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Starbucks and Your Next Retreat
How to breathe new life into a tired staff or discover a whole new way of doing ministry.

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In Howard Schultz's book, Onward, the Starbucks CEO candidly shares about his 2008 return to day-to-day operations of the coffee giant. His focus was stabilizing the company he founded and returning it to its core values.

An early turning point was a retreat with key leaders. His goal was to "organize an off-site retreat to flush us out of our familiar space and help us freely consider how we had lost our way, and then embark upon fresh thinking." Schultz continues, "we needed to rediscover who we were and imagine who we could be."

He reluctantly agreed to let a consulting firm run the retreat, but upon entering the retreat location, he was pleasantly surprised when he found:

  • A casual, fun atmosphere that piqued curiosity
  • The Beatles music playing loudly
  • Bright Beatles album covers and posters covering the room
  • Note cards with questions like What does it mean to reinvent an icon? and What did John, Paul, George, and Ringo teach us about the art of reinvention?

Schultz summarizes, "The retreat did more than just spark creative thinking. It also took us to a new level of decisiveness." For Starbucks, this refocus on decisiveness quickly led to hard but necessary decisions like store closings and deep cost-cutting measures for the first time in company history. But decisiveness also led them quickly to new innovations, an impressive turnaround even amidst the global economic crisis, and back to more sustainable growth.

Your church doesn't have the resources of Starbucks (although you might consider providing good coffee!), but even on a limited budget you can pull off a retreat that can breathe new life into a tired staff or help you discover a whole new way of doing ministry.

Why Go Out of the Box?

It's time for an out-of-the-box retreat when …

  • You're stuck in a rut and need fresh thinking. As a marketing director at Christianity Today, I try to take our marketing staff away from the office at least a couple times a year to break from the ordinary. Recently that meant going to a creative design firm to study what keeps their minds fresh and good ideas flowing for their clients. In past years, it's meant holding a creative scavenger hunt around town, going to museums, and interacting face-to-face with our audience.
  • You're wrestling with a complicated problem or issue. When your church has a challenge, say finances aren't where they need to be, staffing needs restructured, or you're planning for your next ministry season, a retreat affords you the time to go in-depth, maybe including things like historical analysis and feedback, research, creative brainstorming, prayer and meditation, laying out a comprehensive plan, action steps, and follow-up. You can't do all that in a one-hour meeting!
  • You want to build team camaraderie or morale. I've found that our retreats always leave us coming away with a renewed focus, energy, and appreciation for our important work. Days and weeks later our team members were still excitedly sharing what they took from our time together. And newer staff members felt plugged in faster because they were able to contribute and get to know their teammates away from the office.
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Topics:Assessment, Church Board, Church Staff, Evaluation, Goals, Leadership, Meetings, New ministries, Planning, Resistance, Strategy, Team building, Teams, Teamwork, Transitions, Vision, Volunteers
Filters:Church staff, Management, Pastor, Youth pastor

User Reviews

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Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

Jip Ster

November 06, 2012  11:49am

And while we're at it, let's not forget to ban women from leadership positions, except when isolated to teaching their own kind. Oh, don't forget to remind slaves to obey their masters too. Since we can't move on without returning to these wedge issues, where Christians of deep integrity rightly disagree, each with plenty of scripture to back them up, let's just continue to watch a sinking ship called Christian impact on the world, except to keep reminding the ship captain that an ice burg is actually mis-guided water taking the wrong form. Otherwise, I actually like the article. Though not a fan of the coffee.

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July 24, 2012  12:36pm

I thought the information that was shared was very inspiring and would love to incorporate some of the ideas. And it doesn't make me love or hate Starbucks any more or less. This may be a way in for Christians to share the love and gospel of Jesus Christ with those who do not know Him!

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July 24, 2012  11:21am

Jesus told us to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves." He also used (and commended) the example of the unscrupulous servant. So, learning techniques from the "evil" world is not unbiblical. That said, I do feel that we are looking too much to the world for our definitions of leadership and success.

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Matthew Kratz

July 20, 2012  1:37pm

On January 24th, 2012, Starbucks issued a memorandum declaring that same-sex marriage 'is core to who we are and what we value as a company. http://www.dumpstarbucks.com/


July 19, 2012  11:12am

Cory-- Maybe you should re-think using Starbucks as your example and applauding them for their exemplary leadership when there are thousands of Christians and readers of your leadership e-zine who are boycotting Starbucks because of their intentional and overt support of homosexuality and homosexual marriage. Thanks for your consideration. Phil E

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