video courtesy of https://billhigh.com/

David Green shares his life story and founding Hobby Lobby, a Christian arts and crafts chain that truly embodies business and ministry together. He shares insights from the journey and Godly wisdom worth noting.

Growing Up

David was one of six children. He learned these simple yet profound principals from his parents, who were pastors and farmers:

Provider. God always provided for our family’s needs.

Tithing. My parents loved to tithe – they would record each vegetable harvested so that they could tithe (first fruits) on everything

Wife of Character. David met his wife Barbara at the local five and dime. He grew up Pentecostal tradition and Barbara Baptist.

Beginnings

Work. Before starting Hobby Lobby, David worked at TG&Y, a five and dime variety store chain started during the great depression. Their motto was “[We] have what people want at a price they can afford to pay”, and they sold: “Turtles, Girdles and Yoyos”

Ministry. As a “merchant”, David’s mom would periodically ask him: “but what are you doing for the Lord?” David figured out that he could be just as called, just as anointed to minister as a merchant as his 5 brothers and sisters who were pastors.

Creativity. The arts and craft business started with a fad of people decorating their walls with little canvas and frames of painted barns, windmills and such.

Start-up Loan. Went to the bank to borrow $600. $450 of which was for a miter to make frames. Salesman went out with samples and sold $4000 worth of product, but they had no money to build inventory. Went to bank again and said, if you can extend credit 60 days we can pay you back with the payables on these sales, assuming it would take 30 days. “I didn’t know that people wouldn’t pay in 30 days when you gave them 30 days”

Family Labor. Started in the garage. Boys were 7 and 9 years old and David payed them 7 cents an hour. Barbara worked for the first 5 labors free.

1st Hobby Lobby 300 sq ft storefront, 300 manufacturing space. Oklahoma.

2nd store opened 1975 and David left his “job” at TG&Y where he was earning $26,000 per year. Somehow, they were able to get by with David taking a reduced $13,000 salary out of the young company.

Administrative Gift. David considers his wife a “Proverbs 31” woman. Barbara never would spend more money than they had as a family, yet always provided for the kids, including making their clothes, with whatever they had. She trusted in the Lord in this special way.

Nearly Went Bust

Foreclosure. In the mid-1980s, there was an oil bust. The bank was threatening to foreclose. Couldn’t order new merchandise because they hadn’t yet paid for the other merchandise.

Repentance from Self-Reliance. God taught David how to trust and rely on God instead of himself. Even as he “always said the right things” giving God the credit through his lips, but he doubts it was in his heart. In fact he recalls God saying: “OK, your so smart you can have [the company] by yourself”. And I did have it myself. Yes, he gave me life, breath, etc. but as far as Him blessing our company, that wasn’t me. Thankful for this time.

Humility. David would crawl under his desk and cry out to God for help. “Where are we going to go from here?”

Family Decision. Significant family meeting at that time, letting everyone know we might lose everything. My oldest son said, “Dad, we’re not relying on you, we’re relying on God” My son taught me something that day.

Giving

Gleaning. In the beginning they sold beads to make necklaces. Thank God for the hippies! They would line up their beads on the floor to make necklaces and we knew they were stealing some of them. But we did the math and figured it would still work even if they stole 30% of the beads!

Faith. Attended a conference with missionaries going all over the world handing out Christian literature. Gave a small amount. But on the flight home God said: “I want you to give $30,000”. David didn’t have $30,000, so he consulted with Barbara and said “how can we do this?”. So they came up with an idea. They had $7500 at the time, and wrote out 3 additional post-dated checks – one for each month, trusting God that they would have $7500 each month somehow.

Giving 50%. David started by paying the tithe. Then more than tithes. God caught him one day and said “You can’t out give God”. Discussed with the family how can we outgive God? Son gave a plan. Give the largest amount they had ever given. Then they added that amount same to itself and continued. Every 6 months they increased their giving in that way. Not doubled, added the same amount. They looked at those numbers out in time and said, no way is this possible. But then they did it for over 20 years! They were even ahead of that eventually, and decided well the government allows up to 50% to be deducted for tax purposes, let’s aim for that. So that’s where God has us today. (I believe the Green’s has given away $500m plus)

Contentment. How do you give away 50%? We have some cars and a house and we’re good. We give to give.

Give to Get is all about greed. We aren’t about that. We do give based on a need. We do respond to God’s calling in obedience.

Meet monthly to give. They have 300 requests each month. Don’t want to give shallow across the board. But want only to go deep with a few.

Wealth. Bill struggled and couldn’t sleep. 2nd hardest time in his life. Would wealth, even billions cause trouble to his children, others? Advisors were saying break it up into twigs, branches, leafs, but didn’t make sense to David. So, they have given 100% of the stock in the company away to a “stewardship trust”. Can’t be touched. The wealth is protected. We/kids are stewards. They legally are only stewards. “God owns everything” scripture (Psalm 24:1). Family gets what they earn, but that’s it. Keep the tree and reap the fruit. Also use a donor advised fund.

Two Ground Rules for giving. God’s word and man’s soul. The only things that are eternal.

Growth

Now have 50+ stores and 36,000 employees. 10 million square foot distribution facility in Oklahoma City. One brick at a time.

No long-term debt.

$15 minimum wage policy instituted few years ago. Now $15.70 per hour. That’s good, but if they get saved, that’s great.

God

HL employs 6 chaplins to serve leadership and the people. Pray at meetings.

Witness. Meeting of new employees – 50 managers accept Jesus who were training to be VPs. We preach the gospel at work.

Lawsuits. At any given time fighting 70 lawsuits. David figures he can take one more lawsuit to risk preaching the gospel at work.

Not just money. Blessings from God for his parents were children and health. Not just money for money.

Family harder than Business. Doing things better for God. God first, family next, the business being successful third. Strong marriage as platform for God to raise up the kids and family.

Two life goals. One: Raise up and sustain family. Not just the kids, but the grand-kids and the great-grand kids to serve the Lord. Two: Share the good news of Jesus.