ceo and founder of Starbucks, writes about his vision for his coffee company. He states that the concept for the stores are not his own, but are borrowed from a small espresso bar in Italy.

When he was traveling Europe, he visited this coffee bar and the experience overwhelmed him. The first thing he noticed was that everyone in the place seemed to "belong" there. Yet, even during his first visit, he was made to feel like an insider.

This feeling of being an "insider" motivated him to create a uniquely American place to accomplish the same thing. He calls this our "third place." He explained the term this way...everyone craves connection. The first place one should connect with others is in their home. Usually, the second place people find connection is at work. But most people need another place to connect in order to be emotionally healthy. For Schultz, Starbucks is intended to be that place. Every aspect of the place, from free wi-fi to the aroma that hits you at the door, are premeditated. They are intended to allow each customer the opportunity to have an "experience."

(One thing I found incredibly interesting is his aversion to selling breakfast sandwiches in the stores. Why no sandwiches? Because the cheese eventually drips onto the burners, creating an odor that masks the intended "Starbucks smell"!)

I guess I'm writing this because I totally agree with his "connection concept." If I didn't, I wouldn't do what I do for a living. But I believe the place for people to connect, other than home and work, should be in God's family.

And I've always wondered why this connection rarely occurred, but after reading Schultz's book, I am beginning to understand.

If we all need connection, and God intends for us to be connected in His family, then what kind of "experience" will allow us the optimum opportunity to do so? What should God's church "look" like in order to maximize our opportunity to connect? Scripture states that our worship is a "fragrant aroma" before God, so what should worship "smell" like in order to create an opportunity to "experience" God? What is the "burnt cheese" in your life (or church) that masks the aroma of God, even though, like the coffee, He is still present and excellent?

Just a little coffee talk to get us thinking about how important the little things are when we are trying to connect to God and each other. After all, its pretty important to me to be able to continually "experience" God's presence anew.

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