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Earlier this week I used a Starbucks gift card to pick up my drink of choice—a venti iced caramel white chocolate mocha without whip (or nae nae). As I sat in my car waiting on the friendly barista to hand over my happiness in a cup—I happened to glance at the cash register computer monitor that was facing the employees. I yanked my phone off my dashboard and snapped a quick photo before anyone could accuse me of creeping or stalking. 

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I believe the local church can gain valuable insight from these 5 short “Starbucks” sentences, especially when it comes to serving Jesus and first-time guests and visitors.


People want to be seen. Do we notice them? Starbucks does. If you’re a pastor or church leader, your competition isn’t the big church down the street. Your competition is Starbucks and other cultural hotspots who oftentimes do a better job recognizing “customers” than we recognize “contributors.” More on that later.

You know what makes me feel good when I go to Starbucks? When Linda—the manager at the Starbucks that doubles as my second office—calls me by name and says, “Hi Chuck. How are you today? Getting your usual?”

Take the time to recognize people.


Starbucks understands that people not only want to be noticed—they want to be included

A few years ago I asked the wife of my childhood pastor—who has served at the same church more than 50 years (and is still serving)—to share her greatest struggle as a pastor’s wife. She didn’t hesitate. “Loneliness,” she answered. She went on to share how throughout her younger years in ministry she was oftentimes overlooked for social gatherings simply because ladies her age felt she was too busy or just assumed she wouldn’t be interested.

We come to similar conclusions, especially when it comes to inviting people to church. According to Thom Rainer, 82% of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited. And once they visit and begin attending, do you know how you can create a sticky culture (that leads to deeper commitment)? Recognize them. Include them.


Churches are notorious for overworking and under appreciating leaders and volunteers. I know this because I’m guilty. This leads to burnout—and burnout leads to losing people through the backdoor. 

I have learned (the hard way) that it’s easier for a burned-out leader/volunteer to leave your church than to simply tell you they can’t serve anymore. Why? Because they don’t want to let you down and feel guilty for taking a break or stepping back.

How can we avoid this? By embracing this simple Starbucks reminder to show over-the-top appreciation to everyone, especially to those who are serving and giving their time. (By the way, when people feel appreciated they will go the extra mile with you.)


Another observation that I have made from my frequent visits to Starbucks is employee camaraderie. They work well together as a team because they support each other. One indicator of this is when baristas show up to hang out on their day off (chilling at the pick-up counter while smiling, laughing, and chatting). You can feel the love. In fact, I have been in ear-shot of employee meetings and it’s evident that some of them do life together. 

As church leaders, we need to pay attention and set up our team of leaders/volunteers for success. Have their backs. Support them. Do life together. Cultivate relationships. After all, the Church was created for community.


Not only do most of the Starbucks baristas remember my order, but sometimes they will begin making my drink when I walk through the door. File this one under “delight me.” This defines going above and beyond what is expected.


I was scrolling through Instagram Stories and came across this post (see photo above) from my good friend’s wife, Natalie (they pastor in the Chicago area). Apparently, baristas in Lake Zurich take the same “Delight Me” approach. Even though the message on Natalie’s cup implies it was written by a good friend (and/or parishioner), imagine what would happen if the Church would take the same approach. Sometimes the little things are the big things.

Consumer vs Contributor

I understand that the Church is looking for contributors, not necessarily consumers. But we can still gain worthwhile wisdom by watching how Starbucks values consumers. And I believe if we become intentional about practicing these 5 steps in the local church, we can create a culture that will turn consumers into contributors.


One final observation I’ve made about most of the baristas I’ve encountered is the fact that they enjoy their job! This recent Facebook post (see below) from my friend, Dave (who just so happens to be a pastor), further proves my point.

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If coffee baristas can gift free drinks to “psychos” (have you witnessed some of the rude customers they have to deal with?) and have fun doing it—how much more fun should we have delivering the good news of Jesus?!

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. ~Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

8 Thoughts

  1. Good morning Chuck! My daughter Kelly works at the Glenn Ellyn Starbucks! You are right on in describing the atmosphere in that coffee shop! Love your letter!

    Make your day an awesome one!

    Laura >

    1. Good morning, Laura! Cool to hear about Kelly…and happy to hear the culture is the same there, too. Thanks for the feedback and encouragement. Have a great day!

  2. Love the 5 Ideas you wrote! Do we really notice when you haven’t seen someone at service or are we too busy. We ALL need to Quit being busy and let people know when they are missed! Sad when people leave when they don’t feel welcome. FUELing up on Hebrews!!

  3. Great points bro.
    We’ve been searching for a church to do life with here in FL.
    Like a wise man said, be the change you want to see in the world.
    Much love from FL!!!

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