There Goes Talbots

24/7 Wall Street – a financial news website – annually predicts the brands that will be extinct in the next 12-18 months.  They correctly predicted the demise of Blockbuster Videos in 2010 and Saab in 2011.

The original Talbots Store in Hingham, MA from where I ordered my very first pencil skirt in the 9th Grade.

Here are their predictions for some of the Top Brands that will go under in 2013:

  • American Airlines (Sorely inefficient.)
  • Research in Motion (As Adele might say, “They could have had it all” but they blew it.  So glad I ditched my Blackberry.)
  • PacSun (Maker of bathing suits that apparently nobody buys)
  • Avon (Even though Skin So Soft is an excellent bug spray “there is so much to fix.”)
  • The Oakland Raiders (There will be Raiders, but the won’t be in Oakland.)
  • Salon (Lost it’s top leaders.)
  • Suzuki  (Their cars apparently suck.)
  • Current TV (Called “a network with no future.” Ouch.)
  • Talbots (Kill me now.  I first wore cute Talbots clothes in high school when you had to order via catalog from the store in Hingham.   But the truth is that the clothes are dated these days.  Except for the pencil skirts.)

Talbots is part of my sartorial history and it pains me to think that I might have to find pencil skirts someplace else.  I remember the cute shoes I bought in high school.  I remember shopping there with my Mom when the stores moved south.  My husband always gives me something from Talbots every Christmas for old time’s sake.  Oh Talbots!

So, this is a churchy blog and there is a church connection here.

The 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA meets in Pittsburgh in just over a week, and rumors of our denomination’s demise are a perennial topic of conversation.  Many are saying, for example, that if the GA passes the overture regarding same sex marriage, the denomination’s ultimate doom is sure.  Honestly, I am less concerned about this prediction than the fact that many of our congregations are stuck and – in some cases – dying.

My concern is not about avoiding extinction.  God will always have a church and The Church has shifted and changed dramatically through history.  Congregations – like denominations – have their seasons.

But if we are interested in generative congregational life, I suggest that we not go the way of the doomed brands identified by 24/7 Wall Street:

  • Efficiency in ministry is good.  Do we really need 10 committees for a church of 100 members?
  • Keeping up technologically is important.   Is our technology dated?
  • Are we offering something that nobody wants anymore?  (Note:  A sanctuary for peace and restoration will always be in demand. A religious club doesn’t interest most people these days.)
  • Avon had a long-term leader who drove the company into the gutter, at least according to business journals.  Do we have pastors who need to leave but won’t?
  • The neighborhood is key.  Does our congregation need to move?  Or – even better – change FOR the neighborhood?
  • Talented leadership – both paid and volunteer – is essential.  Are we equipping new leaders?  And if we like our leaders, we need to value  them and tell them (with words and financial compensation.)
  • Churches do not sell a product.  But we offer healing, hospitality, spiritual nurture, community, and opportunities for education and service.  Is what we offer excellent? Because God deserves our best.
  • Many of our congregations are stuck in the past.  How do we see our future?  Can we see a future beyond our own funerals?
  • Fresh, thriving, lively communities of worship beget new fresh, thriving, lively communities of worship.  Are we simply dated?  When was the last time our congregation did anything fresh?

Many people love to talk about the death of the church.  And it’s true that some brands of the Christian faith could be extinct in the next 12-18 months.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.


3 responses to “There Goes Talbots

  1. Jan, will you be in Pittsburgh? I’m a longtime fan of your blog, and I would love to thank you in person for all the ways your posts have inspired and provoked me. I’ll be staffing the International Association of Women Ministers table on Tuesday morning; if you get a chance, come say hello.

  2. Oh, man. I know I should say something thoughtful about the churchy stuff, but I’m a new convert to Talbots and sad to hear this news!

    As I was typing this I remembered a semi snarky remark about Talbots I made when I was a youngun’.

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