Treating Your Workplace as Your Mission Field - Aaron Vogel, Co-founder @ District Donuts
"I want to be an example of what business can and should look like"
On Thursday, November 9, we joined marketplace leaders from around the Bay Area to grow and be inspired by Aaron Vogel, co-founder of District: Donuts, Sliders, Brew. We ate delicious food from Forager Tasting Room and Eatery, made new friends, and talked about what it means to view your place of work as your mission field.
If you missed it, check out the summary below and be sure to follow us to stay up to speed with more events just like this one!
The Sacred in the Secular
What started as a bi-vocational entrance into the hospitality industry eventually drove Vogel and his wife to a moment of decision: return to full-time ministry or pursue a career as an entrepreneur.
“Should we plant a church or a business?” Vogel asked, not realizing how similar the two options really were.
“When a pastor leaves the ministry, people always ask, ‘Why are you getting a secular job?’” said Vogel. “But there is something sacred about the work that God gives us [no matter what it is].”
Mission in the Workplace
Vogel learned from his father—a hard-working man who held down three jobs at a time—how to “preach the gospel in street clothes.” Though he was never employed by the church, Vogel’s father set an example for his son of how to be Jesus to the people he encountered each day, from the familiar mailman to an eccentric male dancer.
“There is a mission in the workplace,” said Vogel, who instills the Christ-like hospitality that he learned from his father into each of the employees who work at the five District locations. He leads his business with one question: What real good work can be done in this industry?
A Different Kind of Community
Vogel and his wife extend their hospitality beyond the four walls of the coffee shop into their own home, where a smattering of 20 and 30 somethings regularly gather to experience authentic community.
“The people we shepherd aren’t a community of believers,” said Vogel. “I get to tell a better story—the right story—to all of these people about Christianity.”
After setting up the first District, Vogel began making regular efforts to care for the neighborhood—picking up trash, pulling weeds, and generally looking for ways to be a force for change and for good.
“We are particular people in particular places at particular times,” said Vogel, encouraging attendees to consider their own opportunities for impact. “Think more thoroughly about your business. How does God want your industry to be?”
Growing for Good
Vogel and his team have opened five District locations in the past four years, and have plans to keep growing. But it isn’t about building an empire for Vogel. “We’re a donut shop, but we try to do and be more and better,” said Vogel, who invests portions of his proceeds into partnership with a faith-based nonprofit that facilitates foster care.
“I want to grow exponentially because I want to be an example in our nation of what a business can and should look like,” he said. “We’re creating a new category in our city of what we do.”