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Toys R Us Grew Up

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It looks like Toys R Us is going out of business.

While everyone and their brother starts sharing their opinion on how and why this happened and what they should have done instead, it would be important to note just how important Toys R Us has been for toy innovation.

Yes, that’s right: innovation. 

And, there are two core insights here that lead us to reflect on ministry:

  • “Toys “R” Us is still the place where up-and-coming products get discovered. The retailer devotes so much of its space to toys — rather than the few aisles at Walmart and Target Corp. — it can take chances on new items and smaller suppliers. In many cases, a product is tested at Toys “R” Us for a season, and then added to one of the mass-market chains.” (Bloomberg)
  • “All of this has been exacerbated by a big problem outside of Toys “R” Us’ core business: Billions of dollars in debt resulting from its 2005 leveraged buyout by Bain Capital, KKR and Vornado Realty Trust. As a result, the retailer has had interest payments some years of up to $500 million, according to Bloomberg, leaving it less cash to spend on technology and other innovations.” (Recode)

In other words, Toys R Us’ played with new toys that had yet to prove themselves.  When some of them sold super well, they kept profits healthy.  But, their financial situation (their crushing debt) led to their inability to innovate themselves, let alone toys, as so much of their cash went elsewhere.  Ultimately, it was their short term concerns, much like that of grown-ups, that led to their demise.

Ministries, especially church plants and older churches, often get caught up in a similar cycle.  Basically, the need to be financially sustainable consumes all other concerns.  So, they don’t take the big risks – they keep everything the same and they try to save money instead.  But, this is such a strange move since it is not as though over-spending money was caused them to stop growing.  And, they eventually freeze (that is, keep everything like it used to be or as it always is) themselves to death.

A parallel situation is when a ministry is so small or structured in such a way where the leadership is maxed out (not financially, but in responsibilities) to the point where nobody is doing anything new because they are all too busy keeping things going the same.  Ultimately, it’s their short term concerns that kill their will to innovate.

So, here’s PASTORIA’s bottom-line question for ministry:

Is your ministry innovating for the long term or is your church held back by short term concerns?