Saturday, March 1, 2014

Don't Hate on the Kiosk

In addition to serving as a pastor and private music teacher, my wife Laurie works a couple of shifts a week, pulling shots at a local Starbucks. Actually… it is a Starbucks kiosk in a Safeway. She wanted to earn a few extra bucks last summer, so she applied for a number of openings and they were the ones that called.

There is a rich coffee culture here in greater Seattle, and there is stratification among the various places one can enjoy the sacred bean.

From my perspective, on the top of the heap, are the local specialty shops; in most cases they roast their own beans… and when they serve a latte there is generally a work of art made with the steamed milk.

My favorites in this category include Storyville, Caffe Ladro, and Zoka.

Then there is Starbucks. Ubiquitous, consistent, and trustworthy… not as fancy as the top-tier places, but one can’t go wrong with Starbucks.

Then there are the kiosks… Starbucks stands found in places like grocery stores and airports. They are not corporate stores; they are mere licensed outlets for the desperate.

Then there are all the others.

I have held a coffee-snob’s attitude about kiosks. I’ve walked right by them (several times) got in my car and then driven to a real Starbucks.

Now I know better. I know that Laurie went through precisely the same rigorous training schedule as all Starbuck’s baristas. The equipment, beans, ingredients, and procedures are all the same. They are audited and supervised for quality like any other Starbucks. In fact, they are doubly scrutinized since in addition to all of the Starbucks inspection, they also are fully managed by Safeway.

It occurs to me that Pleasant Bay Church, since its inception in 2002, has been a sort of kiosk. We started in the chapel on Cedar Park’s campus, and then spent a few years in the chapel on NU’s campus, and now we’re back at Cedar Park. We’re not alone in being a sort of kiosk church. Lots of churches meet in spaces that are primarily something other than their church; sometimes it is another church, or it could be a school, or a theater, or a number of other creative spaces in which to gather and worship.

Just like I didn’t think the Starbuck’s kiosk was a real Starbucks, I know that a lot of folks don’t think a kiosk church is a real church. Maybe we can push the metaphor a bit and learn something; here are a few things that come to mind: 

  1. Be at the right place at the right time. Most often, the best thing about a kiosk is that it is handy. When changing planes, I’ve never given a second thought to taking advantage of a Starbuck’s kiosk; I’m glad to find that cup of coffee right when I need it and where I need it. Kiosk churches need to work hard to make ourselves available. I’ve thought about a physical presence for a church in mall or place of business, but I don’t think that is it (too much like all those empty Christian Science Reading Rooms). For a kiosk church, it is more a matter of habitually finding places to serve in workplaces, markets, places of need, and in the midst of community celebrations.
  2. Don't lower expectations. It didn’t matter that I approached the kiosk with lower expectations; those pulling the shots were intent on making the grade. In fact, now that I know these folks better, these baristas seem to work even harder to exceed expectations (I know for a fact that Laurie has developed some skills, making the best Starbucks latte I’ve ever had). So it is with us in the kiosk church. Even with fewer resources and lacking exclusive use of permanent space, our commitment to excellence must be fierce.
  3. Take advantage of the unique location. Sure, you can get a delicious pastry with your coffee at Starbucks. But can you get a chunk of cheese, or a can of tuna, or a Snickers bar? (You can’t ring out your whole grocery order at a kiosk, but they will let you grab a few things to go with your coffee.) We in the kiosk church can sometimes take advantage of our environs. At NU we would make the cafeteria available for lunch, some used the library, and we even made the University the focus of some of our volunteering. At Cedar Park we find ways to plug in with some of their programs and partner in ministry.
  4. Make it to go. Sure, there may be a few small tables near a coffee kiosk, but a Starbucks kiosk is mostly about taking coffee to go. That is a great thing about a kiosk church; the emphasis must be on faith to go... to go out into our work lives and family lives and rest of our lives away from church.
I’m sure there are other ways to push the metaphor. If you think of some, feel free to add them through the comments here on the blog.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. Thoughtful reflections.. Reminds me to stop and pray for those who work hard. Laurie's amazing and so is P Bay. Appreciate you.