Learning from Trader Joe’s

Becca MessmanBecca Messman, associate pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church (Herndon, VA), recently wrote about how the church could learn from her favorite grocery store: Trader Joe’s.  Her piece, published in the Presbyterian Outlook, considers how Presbyterians would do well to study this “quirky, small-by-design chain of grocery stores that is clearly not trying to be any of its competitors.”  Her suggestions, of course, transcend her denominational affiliation.

Messman recommends that churches learn the following lessons from Trader Joe’s, including:

  • be good at being small;
  • plan for regular innovation and seasonal changes; and
  • leverage creative advertising that is authentic to the business or congregational culture.

So What?

Small churches often act like they are larger than they really are. Messman offers an important reminder that small businesses and small churches excel when they know and act like what they are rather than  pretending to be or taking aspirational actions toward becoming mega-stores or mega-churches.  Her other recommendations support this initial finding by offering specific ways in which to share the business or church message.

  • What are the top three reasons you would be interested in being a part of a smaller church?
  • Besides Trader Joe’s are there any small stores you shop at regularly? If so, what is the primary reason you keep going back?


  1. One of the other interesting things about Trader Joe’s is that everyone who works there does all of the work required to keep the store open. One minute they could be running a checkout station, the next stocking shelves and later they could be handing out samples or sweeping the floor. Everyone does everything at one time or another. I think this might be important for our churches to grasp as well. I know we all have different giftings and abilities, but there’s something to be said for being willing to step in wherever you might be needed. And I’m not talking just about the staff, but building in the assumption that the people in the church also participate in the work of the church.

  2. Greg, thanks! I wasn’t aware of this aspect of the culture of Trader Joe’s, but agree it is a good fit for the church.

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