Thought Leader: Garland Owensby, D.Ed.Min.
Dr. Garland Owensby continues his discussion on how the church can use the Experience Economy. In Part I of this series, he discussed how Gen-Z is much more interested in collecting experiences than material possession. Because the Experience Economy traffics in memories, he challenged readers to engage people with biblical experiences which will connect them more closely to Christ and others in the church.
In part 2 of this series, Dr. Owensby reveals four areas or perspectives of an experience and explains how to utilize these to create a biblical Experience Economy for youth.
There are traditionally four areas by which you can look at an experience: Entertainment, Education, Aesthetic (beauty), and Escapist.
1. Is the audience being entertained?
Because one’s experience is in the Economy Experience, the individual must be entertained. Entertainment seems to be the longest four-letter word in the church. It is as though if something is entertaining, it cannot or should not be of God or used by Him. The word entertaining at its heart means to be engaging. I want every service, every classroom experience, my whole life to be entertaining. With so much competition for the attention of Gen Z, we must work hard at being interesting and engaging. Reflect on your communication style, curriculum, and programming. Is it interesting? Does it engage not only the interest of the audience but also their five senses?
2. Is the audience being educated?
Some feel that education and entertainment are mutually exclusive terms. If something is entertaining, then it can’t be educational. And if something is educational, then it must not be entertaining. But that is just not true in the biblical Experience Economy. Something can be entertaining and educational. If I gave you the opportunity to travel back in time, would you want to walk on water with Jesus? Would you want to see Him do miracles? Would you want to see the fish and loaves multiplied before your eyes? I believe the vast majority of us would want to do this, even though we have the Scripture text which describes these events. The biblical Experience Economy not only entertains, it educates. My goal in preaching isn’t to create a temporary entertaining distraction, but to communicate an engaging transformational message.
3. Is the audience engaged with the aesthetic?
Aesthetic refers to the beauty of the experience. It is most associated with the sense of sight. Before the majority of people were literate, the church used images, drama, and music to teach believers about the Bible. This was accomplished through stained glass, passion plays, hymns, spiritual songs, and in Ireland, the high cross. Saint Patrick even used a cloverleaf to teach of the Trinity. Sometimes the church has been so pragmatic that we have lost the beauty of the church building. If a Costco could move in if the church closed, the building may be missing a good aesthetic. The building aesthetic communicates that what we are gathered to do is something important and sacred. Worn out carpet, chipped paint, misspellings, poor presentation slides, outdated décor, and more can hurt the biblical Experience Economy. Take some time and walk around your church building and ask yourself what the aesthetic is communicating.
4. Is the audience escaping their present condition?
Another goal of the Experience Economy is for people to forget their normal lives for even a moment. At Disney World, you can for an afternoon believe you are at Black Spire Trading Outpost helping Chewbacca hide from the First Order stormtroopers. Are you really helping a Wookie hide from aimless soldiers? No. But it is a real experience!
This is one big difference between the Experience Economy and the biblical Experience Economy - What we experience, when biblical, is real!
We experience the presence of the Trinity when we gather together to worship. We offer real hope to the hopeless individual, family, and world. The church has an opportunity to help transform people and communities. Guard your services from non-biblical experiences, no matter how similar they feel to the real thing.
Gen Z loves the Experience Economy and the church is well-suited to give them lasting, transformational truth in an engaging way. It will take effort to communicate effectively, but the opportunity is too great to pass up.
Dr. Owensby travels the country speaking, teaching, and doing stand-up comedy. If you would like to invite him to your church or organization, please visit www.GarlandOwensby.com.
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