The Same Kind Of Different
One of our daughters came home from college for Christmas break, interested in earning some money while out of school. Before she arrived, she had already interviewed with a company ( https://www.shipt.com/ ) and been hired. I found myself fascinated by her experience.
Shipt.com works like Uber for grocery stores. Consumers go online, place their order, pay for it, set a delivery time window, and then their groceries are delivered to their door. The person delivering the groceries uploads her/video to the website as part of the interview, gives permission for a background check, fills out the application online, and downloads the shipt app. When the T-shirt and welcome kit is delivered, then she is ready to work as an a Shipt independent contractor.
While telling this story to one of our Clergy Cohorts, a pastor who graduated from the same college as where our daughter is a freshman (40+ years ago), shared a similar Christmas-break experience. His family owned a grocery store, where he worked every college break, earning money. As I listened to his description of his work at the family-owned grocery, we both were struck by the similarities and contrasts between how food needs were met and how they are met now. Here are our takeaways (Skip to last paragraph for a sneak peak of application to church-life).
First, basic human needs, like food, don’t change.
Clearly and obviously, the human need for food in our communities is ongoing. Over the years between these two grocery story experiences, there remained a constant…food. That need is not going away. Though the methodology of food delivery changes, though the prices escalate, though particular stores come and go…we still need to eat. Grocery stores spend exactly zero time worrying about whether the need for their product (food) will go away. We human beings NEED to eat to survive.
Second, food delivery methods change with time.
The pastor in our Cohort described an “old school,” family-owned, local grocery. They built their business through providing quality food at fair prices accompanied by friendly customer service. They didn’t do food delivery to homes, but they would certainly help you get your groceries to your car. In contrast, our daughter is the shopper for current food consumers. Surely consumers have been in the store before, yet now they contract their shopping out to someone else. Mothers with young babies, overworked professionals, people with temporary injuries or illnesses, and those who can pay for this service and prefer not to spend their time shopping…these are the customers using Shipt shoppers. The need for food is constant, but the delivery method is radically different.
Third, changing food delivery methods is not an inditement of previous food delivery methods.
Back when the pastor worked in his family-owned grocery store, they met the food needs in their community using the methodology available to them. By doing so, they were not criticizing their ancestors who lived on farms and produced the vast majority of their own food before grocery stores (as we know them) were invented. In the same way, the existence of Shipt.com does not mean the pastor’s way of doing groceries was wrong 40+ years ago. Grocery stores simply use the food delivery methods available to them at the time in which they exist.
Fourth, changing our food delivery methods can be upsetting.
Our daughter described her new temporary job to an older person in our family who reacted with concern. This approach to securing food was way outside this person’s comfort zone. It’s highly unlikely this family member with use Shipt.com unless someone else manages the app and process or an emergency makes a change in food shopping habits necessary. Changing the way we get food can be upsetting. Some people are likely to stick with traditional methods of securing food, and this is okay for them. The hope is that they will be generous and gracious in their attitudes toward those who prefer different approaches to food, while the “updated approach” people will bless and support traditional food delivery.
Fifth, changing our food delivery methods can be invigorating.
We are vicariously enjoying this new work experience with our daughter. She designates time blocks when she’s available for shopping and deliveries, then watches the orders arrive on the Shipt app. She has 60 seconds to accept an order before it goes to the next Shipt contractor for consideration. Evenings are the busiest times of day since that’s when more people are home to receive their groceries. After a delivery, payment is promptly recorded in the app, followed by direct deposit once a week. I thought Shipt would not have reached our area, but I was completely mistaken. This could be a full time job if one so desired. We are all having big fun learning about this new way of food shopping and delivery.
Now you are invited to read these takeaways again, inserting the word “church” where you see the word “food.” Then this article can serve as an assessment tool/conversation starter for your staff, lay leaders, and congregation. Which of these five insights describes our individual and collective responses to the changing church? The following discussion will provide excellent guidance for discerning what your next steps may be toward remaining faithful to the gospel (need for food remains constant) while improving your methodology as new options emerge (food delivery methods change).
Who knew physical food delivery methodology could be so illustrative for spiritual food delivery practice? May we embrace the constant mission of God to connect with humankind, while also embracing the innovate promptings of the Holy Spirit. Blessings to you in this Advent season.