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.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

John, I couldn't agree more. Recently I asked my parents to skip their usual sunday service at their church and join me at ours. The next day, i went to their house and asked them what they thought of the service. My mom always has the same first reaction...she loves to see so many young people in attendance and involved directly in the service. It certainly beats the post-retirement age congregation that they're use to at their church! Now, we must build on that! Imagine the possibilities!!

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