Kmart was founded in the late 1800s. At one point, not all that long ago, Kmart had more than 2,400 stores in the United States and employed 350,000 people. In recent months, just three stores remained and it is on the brink of being obsolete. Many can remember the phrases, “Attention, Kmart Shoppers” and the rush of the blue light specials. At one point, Kmart was known for its retail innovation.
Kmart had some of everything and was part of the fabric of America. Then the times changed, and Kmart did not change with them. It seems they failed to understand the people they were trying to reach, they sold things nobody was buying, and their customer service went in the tank. In my opinion the stores grew shabby and became places that were not pleasant to shop in.
I am sure there are complex retail metrics, far more involved than my generalized statements here, that contributed to their demise. Even so, I want to make a broader point. While churches are not businesses per se, even though we implement business principles for proper management of resources, we must understand the people we are trying to reach. We cannot and must not change the message, but methods need to be adapted from time to time to maintain effectiveness. Are we meeting people where they are, and are we serving them in such a way that we can gain a hearing for the Gospel? How does our church present itself? If our facilities and efforts look like we don’t care, and we let them become shabby like Kmart stores did, why would we expect people to think we actually care? We should put our best foot forward for the glory of God.
Retail is alive and well. Kmart has gone by the wayside but others have filled the space and are thriving. The church is alive and well, and is guaranteed to succeed, but individual churches can lose effectiveness and eventually cease to exist. Examples from the culture around us are not templates for the church to follow necessarily, but we can learn some practical lessons from observation.