Who Wants to Be a Toys R Us Church?
I guess we all grew up.
Too soon? Toys R Us is closing its doors, so there will never be another Toys R Us kid. Sad isn’t it? If you’re feeling especially nostalgic but also want to reflect the emotions of the moment, here’s the famous jingle done in a minor key to help you express your feelings.
But at the same time, they kinda had it coming. There were clear reasons why Toys R Us shut down and I think they have something to teach the church. Let’s take a look at those lessons and see if we can learn how to avoid being a Toys R Us church.
Toys R Us Had Too Many Cooks in the Financial Kitchen
When the company was struggling in 2005, it was bought by a group of rich people (read 2 or 3 companies) who took on the debt of the previous leadership. In my opinion, there were so many interests represented at the leadership table, that decisions moved too slowly.
Repaying debt is honestly the life of many churches. You have debt on your facilities to start, but there may also be other issues like renovations or salaries that outweigh giving. But the problem usually isn’t that you can’t figure it out. The problem is that too many people are at the table squabbling about the solution. I’m not one to vote the Chancellor immediate emergency powers or anything (Jar-Jar was a Sith Lord), but having a small group of wise decision-makers able to make quick decisions isn’t a bad idea when the chips are down.
How we handle finances and debt says a lot about our faith and our love for one another to those outside the faith.
Toys R Us Ignored the Trends (and Kodak)
With the rise of online shopping, Toys R Us stuck to their guns that people would love to come to their store for that personal touch like having the birthday song sung to you over the loudspeaker when you enter the store on your birthday. They thought this would keep business going because people have always loved that about shopping there.
They were wrong.
When companies (and churches) refuse to accept that the world around them is changing and will not adapt to how they are reaching people, those companies (and churches) will struggle and eventually could die. When we sit back with our arms folded talking about how people should respond to what we’re doing but aren’t, then try to blame them for it, we push them further away.
I’ve Made This Mistake
When I was a student pastor, I did this to kids and I regret it. Wednesday night was our big night for students when I started ministry in 1999. But when I moved DFW in 2007, I found more and more competition during the week with sports, activities, and events.
Rather than roll with the changes and try to figure out how to reach my kids, I began making them feel like they had to choose between events and church. Volleyball and church. Football and church. Choir and church. Us and Them.
And you better choose us, because if you choose them, you’re not choosing Jesus. I was wrong.
It would have been better for me to change what I was doing on Wednesday night and make my focal point something that reaches kids where they already were. All I was doing was trying to build my own little kingdom. Have a big youth ministry so I could feel successful, whatever that word means.
Churches must have their finger on the pulse of culture and, without conforming to it, learn to navigate it so that they can reach the people in it. They need to be able to change quickly when something stops working to find something that will.
Digital is here to stay. Even though Facebook on the chopping block now for this data leak concerning elections, I bet none of you are seriously considering deleting your account and going off the grid.
Don’t be a Toys R Us Church, be a People R Us church.