On any given weekend the parking lots at big box stores are often filled with cars and the stores are packed with shoppers. Being able to purchase a table saw, light bulbs, fertilizer and toilet paper at 'discount' prices and al from the same retailer seems to be the draw. Brilliant – a one-stop-shop. Everyone else seems to shop these retailers, so one would assume they’re worthwhile. They offer aisle upon aisle of floor–to-ceiling shelves stocked with everything a person could possible need. Everything except consistent customer assistance.
The fact is, I do tend frequent these establishments and often end up finding what I need. But there are certain situations where a one-stop-shop doesn’t provide the solution I am looking for. Facing a challenging home repair problem often leads to a drive of many miles to a big box retailer. Being unable to locate it among the vast amounts of other products, the goal becomes to find someone with enough knowledge to find it for you – ideally someone who understands the situation and can point you toward the solution. Not someone who aimlessly wanders aisle after aisle, looking for the item he or she thought was somewhere in the store, and then eventually passes you on to another associate, who might be able to serve you better. More than that, an attempt to sell you a product that might fit your needs simply because the individual is being paid by a particular manufacturer, is not ideal. In these big box scenarios, we can often miss a solution that has been right in front of us all along.
In the midst of my latest home repair challenge, I realized while enroute to a big box store, that I drove right by my solution: the neighborhood hardware store! The store in our neighborhood has been on the same corner since before the turn of the century (as in the 1800’s) and has been owned by the same family all of these years. One of the coolest things about this place is that they know me by name. Not only that, but they remember my father and my grandfather. The employees at this store have taken the time and effort to know me and they can provide both the product I need and the insight, guidance, and wisdom to address the challenge I am facing. They also happen to have free popcorn every day of the week and the owner’s dog roams the store freely. You would be hard pressed to find all of this at one the monoliths we find in every city, suburb, and small town in these United States.
Now, to be fair, I admit that often the best solution is a visit to one of those mega stores. But when the challenge being faced is unique and complex, there is nothing like the neighborhood hardware store, where they take time to know you and are willing to spend time and energy in finding a solution to your problem or challenge.
So, in life, work, and ministry, do we see ourselves as purveyors of voluminous goods and ideas to fit seemingly every need or do we see ourselves as uniquely gifted individuals committed to intentional and meaningful engagement with others? Are the churches we lead or attend committed to following the model of Jesus who saw others as fearfully made and wondrous creations of a loving God or simply consumers of whatever it is we are selling?
At SIMA Partners for Churches it is our desire and intent to be more like the neighborhood hardware store: providing solutions to leadership transitions, but most importantly, a presence as trusted advisors, who take time and energy to know and serve those with whom we work.