WHAT THE SLOW DEATH OF RETAIL CAN TELL US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH

Periodically I try and share significant posts from other bloggers that contribute to the overall theme of this blog on BEING THE BEST CHURCH FOR YOUR COMMUNITY.  Cary Nieuwhof is one such blogger whose insights help me greatly in work with Bridgebuilders Ministries.  Since most of us are emerging from the chaos of the Christmas retail season, this post may connect with you quite well.-STEVE

What the Slow Death of Retail Can Tell Us About the Future Church

As you may have noticed, malls are not what they used to be. Retail as we’ve known it is slowly dying before our eyes.

As some major news outlets (themselves in transition) have outlined, malls are closing, formerly dominant chains are in decline, and flagship stores are changing.

All of this has implications for how we accomplish our mission as a church.  While the dust hasn’t settled by any means, only leaders with their heads in the sand would ignore what’s happening in front of our eyes.

Wise church leaders change their approach to not just preserve the mission of the church, but to advance it

death of retail

My recent frustration

I recently wanted to pick up a garment bag for travel purposes. I thought that rather than wait for shipping, I’d drop support my local mall, which at this point I only visit a handful of times a year.

The mall I chose is the premiere mall in our region. The mall has over half a million square feet of retail space.

You’d think I would have had a good experience and walked out with a garment bag.

Only three stores carried luggage. And among those 3 stores, there were quite literally 3 garment bags.

Think about that. Half a million square feet. 3 options, which took 60 minutes to find as I walked from one end of the mall to the other and store to store.

In two out of those three stores, the staff were nowhere to be found (I was told by one person I chased down that it was not her department).

They kicked me out of one store 5 minutes before closing. The staff was clearly more interested in getting home than making a sale.

Guess what I did?

Ordered one off Amazon instead.

And people wonder why retail is dying.

The point is not to vent my frustration, but to think through the implications for the church of the massive cultural shift from physical retail to online retail that our culture is experiencing.

Here are 5 things the church can learn from the slow death of retail as we know it.

1. Inconvenience has to be overcome by reward

The inconvenience of retail has to be overcome by the reward of the experience.

Think about it, to attend anything physically you need to:

Budget anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours of time

Drive to the mall

Ensure you have enough fuel to get there and back (how many times do you end up filling up your car?)

Find a parking space

Initiate your own personal search for the object you want

Manually sort out pricing, brands and options

Track down sales people to help you

Pay for your purchase

Haul it home

When I got home, I literally did 10 minutes of searching on Amazon without leaving my couch and bought my bag. It’s being delivered to my door.

Bottom line

If retail is going to survive, inconvenience has to be overcome by reward.

Implication for church leaders

The reward of attending your church has to overcome the inconvenience of attending it.

If you make people battle traffic and busy schedules to attend a sub-par, impersonal experience at your church, people won’t bother.

2. Online options are actually real options

I realize until current generations die off, people will say things like

I will never give my credit card to anyone online

I prefer the retail experience

Nothing online is real anyway

But those views are increasingly a minority. Among Millennials, online shopping is widely accepted, normal and growing annually. I’m not even close to being a Millennial, and I buy most of what I purchase online.

Bottom line

If you have a frustrating, uncertain and expensive option for getting what you want (retail), why would you choose it over something that’s simple, convenient and actually less expensive (online)?

Implication for church leaders

Today, people have a sea of online options for sermons. Anyone who attends your local church can listen to Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Craig Groeschel, Louie Giglio, Joyce Meyers, Joel Oosten or Andy Stanley any time they want for free.  And many do.

Not only can they listen to other pastors preach, but they can be ‘involved’ in their congregation through church online.

You can argue all day long about whether this is good or bad. Here’s the reality: it’s happening.

I outlined the pros and cons of online church in this post, but the reality is this: online is here to stay. The internet is not going away any time soon.

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