Every morning on the way to work I pass Steve who sits on a black crate selling Streetwise magazine. I know his name is Steve because he once asked me to vote for him by name in a recent “best Streetwise vendor” contest.
I have never seen Steve sell a single magazine.
But he is friendly – wishing everybody a good morning. He is consistent- proclaiming the same message every day: “Streetwise! Get your Streetwise! Good morning! Have a great day! Get your Streetwise!” But nobody buys his magazines.
It could be because:
- Fewer people in general buy paper magazines.
- You can also get Streetwise – or at least some of the articles – online.
- They have Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts so there are other ways to connect with the organization beyond buying the magazine from a vendor.
This is an organization that helps unemployed people who are often homeless find purpose. They are connected with other well-respected organizations that serve at-risk city people. Who can argue with their mission?
According to Wikipedia, Streetwise “had the largest readership of any street publication in the United States” in 2003. The operative words here are “street publication.” Times are now harder. Donations are down. Leadership changed. But still there are struggles. And I wonder if Steve feels like his efforts are in vain.
So, two things occur to me: 1) Maybe Steve is fine not selling magazines and maybe he’s not. I don’t know if you can get fired for not selling a share of the magazines, but if that’s the case, I worry about his future in this enterprise. And 2) does this scenario remind us of other struggling organizations?
- We are friendly, but people pass us by without much interest in what we have to offer.
- We are consistent in our message, but that message doesn’t attract much interest.
- Funding has diminished over the years.
- Not so long ago, we were well known and well respected but these days, fewer people look to us for wisdom.
I think about Steve more than he knows, perhaps because his struggles sharing Streetwise remind me of our struggles sharing the message of Christ as the Institutional Church. Actually, I have great hope in the Future Church because there is so much more than being “friendly” and we are starting to get that. And in a perfect world, the Church includes Steve and everyone else who passes him by each morning.