Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Monday, September 07, 2009
Faith Works 9-12-09
Good and Evil and Disney
One thing I did not expect in going to Disney World was the overwhelmingly international nature of the experience.
I expected high humidity and hair drenching heat, but it had not occurred to me that you'd regularly go for long stretches of time not hearing a word of English . . . and when you did, it often had a strong accent of Liverpool or Bristol or even Sydney.
Families from around the world made every part of the Disney Parks empire feel like a bit of Epcot and the "World Showcase" (where you find the little enclaves of global culture strung around a lagoon reflecting the faux Eiffel Tower and Venice campanile, etc.).
Conversations with some of the Disney "cast members," the title held by all employees from trashcan cleaner to costumed character, indicated that more Americans like to come in the winter and during spring break, so my perception that international guests were noticeably dominant seems accurate. A few cast members said, smiling broadly at me, that Midwesterners are usually smarter than coming in August.
Some are, some aren't.
What I also did not expect was to see and feel that Disney really does have some lessons that the smallest church can learn from and adopt. First and foremost, as I mentioned last week, there is training.
Training means simply this: that no one goes out on any task without making sure that the employee has been taught the basic story and values of the organization, knows how their task fits into the larger goals and themes at work around them, and are prepared to step to help with anything that goes on in their immediate vicinity, even when it is just knowing how to find an answer.
Can faith communities do this? Could we all do a better job of making sure that anyone who has a ministry function of any sort knows how their task – nursery attendant, kitchen helper, morning greeter – fits into the work going on around them, and how that all is part of the core mission and themes of that particular congregation?
Or to put it a little more awkwardly: is it better to fill a slot with someone who has tunnel vision and no interest in anything other than their own particular efforts, or another less adept person who sees their work as part of a whole? Is it even better, sometimes, to leave slots open until the right fit and training can be found?
In Christian churches, we sometimes confuse "everyone has a gift" to "anyone can do whatever they want." Not the same. Identifying a person's giftedness is a ministry itself, and making sure that gift serves the larger purpose is leadership's heavy lifting.
Right behind training is applying a comprehensive vision, to the point where not only is every part of an environment part of the experience, but even the participants start to deliver, let alone shape, the experience they came for. In Disney Parks, I'm learning, you will often find yourself pausing to figure out where you are – and get asked sometimes by people on either side of you "Can I help you find where you're going?"
There's something about the immersive experience they create that makes people start to act like staff, but in a good way. For the opposite, put into a search engine "starbucks marketed like church" and watch the video that comes up. And cringe.
Can your parking area, your restrooms, your gathering space preach your message? Well, here's the newsflash: they already do. The question is whether they're preaching the message you want them to.
Your problem may be that your Sunday message says one thing, and your locked front door, dingy bathroom, and cheerless nursery attendant says another. Or it could be as simple as trying to say too many things, when "one dish is sufficient," as one of Walt Disney's inspirations once said. A simple, one word, or short phrase message can come across in many ways, while a longer, more complex theme can so easily misfire or be misheard as to create more confusion . . . than not even trying.
There's one more week I want to put into this look from the Magic Kingdom back into our worship centers and sanctuaries. And it has a little to do with the Devil and Hell, Evil afoot, and Goodness triumphant. Doesn't get much simpler than that!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; why yes, he does have 1,200 Disney photos on his Facebook page, why do you ask? Ask him why at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow Knapsack @Twitter.com.
Notes From My Knapsack 9-10-09
Plenty To See, Plenty To Do
This week in Granville is an embarrassment of riches, all for little or no cost, each with lasting value for you as a participant, and for our community.
Thursday night, Sept. 10, at Granville Elementary School, the Girl Scouts are signing up for a new year of activity with their programs in the Multipurpose Room, while Granville Cub Scout Pack 3 is signing up 1st through 5th grade boys in the gym.
Pack 3's program starts at 7:00 pm and offers an overview to everyone for the next year's activities; you can sign up for the year with your son or just get your questions answered. The older Boy Scout program, represented by Troop 65 in Granville, meets at Centenary United Methodist Church on most Tuesday nights at 7:00 pm, open to boys through age 18.
This February is the 100th anniversary of the formal establishment of Scouting in the United States, and we'll have more to talk about with the BSA Centennial a little later in the year. But for younger girls and boys who want to get a taste of Scouting, Thursday evening at GES is the place to start.
Saturday, Sept. 12, there will be a happy throng gathered in the pedestrian mall between the Granville Public Library and the Avery-Downer House about 11:30 am. Years ago, especially during the summer, kids would come running out of the library just before the top of the hour to watch something delightful on the side of Robbins Hunter's lovely Greek Revival 1842 house.
As the ornate clock beneath an eagle-capped cupola struck the hour, a lady would merrily piroutte around a small balcony below the clock face and above a small plaque reading "V. Woodhull." This was Mr. Hunter's local share of the national bicentennial celebration he prepared in 1975, saluting the Licking County native who was the first woman to run for President of the United States.
After his death, the Robbins Hunter Museum found it nearly impossible to keep the clockworks running, and for over twenty years neither the clock nor the lady have been at work – but thanks to the work of the museum board and staff, Victoria Woodhull will again promenade on the hour, starting at Noon this Saturday.
Sunday, St. Edward's Catholic Church has their parish picnic running until 3 pm, which is handy, because 3 pm on Sunday, Sept. 13, Pilgrim Lutheran Church would like to invite their community friends and family to join them in a rededication of their steeple.
It was one year ago that the effects of Hurricane Ike pushed up into Ohio, and blew over their steeple, with the cross on top bending and insisting on standing erect even as the structure beneath bent low.
The entire front of the church and worship space inside took damage which needed repair, so they will "rededicate" it all, and you're invited to join them this Sunday.
The great medieval cathedrals often had a spire atop a steeple, with the symbolism of a great pointer directing the eyes of we on the ground to the heavens. A later, more mathematical age liked to add to that the point that parallel lines only intersect in eternity.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; ask him about who's signing up what at email@example.com, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.