What the Church Can Learn from Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has its lovers and haters! But let’s lay that aside for a moment.  Wal-Mart has made a strategic decision that could change the size of future stores!  Have you been in a Wal-Mart Supercenter lately? Maybe the better question is how many times you’ll visit this week!  You are probably already aware that they place items like milk at the back of  the store so you’ll have to pass other items that you might impulse buy.  Well, some of that may be coming to an end with the introduction of the new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.

In a Business Insider post the CEO of Wal-Mart explained what the future will look like and why… ”

Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon says the company’s supercenter stores got way too big.”We just found out how big was too big, you know, and some customers don’t want to walk all that far,” McMillon said in an interview with PBS’ Charlie Rose. The retailer’s largest supercenters are over 200,000 square feet, which is about the size of four football fields.”A few years ago, we recognized and started adjusting the supercenters down to a smaller size,” he said. McMillon said Wal-Mart stores will continue to get smaller in the future as its e-commerce business grows.”

So what could the church learn from Wal-Mart? Maybe that the future of the Mega-Church is something that will give way to the Hub Church model. The Hub Church model has a lot to offer the church. Not familiar? This concept has a “Main Campus” that serves as a hub. From that hub other smaller campuses are added that can be looked at as spokes coming out from the hub. This model has a lot to offer in my opinion. The hub allows for stability for the new campus plant in the form of leadership and training to name a few.  With this philosophy the goal is not to just keep getting bigger – well it is, but only to a point.  That point is always site specific of course. But, once that point is met, then the search begins to plant a new campus. This can then can be replicated to add spokes to the hub. Each time a new campus is added it should become easier as more experience is gained. Thus, replication could happen at a much quicker and efficient rate than the first.  Another advantage could be the expense or lack thereof. Knowing that the new campuses are never intended to grow into a really large church, costs can be kept lower than a traditional church start. Storefronts, public schools, movie theaters are all possible first location possibilities. These can all be rented with shorter term leases. With this in mind, if the new campus doesn’t do well, you can close and move to another location without the threat of a huge mortgage that a traditional church start would carry. This makes it easier to take a risk that the new campus will work while knowing not all is lost if it doesn’t. This would hopefully encourage more churches to take a risk and be willing to fail knowing that there could be big gains made for the kingdom.

The ultimate advantage is new church plants often grow at a faster rate than older established churches. With this model church growth really happens as each spoke is added and not necessarily at the hub. That seems to be a win-win situation.

So maybe Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Market downsizing philosophy can also benefit the church.