Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reaching out to the new generations

On the subject of cruises, this past vacation, Barbara and I were curious about a cruise ship line that we saw in the Caribbean that we had never seen before. It was the Ocean Village line. I looked them up on the internet and found that they are a new cruise line targeting the 30 - 50 something age. I found it interesting that the cruise line business is just now making an effort to reach out to the younger generations. For a long time cruising was very static and unchanging. Very similar to churches. Until just recently on most all large cruise lines there has been a strict dress code for the meals at night and always two formal nights when you absolutely had to wear a coat and tie. The shows generally were Las Vegas type of entertainment, to suit an elderly audience. Most of the shore excursions catered to the older crowd also. I don't know if the ships just program for the elderly because the elderly are more inclined to cruise or younger people don't cruise because many ships seem to cater only to the older crowd. But it has been my experience that 80% of those on the cruises are of retirement age and up.
But some cruise lines are now changing and trying to reach the younger crowd. The Ocean Village line has no dress code for meals and no formal nights at all. The shows have more rock bands and comedians that appeal to the younger group. The shore excursions are more about activities than site seeing.
I can see the traditional cruiser complaining about how the cruises are changing and just going to hell. But the cruise line knows that there should be no reason why younger people don't take cruise vacations. They are a cheap, convenient and very fun way to vacation.
Theologians also know that the young need Christ as much as the old. They have asked some of the same questions about why so many churches have so few young people. Does the young stay away from church because the church caters so much to the older generations or do the church leaders feel compelled to program for the elderly because their members are mostly old?
A friend was telling me about going to a Christmas concert at one of the more traditional churches in town to see a friend who was involved in the production. Everyone was dressed to the max and most of the crowd was what you'd see on a cruise ship, over 60. My friend, a visitor to the church, couldn't seem to find a seat. He was there plenty early but everyone had programs, coats and various articles of clothing laid out to save seats for family members and apparently whole Sunday School classes. No one said much to him and very few stayed around after the program to fellowship. I'm not too sure this church was concerned much about anyone other than pleasing their members. It's a good reminder that we always need to examine what we do as a church to make sure we are open-armed and welcoming and not self-serving.
Grace Point is much like the Ocean Village Cruise Line. We purposed several years ago to reach the young and hopefully we will continue to be a vibrant church that is open, evangelistic and concerned about those who do not know Jesus Christ. And most of all a church that is willing to change its methods without compromising the message.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vacations with a purpose

Barbara and I returned this past week from a cruise to the Caribbean. It was relaxing and I do enjoy cruising and the time away. But I have to admit it is an exercise in pure selfish indulgence. Just eat and lay around. Eat, relax, eat, play games, eat some more. The everywhere. Literally 24/7. You can't get away from it. They have it available everywhere you turn and when you waddle up to your cabin after a full day and night of stuffing your face and laying around you find they have left candy on your bed!
Barbara and I do love to travel but I'd much rather be going on a mission trip than a cruise. While on the curise I found myself comparing it to the mission trips we take each year. And they just don't compare. Given the choice between going on a mission trip or cruise, I'd pick the mission trip every time. Why? Here are just a few reasons.
  • A mission trip gives you a sense of accomplishment, giving yourself instead of just getting and consuming.
  • A mission trip allows you to really get to know the people of the place you are visiting. You not only meet them but you become life long friends with people who are very different yet who seem to relate to you better than many back home.
  • You always travel with a team on a mission trip and get to work together, serve together and worship togther. You always have another group of life long friends when you come home.
  • A mission trip teaches you many things about yourself, the people of the country you serve and the God we worship. About all I learn from a cruise is how selfish I am.

Mission trips are really vacations with a purpose. Those who go will almost unanimously tell you that they are life changing experiences that they would not trade for anything. Cruises are fun but they can't measure to a mission trip. When I think back to my travels to Sudan, Kenya and Brazil these will always be the memories that I cherish the most.

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