What the Church Can Learn from Amazon’s Seasonal, Nomadic, RV-loving, Retiree Army
The Power of Unlikely Pairs
I recently came across an in-depth article in Wired magazine about one of Amazon’s secret weapons. During the incredibly busy holiday shipping season they employee a growing number of seasonal, RV-loving, retirees.
This strategy is more than just a fluke or a PR stunt. It fills a specific need for Amazon during their peak shipping season. What Amazon needs is affordable, reliable warehouse workers in strategically located warehouses across the country. These retirees fit the bill perfectly.
The strategy has been dubbed “Camperforce”. They have invested heavily in it, and Jeff Bezos has even claimed that he believes Amazon will employ 1 in 4 “workampers” by 2020.
The full article is a fascinating read of what life is like for some American retirees post-2008, and how one of the largest companies in the world has inexplicably become part of the sunset of their lives.
So, what can churches learn from this unlikely pairing?
Here are 3 takeaways from the Camperforce and Amazon pairing.
1.) Your goals should be crystal clear
Amazon didn’t seek out retired, nomadic, RV-folks. They weren’t looking for a story to spoon feed their PR department. They had one thing in mind. Shipping.
Amazon is amazing at shipping. They know exactly what it takes to ship all of our stuff really, really fast.
So, when they go looking for seasonal employees, with their goals in mind, they know exactly what it will take.
Does your church have crystal clear goals? Goals that can drive every decision? Goals that are so clear that they allow you to feel confident testing completely outside the box strategies, knowing that they will be measured against the same goals that everything is measured against?
Clear goals lead to the next takeaway.
2.) Your best disciple-makers may be your most “unlikely pairing”
If I had a dollar for every article that I’ve read about how to get millennials involved in church, I would be a rich man. It seems like we’re obsessed with one demographic. What about baby boomers? What about the greatest generation? Gen X?
Sure, it’s important to court millennials, but what if you could see amazing fruit from investing in older generations, and giving them valuable volunteer and leadership responsibilities?
“Oh, but they aren’t good with computers!” you say. “They’re slow!” you say. “They don’t dress hip enough,” you say.
Yes, yes. Perhaps.
But, in the Amazon story, it’s important to note that Amazon was willing to look past the physical shortcomings of their new warehouse workers because they provided them with other intangible benefits. Things like reliability, punctuality, and an ingrained understanding of what a full day’s work looks like (ingrained in them from a lifetime of working).
Also, it’s important to note that the relationship between Amazon and the Camperforce is mutually beneficial. The retired workers were motivated to work for Amazon because they were in a unique position in life, the role suited their situation, and Amazon believed in them.
To be clear, the suggestion that I’m making isn’t to narrowly focus on any one demographic (old, young, hip, or not). What I’m suggesting is that you should be willing to look outside of the box to find people in your church that are uniquely suited to help you reach your goals.
Is your church doing this? Are you looking for the people who are motivated to serve and make disciples; regardless of what they look like, or what skills they do or don’t have?
Once you find them, you should do what Amazon did.
3.) Invest in your secret weapons
So, what did Amazon do when they realized they had found a uniquely positioned seasonal workforce to help them with their warehouse needs?
They invested in them.
It seems almost absurd to think that one of the reasons that our packages get to us on time at Christmas is because of an online guide to “Winterizing Your Rig”, but it is. Amazon looked for the unique needs of their new employees and catered to them.
They provided them with space to park their RVs, they had “Lil’ Medics” on the wall to dispense generic pain relievers, and every morning they had younger Amazon employees who led them in a series of stretches. (Remember, many of the Camperforce are septuagenarians who are being required to walk 10 – 15 miles a day around Amazon’s massive warehouses.)
Is your church going out of its way to cater to your secret weapons? Are you keeping the needs of your gungho disciple-makers in mind? Or are you content to operate from one-size fits all mindset?
Why we love unlikely pairings
I hope your church is inspired by the story of Amazon and Camperforce. But, it’s not a fairy tale. It’s real life. There are hard realities to the job opportunities that Amazon is providing and serious financial concerns for the Camperforce retirees.
Despite that, people still love to hear about unlikely pairings. We love movies, books, and entertainment that are Odd Couple-esque in nature.
Why is that?
Could it be that we recognize ourselves in these pairings? That deep down, when we are alone, we feel like we are mismatched and hindered by our inherent shortcomings?
When we see a success story of an unlikely pair, we find hope. We see hope and possibility for ourselves; whether that hope is for our vocation, friendship, or courtship.
As believers, how much more so should we resonate with the idea of an unlikely pairing?
We were called out of sin and brought into the light by a perfect Creator. Our forever heritage is now enmeshed with unthinkable glory and beauty. We, all of us, and our Savior; that is the most unlikely of pairs.
Your church has the opportunity to mirror this relationship.