When I wrote on this blog about Panera Bread Company it was not to promote a certain place to eat. I want you to consider how to construct churches to recruit people to visit and stay for awhile. If Panera Bread can attract mobs of people who love to hang around for hours, I am sure we can build church buildings that do the same.
Every Panera Bread that I visit has been carefully designed to create a warm and inviting kind of climate for the customers. The emotional and physical layout complement each other.
The emotional center of a Panera Store is the fire place. This morning I had a breakfast meeting at the Tri-County store and it was buzzing with people studying the Bible, having small group staff meetings and reading the paper while they ate and drank various beverages. It was warm and nurturing.
The temp outside was well below freezing and the people filed in close around the fire place to draw from its physical and emotional warmth. When I was a kid we had an old coal stove in the middle of the house. During the winter the family sat around the stove and soaked in the family's togetherness. Panera reminds me of those days.
The church family needs places where warm Christian hospitality can be practiced and enjoyed. It is hospitality that draws people to Christ and shows the love of God in concrete ways. We can learn from Panera how to be more hospitable.