Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What if Starbucks Marketed Like Church? A Parable

I've seen this clip now several times and while it's got its problems, it certainly gives the viewer pause for consideration - which is part of what Advent is all about, right?

Quite frankly, I'm ambivalent about "Media and the Church". I know - or, at least I'm told - that if we want to attract younger people to church, we need to be more tecno-savvy. Less organ music. More guitars and drums. More bells and whistles.

I confess that I think to myself: "Is this church or is this entertainment?"

Not to say that there are some parts of church that aren't or shouldn't be "entertaining." I suppose "entertainment" - like beauty - is in the perception of the person. And, I suppose, there is a generational component to it.

And yet, when I talk to seminarians between the ages of late 20's to early 40's, they seem to want more tradition.

Eucharist. Every week. Even in non-Eucharistic denomination.

Music. From the Hymnal. Prayer. From a proper Prayer Book and not on a projection screen. And, don't change the words every week, please. We want some place - one place - where there's some stability in our lives.

Oh, and some moments of quiet, please and thank you.

The folks sitting in my pew in that age demographic say much the same thing.

This little clip raises some questions about how we "do" church and how we "market" church. I think the deepest cut is the one it makes about 'authenticity' and how some of the 'canned messages' (like the guy with the 'greeter' pin doesn't) are seen for what they are.

I don't know. I think there's a great deal to think about here. Quietly.

Good thing it's Advent, huh?


Fran said...

Now that is provocative Elizabeth. I had not seen that before.

I am involved in so many conversations about the topic of evangelizing.

You know me well enough by now - I am not of the hit-them-over-the-head school. How do we open the doors and welcome people in?

You are faced with similar issues. A younger generation wanting more tradition. The pull of the "mega-church." One of our ironic topics is - the complaint that mass is too long, but then folks head over the the mega-church, which lasts for hours!

And I can promise you that we have decent liturgy, nice music and really good preaching, so it can't just be blamed on "boring sermons, too long sermons or too short sermons." Although I guess to some...

I often wonder if my (personal)blog is a platform of sorts for some kind of outreach, whatever that may be. Not to be forced, but to - in an Advent-like way, to be a light perhaps. Is that too bold to say? You know that a good half or more of my readers are not of any faith tradition and are frankly disdainful of a lot of their experience around religion and religious people.

Much food for thought here. I must share this with some others that I know. Thank you for this and sorry for the rambling comment.

Unknown said...

When you go to a religious functioin, of any kind--Christian or other, and they make up new words for popular secular songs, and have projection screens and electric guitars, it seems fake.

You feel silly being there. Like any moment, you are all going to put on your paper hats and start playing your kazoos for some solemn march and try like hell to keep a straight face.

There are so many Street Preachers now {of many different faiths} and I have observed that they do these things because they lack proper training and a solid theological education. Its popular amongst some people trying to escape their old churches for whatever reason. But then these street preachers are put on par with divinity school graduates and its annoying. You cannot have a serious discussion with them. They dont know Whys or Hows beyond their favored document. Its not just about citing chapter and verse, its about context, and history, culture. And You always hope with all that knowledge comes humility, and that ineffable quality that conveys authority to speak of all of this and represent that church, that tradition and that group.

If you go to church to be entertained, maybe you are there for the wrong reasons. Turning church into a carnival every sunday seems like a form of avoidance to me. Its like eating twinkies everyday. Its not good for you and after a while you loose your enjoyment of them because there is no balance in that diet. Only sugar--no substance.

Jim said...

I think the church is often a bit fad driven and over driven. So, for instance, while it is true that mailed news letters are obsolete, and there is newer (some is actually good) music and there is a lot that we miss if we are organ only (cf. shapenote singing) it is not true that we need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

We can still be liturgical, traditional, and spiritual in our worship. We can do that and consider it the basis of our actions to equip the saints to be radically active in a world that needs to be called to love, away from materialism, to justice and away from privelege. In persuit of that, should we be open and marketing savy? Sure! But not at the cost of our roots which are precisely what we should be using that marketing savy to bring to a world that needs it.

Or not. I said something like that to the discernment committee of the diocese of Chicago a few years back. Which committee was so impressed I was removed from postulancy. ;-) Go with power point, it is probably safer.


Fr Craig said...

I'm 57, so I guess I'm an 'old curmudgeon,' but I cannot see a sacramental and liturgical church attempting to compete in a game with totally different rules. I think we have to face that we ARE a 'niche' church already - substantial numbers of the young we want to attract have no idea what an Episcopalian is. Fact is, I think, that we will attract the young who look for transcendence, beauty, mystery and a reliable pattern to worship; we won't attract those who want R&R and hand waving. I don't know how to lead worship that offends me - and mega church performances do offend me, so the decision is easy for me. Megachurch worship is all about satisfying 'me', giving 'me' a spiritual high. Well done liturgical worship draws us to the 'other,' and I know which one I think is 'real.' The REAL issue, I'm more and more convinced, is basic marketing and advertising. When those young folks decide finally to search for God, I don't think we are even on their list of places to look. Answer: aggressive publicity about our ministry in the world/community. If they see us doing this work, indeed 'looking like Jesus,' I think they'll come and check us out. said...

Asking seminarians - who have been approved by the institution that uses prayer books and hymnals - what they like in a service might not elicit the most objective, or accurate, answer.

Doorman-Priest said...

Sadly, I recognised it all!

Frair John said...

If you want to see somthing interesting, go to a Latin Mass (not Tridentine per se) and look at the congragation.

Chances are that it has a fair number of people my age (32). If it is later in the day, the chances of that go up.