Here’s a quote from a Starbuck’s District Manager:
“We have identified a ‘third place.’ And I really believe that sets us apart. The third place is that place that’s not work or home. It’s the place our customers come for refuge.” —Nancy Orsolini, District Manager
I find it interesting that Starbuck’s seams to understand the nature of community and refuge. Where people used to run to the church for that “third place”, they now run to Starbuck’s.
Maybe it’s time for a field trip, to discover what Starbuck’s knows that we don’t. Because I firmly believe that the Missional church must become and be a “third place” of safety, refuge and community. It’s in finding that identity that the Missional church will impact that changing world around it.
Frear’s right on. And so is Starbucks. This is what I’ve always loved about the vision and aura of Starbucks. In his book, Exiles, Michael Frost adds this:
You can understand why businesses such as Starbucks have latched on to this concept [of thethird place]. They have invested greatly in seeking to be a third place for American culture… They are attempting to be the place that America likes to be when not at home or work. (p58)
According to Frost, the "third place" concept was coined by a sociologist named Ray Oldenburg in his 1990 book The Great Good Place. As Frost summarizes, Odlenburg suggested that "third places are those environments in which people meet to develop friendships, discuss issues, and interact with others" (p56). These third places offers distinctive gatherings, safety and warmth, fellowship and nourished relationships, sense of community and belonging, civic pride, promoted companionship, relaxation and affirmation, sociability (rather than isolation), and a deepening interweaving of the social fabric.
So here comes the challenge to the Church today. Have we placed value in developing or actually going to third places? Are we too busy with meetings and committees and bylaw limitations to be with people outside our inner church circles? As Nacho Libre might ask, do our "churchy duties" keep us from living out the Gospel with others? Followers of Jesus in this coming generation, Michael Frost contends, "have decided that the best way to do the Lord’s work is to follow him into the third places in their community. (p63)"
What do you think? Where are the third places near you? Who is there? Are you there? Could the church be a part of that somehow?