on church planting

July 02, 2010

Lessons from Dunkin Donuts

thoughts and words of Michael Kelley

Dunkin’ Donuts is creaming Starbucks right now. Dunkin’ Donuts won the taste test, it’s three times cheaper, and the company is actually expanding, whereas Starbucks is closing stores every day. Dunkin’ Donuts is about to roll out a $100 million marketing campaign to trumpet the results of the taste test and try and put the dagger into the heart of Seattle. Some people are saying that Starbucks has seen its better days, and that this is just the beginning of the downhill slide.

I would propose that the church has something to learn from Dunkin’ Donuts.

The reason we have something to learn is that we have tried to be Starbucks. We’ve tried to be slick, trendy, and hip. We’ve tried to be a place that is non-threatening and easy to come to. And when you walk in, you see beautiful people in holey jeans and black glasses, all looking very intellectual and hair-frosty. Additionally, we have tried to make church a low-demand environment, much in the same way Starbucks is. It’s low demand in that even though the basic premise of the store is selling coffee, some people don’t even go there for coffee at all. And nobody’s going to pressure them about the coffee. That sounds familiar, too.

But guess what?

People like Dunkin’ Donuts. They like that it’s not trendy. They like that it’s not hip. They like that it’s not cool. You know why they like it?

Because it’s simple: It’s good coffee at a reasonable price.

It’s not frou-frou, latte, grande, frappa-whatchamacallit. IT’S COFFEE. And at Dunkin’ Donuts, they call it what it is. Coffee.

Seems like there’s a lesson in there for us as Christ-followers somewhere. Now hear me say this – I’m all for contextualizing the gospel. But I’m also for simply proclaiming what we have to “sell” rather than trying too hard to add to it.

And you know what else? The thing that we have? It actually tastes good. Maybe the problem is that we don’t really believe the gospel tastes good. We don’t believe it tastes good, so we feel the need to pile a lot of stuff on top of it to make it more palatable. Maybe if we really believed it tasted good, we would have the courage to let it speak for itself, like Dunkin’ Donuts did, rather than trying to help out the product so much.

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