Missional Coffee

56100019starbuckscoffee On his site last September, Becoming Missional, Jerry Frear asked "Has Starbuck’s Beat the Church?":

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?


  1. Paul, the Brim is still the place, though Starbucks is giving it a run. Boston Pizza just arrived in parksvegas too. I think we need to go to these third places (including our kids soccer games, school events, community awareness gatherings, local parks, etc) but the Church also needs to be gathered together. If the third places break apart the fellowship of the Church, then they’ve failed to draw people into that fellowship. There’s tension in the approach.

  2. we just began a new thing called CHOP at our youth group. it stands for Cool Hang Out Place. the purpose is to become known as the Place to Hang Out. there is sometimes some structure and thematic nights are once a month. the reason we implemented it was because our town doesn’t have many good “third places.”
    it could be argued that the church needs to establish third places outside the church walls, but by doing that we may only encourage people to believe that being in/at a church building is passe.
    my friends and i used to hang out a place in Parksville called “The Brim”…it was a little coffee place where many great conversations and ideas about/for life emerged.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.