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What the Church Can Learn From Toys R Us’ Relaunch

Toys R' Us

As you may or may not know, Toys R’ Us closed down all of their stores in the U.S.  I wrote an article about why I believe they had to shut down.  You can read the article here.  From that article, here are some of the reasons why I believe they had to file for bankruptcy.

Lesson 1 – You cannot allow past success to dictate future strategy.

Lesson 2 – The big box is being replaced with smaller venues.

Lesson 3 – Online and on demand. 

Lesson 4 – Families are not just looking for products – they are looking for a shopping experience.

Lesson 5 – Customer service is a critical component of success. 

I believe # 4 is the biggest reason they had to close down.  I think they understand this now, because they are reopening a few stores with lots of #4.  They are seeking to make shopping at Toys R’ Us an experience for families.

Listen to what Richard Barry,  president and CEO of Toys R’ Us is saying.

We know that customers love shopping as a means of entertainment.  That’s something built into the DNA of human beings.  We also know that kids and families are looking for things to do on the weekends or when school is out. We know that parents and families really value play and the value of toys overall.  As we thought about the strategy, we wanted to put all of those things together.

Their new strategy is to make Toys R’ Us not just a store, but a hands-on, engaging experience for kids and their parents.  A place of interactive spaces where kids and parents can play with toys.  There will be interactive displays, video games, and other engaging items in the new stores.

There will also be a huge tree-house in the middle of the store that kids will be able to climb into and play in.

They are also downsizing their 40,000-square-feet stores into smaller stores that are about 6,500 square feet.  We talked about this in the article.  Look at #2.

What can the church learn from this reopening?  Here are couple of biggies…

Churches that want to attract and reach young families must make church an experience.  Look for ways you can give families the opportunity to make memories together.  Have interactive play pieces that families can play together before or after the service.  Consider installing an indoor or outdoor play ground area.  Serve hot dogs or other snacks for families after the service in these areas.  An example would be to have ice cream for families after the service in the summer.  Or maybe it’s hot chocolate and cookies after the service in the winter months.

It might also be a family photo area where they can take pictures as a family.  The family photo area can be decorated by seasons and holidays.  An example would be having a Christmas tree in the background at the picture spot at Christmas time.

Churches must realize that the average young family wakes up on Sunday morning and then decides what they are going to do that day.  They should know that if they go to church, they will have the opportunity to have some fun and make some memories together.  On a side note, that is not something they can get from watching online.  While online services are a good thing, we must make coming to church an experience that you can’t get sitting at home.

The second biggie that churches must keep in mind is this.  The days of building massive auditoriums that seat thousands of people are drawing to a close.  Rather than building an auditorium that will seat 7,000 people, churches that are growing are building much smaller auditoriums (seating 1,000 to 1,500 people) and offering multiple services.  Churches are looking for ways to make services more personal and ways for people to make relational connections and get connected at a deeper level.

This means children’s ministries must realize that the larger they grow, the smaller they must become.  Rather than having hundreds of kids sitting in rows of chairs for the entire service, we must also give kids the opportunity to be part of a small group where they can be known, cared for and prayed for by name each week.

It will be interesting to see how the new, updated Toys R’ Us stores do.  I believe they will have a come back with the new strategies they are implementing.  The challenging part is this – if they had realized the changes they needed to make earlier, they could have avoided bankruptcy in the first place.

The church also has to wake up and realize that changes need to be made if we are going to stay relevant and effectively reach families.

Which model of connecting with families does your ministry look like?  The cold, strictly business model that took Toys R’ Us down.  Or does it look like the fun, interactive, experience filled model?

If your answer is the first model, then it’s time to make some changes so you can avoid what happened to Toys R’ Us.

Yes, there are churches that refuse to change.  And one day they will look around and the next generation will be missing.  And they will have to file “spiritual bankruptcy.”  Don’t be that church.  Be willing to make adjustments and changes now so you reach children and families in the days ahead.

This article originally appeared here.

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Dale Hudson has been serving in children's ministry for over 30 years. He is an author, speaker and ministry leader.  He is the founder and director of Building Children's Ministry. BCM helps churches build strong leaders, teams and children's ministries.  (www.buildingchildrensministry.com)