Ok. I just couldn't wait any longer.
In youth ministry, and especially when we take students for a missional experience, whatever that might look like, our desire is to give students a transformational experience, an opportunity where we have created an environment where they are transformed, brought to a new place with their understanding of God, themselves, and how they fit with the world. An experience which overtakes their life and calls them to something more.
Isn't that the overall goal of a theme park, more or less?
Anyway, on to Sesame Place. But before that, a disclaimer. We have gone to Disney World in Florida 5 times now. Yes, agreed, its a little excessive. A few caveats though. The first two times, I was fortunate enough to be traveling on company expense, since I was presenting something at a work related conference, a very nice luxury. And the last time was also free, for just one day, because some good friends who live in Orlando had some free tickets that were just begging to be used. Ok.
When you go to Disney, every person that works there just goes nuts to make sure you are having a great time. They go out of their way for the craziest request. Their attitude is so joyous, their perspective is all about the guest, their mindset is out of the world. It's a little sickening.
It was quite the opposite at Sesame Place. From the parking attendant that didn't talk, to the cashier working the register that sighed when I came to pay, to the people working the float rides, busy trying to get their coworkers wet versus moving the rides along... It was one thing after another. Granted, we still had a great time, but there was something missing. As my wife also put it, "It's the Magic Kingdom without the magic." And it made me think.
What is it about a perspective, a mindset, as Erwin puts it, an ethos? How is that taught, developed, communicated? What about the gap from the leader saying it, to the people in the movement getting it, to the employees, visitors, congregants, mission trip participants holding it, ascribing to it, living it?
I don't have any good answers. A few things came to my mind:
1. Are we even communicating it? It seemed to me that whoever was in charge didn't even talk to their staff about making a transforming visitor experience. We might be talking to our student leaders, volunteer youth team, etc. about creating spiritual environments for students. Or we might be just thinking it and wondering why the team that we serve and work with is just not seeing it. Or we might not even be pondering it ourselves.
2. Are we providing the tools to get it done? I think the park was probably understaffed. That must have been frustrating. Therefore, the staff didn't really have the resources to get it done, even if they had wanted to. Do we give our team the resources neccessary?
3. Do we give each other the right kind of feedback? I know for me, evaluation is a huge part of the service project, mission trip, etc. I got the feeling like the leadership of the park didn't know, and maybe didn't want to know, what the customers were thinking.
Anyway, a rather strange way to tie Sesame Place with missional student movements.