Friday, January 28, 2005

McDonaldization, Starbucks and Church

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. I want to quote the short Wikipedia article on McDonaldization to develop more of a definition of the term.

McDonaldization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "McDonaldization
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

McDonaldization is a sociological term coined by George Ritzer to represent the changes caused by the process of rationalization, or move from a traditional to rationality mode of thought, throughout a society.

Ritzer highlighted four primary components of McDonaldization:

* Efficiency - the optimal method for accomplishing a task
* Calculability - objective should be quantifiable (i.e. sales) rather than subjective (i.e. taste)
* Predictability - standardized and uniform services
* Control - standardized and uniform employees"

My good friend the Jollyblogger has been discussing the McChurch in his posting, "The McChurching of America". McDonaldization has some good points and some bad points. I really like Starbucks coffee. To get those kind of coffee shops all over would be impossible without a system. The system does not mean that there is not quality, in fact quality is a part of the system. The decor, music, coffee and general coolness are replicated everywhere there is a Starbucks. The guy who renamed himself Winter over at the website Starbucks Everywhere is sort of funny in that he is trying to visit every Starbucks as an act of originality. In one sense Winter is the opposite of Starbucks. Starbucks is a coffee franchise that specializes in replicating itself while Winter is working very hard to be unique.

So when does one want to replicate something and when does one want be unique? McDonalds, Starbucks, and a host of other franchises reduce risk to business owners who have a safety net from a tried and true marketing mix. But on the other hand everything starts to taste the same in franchise land. I like to travel and explore. When I travel I like to explore virtually with maps and the Internet; but I also like to explore with my feet and stomach. My feet explore by walking and running. My stomach explores new dishes of food. My favorit is hole in the wall places which are cheap and have great food. They don't all taste the same. But then again when it comes to a place to sleep, I want to take less risks. I want standardization. Holiday Inn Express meets my comfort zone quite a bit. I know the price and the standards. For routine travel for work, I am uncomfortable staying a top of the line hotel even though my employer is paying for it all. Where I exercise and where I eat I want variety but where I lay my head to sleep I want predictability.

McDonaldization can cause blandness. What is the use of going on vacation if America is one giant strip mall with a Walmart, Burger King and Exxon station? The theme parks even start to all look alike. Why not have all the churches just play a video tape of some really good preaching? Because preaching should address the local context. The preacher must exposite the text but he must also understand the state of the flock and hit issues that they are facing. There is great benefit to ministries which broadcast quality preaching, however a pulpit ministry should meet needs individually rather than a systemic set of processes which efficiently pumps out the end result.

When someone is talking about McDonaldization, I don't think this is the same as being inspired by someone else's work. Jazz musicians are famous for talking about their influences and how they came up with a new sound; fresh and yet reminecent of someone else's work. Some of the ideas behind the Creative Commons movement is that copyright control has moved to a total lock down of each work, forgetting that really it is impossible to do "original" work is a certain sense. McDonaldization is not merely copying a certain element or two, nor is it using similar business model. McDonaldization comes about when the four elements talked about in the Wikipedia article quoted above creates what we have come to know as franchises. Churches who are inspired by an element or two (or even more) of another are not suffering from McDnaldization. When church success is broken down to a formula where a certain look and feel are trying to be replicated, along with a homogeneous product, thinking that the result will be a similar numerically quantifiable success, then you have McDonaldization.

In my theology, I want it Reformed. In my music, I want if fresh. In my church government, I want it Presbyterian. In my outreach, I want it addressing local needs. In my ministries, I want it to reflect the gifting mix of the local congregation. Yes, I want variety and consistency at the same time.
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