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5 Church Leadership Lessons from IKEA

  • Philip Nation Adult Ministry Publishing Director for LifeWay Christian Resources
  • 2014 11 Dec
5 Church Leadership Lessons from IKEA

IKEA is a store based in Sweden. They are perhaps best known for their flat-pack furniture. Recently, I purchased a new desk from IKEA which is really not a desk. It is two units of drawers, a long table top, and support leg for the center. I think there are several lessons on leadership that we can learn from IKEA and the way they sell their products.

1. Simple instructions. The instructions are all presented in visual diagrams, even the instructions to call IKEA if you have a problem. Their directions to build a bed, cabinet, shelving, and everything else are based on the principle of simplicity. It is a great reminder about how leadership directions should be given to those under our care. If a direction is not easily understood, then work on it until it is.

2. Repurpose everything. The desk that I bought is normal for much of IKEA’s materials. Rather than creating pieces, parts, and entire furnishings for just one use, they create them with multiple uses in mind. Every bolt, peg, and table piece has the possibility to be used in multiple furniture pieces. For the leader, it is a lesson about the scarcity of resources. Leaders must learn to use what they have and then to reuse it again. It is a good lesson to pass along to others.

3. Hospitality. Go into any IKEA store and you will find a place that you’ll want to visit again. Their stores are not found in many places. The closest one to me is a four-hour drive to Atlanta, Georgia. But the experience of the store is worth the drive. Each story has plenty to see, a restaurant inside, and happy employees that are ready to help. The IKEA store feels more like a place to visit rather than a place to shop. As a church leader, I often wonder how guests to our buildings, ministries, worship services, and small groups feel about how they are greeted by us. It is not that every church should set up a food court, but every person who intersects with our church family should feel welcomed.

4. Ready-made rooms. When looking at their website or going into a store, I immediately get a vision for what a room could be if furnished by IKEA furniture. If you look, you can find the sections where individual pieces are sold and parts are purchased. But that is not what IKEA is concerned with for their customer. They want you to buy the whole dorm room for your college student. They want you to create an entire space for your home office. And the list goes on. If you are going to lead a church, never be satisfied with people only being partially formed. We want them to get the proverbial “whole package” of formation. Don’t be satisfied with less.

5. Selling satisfaction, not furniture. Make no mistake about it… for IKEA to be profitable, they must sell furniture and the like. But at the heart of the company, what they are selling is satisfaction. The IKEA Vision is: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.” They have a set of seven values that drives what they do and how they do it. It is all in support of their vision, and their vision is about a lot more than furniture. In the church, our vision must far exceed the physical accoutrements of religious programming. We are not offering institutional ministries. We are offering life. We need to ensure that we never settle for involvement in the equipment of the religion. After all, Jesus did not die to make us religiously busy. He died to give us life.

Philip Nation is the adult ministry publishing director for LifeWay Christian Resources. Find out more on his blog.