Thou Shalt Hang Out at Wells

May 24, 2006

The phrase “third place” refers to the place you go to hang out, the gathering place, separate from home and work. Mark Batterson of talks about this in a recent post:

I just read an interview with Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s chief global strategist. He said, “The physical environment has become as important as anything we do, including the coffee.”

Think about the profundity of that statement. Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business. They are in the third place business.

Schultz said, “The environment and the experience is the brand. It’s a very important distinction that people use our stores all over the world as an extension of their daily lives, and sometimes the coffee is subordinate to that.”

Mark has a interesting background on this, because his church in Washington, DC didn’t build a traditional church building — they built a coffeehouse. In his post called Thou Shalt Hang Out at Wells, he describes his approach in more detail:

Wells were ancient hang outs. They were the BC version of coffeehouses, chat rooms, and malls. Jesus didn’t invite people to the synagogue. He hung out at wells. He was often accussed of hanging out with the wrong people at the wrong places. But Jesus didn’t let that keep him from a party with a tax collector or a conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. He went to where the people were. Maybe the gospel has been quarantined behind the four walls of church buildings long enough? The church is called to compete in the middle of the marketplace.

That’s why we’ve built a first-class, fully-operational coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. It’s a place where the church and community can cross paths. That’s why the vision of NCC is to meet in movie theaters @ metro stops throughout the DC area. And that’s why we do events at the largest nightclub in DC.

Coffeehouses, movie theaters, and nightclubs are postmodern wells.

He also makes reference to something that I’ve thought about in the past couple of months:

I recently heard about a church that was building a community center for their community and they “rent” from themselves on the weekend for church services. I think that is genius!

So do I! The more I have different ideas, the more I find that God is putting similar thoughts into others also.

No responses to Thou Shalt Hang Out at Wells

  1. Larry and I had that idea more than five years ago … we wanted to build an event center for weddings and barmitzvahs and other things and then have fellowship on Sundays when most peole wouldn’t want to hold events, anyway …

    Becca and I have “dreamed” about having a coffeehouse/lunch type diner that functioned during the day as a business and then worked as a meeting place for times of fellowship for local believers. It would have a lot of couches and chairs that Becca would mix and match and repaint and recover and it would be called “the funky chair.”

    That would be cool. Good to see others are having the same ideas.


  2. I also really like the coffeehouse idea. Don’t build a church building, build a place for non-Christians to hang out.

    I think the line that you walk, though, is between ministry and business. Trying to “keep the main thing the main thing” can be tough when you’re also trying to run a business successfully. Pat’s story about “Church of God Chicken” comes to mind.

    But to me, the idea of a community center — perhaps one that even has a coffeehouse in it — but that would be an ideal place for larger worship gatherings, weddings, concerts, etc. has really stuck with me. As long as the focus was on providing a place for the community to gather, instead of running a business, I think you can keep the focus on ministry.

  3. amen …