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Card-Carrying Membership: Gold Status!

For roughly three years I have held Gold-card status with the Starbucks Company.  I know, impressive isn’t it? I have considered printing it on my business cards: “Reverend Kyle Norman; B.A.; M.DIV; Starbucks Gold-Card Member.” Being a gold-card member allows me certain privileges when I enter my local Starbucks.  For one, I receive a free coffee of my birthday.  Periodically, I may receive exclusive savings and coupons.  I also receive a free beverage of any kind after 12 purchases.

I still remember when I received my gold-card status.  I actually received a letter from the Starbucks Company.  The letter was addressed to me specifically, even using my name throughout the course of the letter.  In this epistle, Starbucks thanked me for my patronage and support, and for being a valued customer.   It then described how, as a token of their appreciation, I had received the valued ‘Starbuck’s Gold Card’.  I felt honored, and a not just a little proud.  I felt as if Starbucks, in some way, actually noticed me.  I felt that I had value.

Yes, this is a marketing trick, of that I am fully aware.  By no means do I actually think that the corporate elites at Starbucks are aware of the existence of ‘Reverend Kyle Norman’.  Still, receiving that letter made me feel important.  The letter made me feel validated in my coffee-shop choice.  It made me feel special.   More so, when I look upon that sleek, plastic, golden card with the words ‘Kyle Norman: Cardholder since 2010’ etched upon it, I feel personally encouraged to continue my relationship with Starbucks. Now a-days, I pay for my drinks using my phone’s Starbucks App, yet that original gold card still remains in my wallet.  As odd as it may sound, it is a sign of my personal connection with the Starbucks brand, and in some way, their connection with me.

The question that this highlights for us in the church is: how do we intentionally communicate the value and importance of our members?  How do we encourage one’s individual relationship with the church, by validating who they are and the gifts they bring? This is an important question for us to contemplate, especially as we exist in a time where attendance numbers seem to go down instead of up.   Given the myriad of Sunday morning options, how do we craft the experience by which those who choose to spend the time with us in worship feel that they have been individually supported, upheld, and cared for?

Now I am not suggesting that we start handing out Anglican Gold Cards, or enter into the process of ‘after 12 tithes you get the 13th free!’  Yet when is the last time that we offered a ‘thank-you’ for the individuals who attend our churches?  When is the last time that we have gone out of our way to praise the faithfulness and dedication of the all that have chosen to worship with us?  When is the last time that the individual in the congregation has been made to feel a special and indispensable part of the church as a whole?

For Starbucks this is a marketing ploy; for us it is about being embracing who we are as Christ’s body in the world.  The church is to be the place where people are embraced and supported by the community of faith; where they are invited to uncover the special and God-given blessedness of who they are created to be.  The church is to be a place that lives out the divine benefits of being the community of faith, and constantly encourages the individual to uncover those blessings themselves.  In doing so, we will find our communities both strengthened and brought together; lives will be transformed, ministry will take on a new breath and a new vigor, and the prayers and praises of God’s people will be a tangible witness to the unyielding presence of God in life; to the praise and Glory of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on
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5 Responses to Card-Carrying Membership: Gold Status!

  1. Matthew Griffin

    I think the fundamental question–how can we thank better–is an important one and well worth reflecting upon. I’d be concerned, though, if we stayed with the corporate example: generally, the thank-yous are designed to do two things: encourage the consumers to feel part of an elite group, and buy more product. Both are antithetical to what we want to do with our thanks: we want that group to live in service, and rejoice in gratitude to God and one another. So how can we structure our thanks in a way that forms thankful people?

  2. Ooh. Good point, Matthew. Thankfulness that is formative/transformative presents an entirely different challenge, much like forgiveness that inspires forgiveness, or giving that inspires giving. And it seems to require something of both the giver and the receiver.

    This blog had me thinking about the fine line between honouring members and fostering exclusivity. There are so many examples of that in churchland, but one in particular comes to mind. I know some who are careful to call church members by name–especially when offering the bread and wine during the Eucharist. While some would argue that such a practice draws attention to the individual rather than the body, it has obvious pastoral merit. And it works, at least until the administrant comes across a visitor, or worse yet, a member who has been away for some time, and draws a blank. Suddenly, the act of welcoming and inclusion draws attention to the outsider. Hmm.

  3. Kyle Norman

    This sunday it was a final break from all the rain that we have been having. I tried standing up and saying a general thank you for all the people coming to church. I said something like ‘Today you could have spent the morning in the garden, you could have decided to go to the lake, or to the mountains, or just sleep in. But you decided to join us for worship this morning – so thank you very much.’

    I got a good response from people who seemed to appreciate the effort I put in to communicating thanks.

    Part of me wonders if we make things a bit too difficult. What are some other ways that we are able to validate and honour the members of our congregation?

  4. Kyle Norman

    Matthew, I agree with you whole heartedly . . .but then there is a part of me that says that it is dangerous to say that something in the corporate world cannot be insightful for us. While I agree with your assesment regarding the purpose of such marketing tricks, I would frame it in different words. Intead of saying that validations and thank-yous as encouraging consumers to be part of an ‘elite’ group, I see it more as ‘encouraging a sense of personal identification and connection with the store brand.” (you could even just say encouraging to be part of a the group – it don’t think it’s about being ‘elite’) The encouragement to ‘buy more product’ while obviously true in some sense is deeper. I feel it’s about encouragment to particpate in the expereince of the store . . which translated is not just buying the product, but following them on FB and Twitter, sitting in the store, joining in the ‘contests’ and stuff like this.

    Could this not translate to the church? For example, it is not antithetical to encourage people to be part of the (group?) church. I would term this as encouraging a personal identification and connection with the church. While we don’t have a ‘product to sell’ can we not speak about ‘buying in’ to the mission and work of the church. We do want to encourage not just attendance, but active partidcipatoin in the expereince of God and God’s people.

    While you are right that we don’t want to go too far in adopting corporate models, I do think this may be an instance where we can learn something.
    Peace

  5. june 10 post a nuisance cmptr crash.
    sorry; I’m startled, and rather ( = very) saddened to tell the truth at this whole concept of Marketing of the Life in Christ.Seems (out here, anyway,) “oh well, might as well go to Church- too warm for skiing/too windy – not windy enough for sailing”.
    Anyone had their Baptismal vows recalled to mind? – or, and it grieves me to say it, their Ordination vows?
    Check out the sheep and the goats – Mt.26 – I think; the Beatitudes – Mt 6
    Sorry, an old man -70, cancer and partly blind — my “relevancy” is “relevancy” to God (I hope) – HE’s the One Who gives me my Gold card.
    His Peace to all of you….
    Charlie

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