Recently, USA Today reported that McDonald’s has struggled to retain its share of the fast food market. I don’t frequent McDonald’s much these days, but when my children were younger we ate lots of Happy Meals, collected lots of toys, and my kids burned a lot of energy playing in McDonald’s playlands. Those were good times!
An article in USA Today (5-5-15) titled McDonald’s Plans Lack Sizzle had an interesting observation about the fast food giant’s recent struggles. The article reported that McDonald’s has been losing its market share, and two contributing factors were identified: an unwieldy menu and lack of a clear message to customers. The McDonald’s menu is full of choices, too full, and now competitors such as Panera and Chipotle have come along with simpler menus, fewer choices, and a passion to focus on delivering quality meals rather than an overabundance of them.
Is there anything groups can learn from this? What about the person in charge of groups at a church – should they pay any attention to what has happened to McDonald’s? I think there are several lessons to learn.
First, people are fickle, transient, and migratory. They will leave one place of business for another if their needs are not met. Churches face a similar challenge. People have expectations they bring with them when they attend a church, and when those expectations aren’t met, people move one step closer to “voting with their feet” and leaving a group or the church. It’s important that groups work hard to minister and serve the people who are members or potential members of the group. Meeting needs is an important function of groups. Unfortunately we have been trained by the culture to have a consumer mindset, even when it comes to church.
Second, simpler is better. Some churches have determined to have a staff member give direction to its ongoing Bible study ministry, and that person has the privilege of determining a strategy for the choice of curriculum. In many places, these leaders have opted to place all of its adult groups in a particular Bible study series, simplifying the option of what is available. It has the benefit of making it extremely easy to explain the plan to both members and guests. Offering too many options can cause a person to feel overwhelmed; when this feeling sets in, a paralysis can take place. Churches have realized the benefits of offering fewer choices in Bible study. This also allows the staff the opportunity to provide training and equipping for group leaders that ultimately causes the quality of the studies to rise as leaders are better equipped to use their materials and lead engaging studies.
Finally, you’re going to have competition. Whether we like to think of it in these terms or not, there will always be another church or two in your area that will be your “competition.” Families have options, and your church is one option among many good ones they have to pick from. Although McDonald’s has been a fast food powerhouse, it has lost customers to newer restaurants that have decided to focus on quality, service, and creating a great guest experience. A history of success does not guarantee a future filled with success. Like it or not, your group and your church are going to be compared to another group or another church – it’s simply going to happen. Now, in spiritual terms, a family or individual will be led by the Spirit of God to unite with a church, being placed there by God to serve and use the spiritual gifts they’ve been given; in this way, no one loses! The individual or family ends up where the Lord intended. But the reality is that as a person or family is choosing a church to unite with, they can’t help but compare it to “the other church down the street.” It’s important to evaluate everything your group does (or doesn’t do), and everything your Bible teaching ministry does/doesn’t do, to make sure you are performing at your highest level. After all, we do what we do for the Lord, and we know that the encouragement from Scripture is that “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”