Hobby Lobby founder David Green is a PK – a “Preacher’s Kid.” His father was the pastor of a small church in Altus, Oklahoma. Green began working in retail at McClellan’s five-and-dime while taking distributive education classes at Altus High School. Following active duty in the Air Force Reserve, he returned to his job at McClellan’s. At the age of nineteen he married his wife, Barbara, and a year later took a job with TG&Y spending several more years in management. During this time he borrowed $600, bought a frame chopper, and he and Barbara began making miniature picture frames on their kitchen table for wholesaling. The successful growth of this endeavor into the multi-state, multi-store Hobby Lobby of today is well documented in Green’s book, More Than a Hobby. In obedience to God, Green founded his business on Christian principles and values – not compromising these principles for the sake of an adding machine tape whether it prints red ink or black.
When asked whether he’s ever felt God calling him into some form of ministry or mission Green answered,
God just opened a door. I don’t know that I felt as strongly about it when I first started but as time has gone by and God has continued to open up doors – in our spirit, my wife and I feel reaffirmed that we’re exactly where God wants us at this time. When you’re borrowing $600 you don’t feel as strongly about it as you do when you’re doing 2 billion dollars in sales. I’ve just seen God work over all these years in our business so I feel very strong that we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be. But that doesn’t mean we don’t teach Sunday school and have other jobs in our church. We go on mission trips too. But our primary mission field is Hobby Lobby.
Although Green’s mother passed away in 1975 and his father in 1995, both were major Christian role models and influences on the ethics and values he employs today. As Green states, “My father and mother had tremendous integrity and obviously that affected me. Telling people about Christ was very important to them and that’s what we commit ourselves to here at Hobby Lobby. So, I’m sure they would be very pleased.
This philosophy is part of his commitment to tell people that Hobby Lobby isn’t a secular business. While scanning the newspaper one Christmas morning in the mid 1990s, Green noticed there wasn’t a single mention of the birth of Jesus; however, there were several “Seasons Greetings” and “Happy Holidays.” Now, each Christmas, Easter and Independence Day, Hobby Lobby places a full-page newspaper ad with a message of the real meaning of the holidays in every city where one of their stores is located.
The Green family consists of David and Barbara, their two sons, Mart and Steven, daughter Darsee and ten grandchildren. A commitment to spend more time with his family when his kids were younger led Green to the critical decision of closing each store at 8 p.m. when other retailers closed at 9 p.m. An even bolder move was the decision to close all stores on Sunday.
When asked whether he had regrets in making the decision to close on Sunday, Green replied,
We’re doing very well with our six-day work week. And even if we weren’t doing well we think closing on Sunday is what we should do. We put a sign in every door reminding people that we’re closed on Sunday so the families have time to be together or worship if they choose. Although there are potentially more sales per hour on Sunday than any other day of the week, we believe we should try to do things the way God would have us do it and there’s a blessing that you can’t really put down on paper. So we have a strong belief in trying to do things right and we’ll be blessed for it in return.
Who would argue that statement? With the remarkable staying power of Hobby Lobby one would ascertain that Green’s Biblical formula for success IS God’s will.
In any business there are risks. There are times in each of our lives, whether business or personal, we sometimes doubt God’s guidance and wonder if He will provide when things aren’t going as planned.
So, how does a major retail company like Hobby Lobby stand firm on its values and beliefs without compromising in a desperate world? Green adds,
It’s not always about money – it’s principles. God will bless us if we continue to run our business on Christian principles. Our Heavenly Father is pleased when we don’t compromise our faith and principles in times of desperation.
There’s little doubt Hobby Lobby has been blessed under the leadership of David Green. From its inception on Aug. 4, 1972 in 300 square feet of retail space in North Oklahoma City to over 430 stores in 34 states, Hobby Lobby is America’s home and craft superstore.
As you might imagine, beginning with $600 of borrowed cash to 2 billion dollars in revenue is hard to comprehend. But the Biblical instructions for tithing that Green witnessed when his parents lived out these scriptural commands did not skip a generation with him.
Although his father was pastor of a small church, with smaller tithes and the proportionally smaller salary you’d expect, it never stopped his parents from tithing. When the church would hold a “pounding” by giving vegetables, fruit, canned or dry goods by the pound, his parents would calculate the cost of each item and place a monetary tithe of 10 percent in the offering plate on Sunday. As the saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and Green reinforces it by saying,
We’ve always tithed 10 percent of our personal income and tried to do the same in our business. Now, we try to give half our profits each year to ministries.
Hard work and obedient stewardship has paid dividends for Green and Hobby Lobby. As expected, he is deluged with contribution requests from around the world. But hold the phone if you’re reading this. He has a system and a logical theory behind it, as he explains,
We get hundreds of inquires each month from people wanting us to contribute to various causes and charities. We could give a small portion to each one or give a larger portion to a few who in turn would be able to help a greater number of people. Three of our largest beneficiaries are Book of Hope, Every Home for Christ and Oral Roberts University.
If you research any or all three of these organizations you’ll see the impact they have on reaching the lost for Christ to millions all over the world as, well as making evangelical disciples of young people to carry out the Great Commission as commanded by Jesus to each one of us in Matthew 28: 19-20.
The business goal of Hobby Lobby for the next five to 10 years is continued growth by opening 25 – 30 new stores each year. With this trend, Green wants to see more expansion in the northeast. One reason to assume these goals are attainable is past results. Another is faith when he says,
We grow as we’re obedient.
And what about David Green’s spiritual goals for the next five to 10 years? Listen close to his words: “We want to tell people about Christ – to be a witness for Christ.”
And that, my friends, is much more than a hobby.