One of the sad things I've seen on the news lately is the closing of yet another "Mom and Pop" store. This time, it is the H. Hamada store in Kaka'ako. For four generations, the store provided all sorts of items, from groceries to even caskets at one time (see http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007703270302 for an article on the closing of the store).
Now on one hand, it really isn't a great loss. In terms of finding groceries, sundries, etc., your local Wal-Mart, Costco, or Safeway provides all of the things that Mom and Pop store provided and more, usually at lower prices. Higher costs of doing business, intense competition from the larger corporate stores are what is driving the Mom and Pop stores out of business. Many cannot provide the goods and services that a sophisticated group of customers which has higher expectations requires. They simply can't compete.
But on the other hand, there is something great that is being lost with these Mom and Pop stores. It is the feeling of family and aloha, of intimacy and a "home away from home."
Maybe that's why I tend to go to a place like the new Kalapawai Cafe for a cup of java in the morning, rather than Starbucks. I don't really have anything against Starbucks, and still will go once in awhile, but there is something special to me about locally owned businesses which use products from locally owned companies.
I've been thinking about how all of this relates to churches. Mom and Pop style churches are a vanishing breed. They are declining and even closing at an alarming rate. The rising costs of keeping a church open, the intense competition from mega-churches like New Hope, Hope Chapel and First Presbyterian are daunting for smaller churches. The mega-churches can provide the "goods and services" that people want, often at higher quality. The smaller churches just can't compete.
Or can they? I don't think that the mega-church is for everybody. I think there are a lot of people who want the Mom and Pop feel but with a higher level of quality.
In my Natural Church Development training, I've been learning that smaller churches can actually outdo larger churches in 7 of the 8 Quality Characteristics. The only thing that mega-churches are clearly able to do better on a consistent basis is the quality of worship.
Our church is in a very exciting position. We are small enough to provide a Mom and Pop feel, but large enough to be able to provide significant ministry (we are currently averaging about 230 in worship). We can't, however, just sit on our laurels and think that we won't go the way of Mom and Pop stores.
We must consistently raise the level of quality in our church at all levels (such as improving our facility), while maintaining a level of intimacy. I think the key to the intimacy is continuing to grow more small groups. That way, even if we do grow larger in size, people won't feel a loss of family and aloha. As one pastor said, "I don't mind growing larger, as long as we grow smaller," referring to small group development.
As we move forward in seeking a vision for what God wants us to do, it is important to keep that in mind. I want us to do what we can to preserve the intimacy of warm, family congregation, while raising the quality of what we do for the sake Christ and His church.