College and seminary were amazing times for me. I learned so much and had so many new experiences. One of those experiences happened one night when I was with some friends at Wendy’s. We were all sitting there with our meals and talking, when one of my friends went back up to the counter. She brought back a small cup of mayonnaise and then proceeded to alternate between dipping her french fries in her Frosty or in the mayo. I must say, for a boy who grew up west of Columbus, Ohio, it was a shock for me. Who does that sort of thing? I thought she had to be from New York or Australia or something. Those things don’t go together! Or so I thought… until I tried it. You should try it sometime.
At General Synod, a few weeks ago, I asked the youth who were attending when the wheel was invented. Then, I asked when the suitcase was invented. They answered both questions “a long time ago.” Then, I asked them when someone took the suitcase and put wheels on it. That was pretty recent. “Why did it take so long for someone to put those two things together?” I asked. No one had an answer to that.
Sometimes, we imagine creativity and “innovation” in ministry must take so much effort and must be so disruptive to how we have always done things. In truth, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, all we need to do to create more meaningful, effective and life-changing experiences is match up two things that haven’t usually gone together.
I ended up asking the youth to create a plan to combine a worship service and an amusement park.
Youth at General Synod planned a worship service at an amusement park.
They really went at it. In a matter of 20 minutes, they had created a plan. Part of the plan was a “scavenger hunt sermon.” That’s a sermon that takes place over the entire day, where they get pieces and parts of the message from places and people all around the park. They would not necessarily know when the next piece would come. Maybe the person running the roller coaster would hand them a piece of paper, or they might find a picture by the water fountain. Who knows? What did happen, though, was excitement. They started imagining what might happen. They even asked if this could be part of the National Youth Event at Disney World next year. Who knows if that will really work, but it was exciting to see them dream and imagine what could happen. And it unleashed something in them.
There are small and big things we can do to let God’s Spirit move more freely in our lives and ministries. One place we might try to get things going is by combining two new things. Maybe instead of always putting the banker in our church on the finance committee, we should put her on the worship committee. Maybe instead of always having Holy Communion be a quiet and solemn time, we could see it as a celebration and a meal where people can be excited, talk, hug and listen to happy music.
Two things brought together that may not have been together before. And then wait and see what happens. Who knows, we might stumble across the next great spiritual invention. Or, we might just have some fun being with God and each other. Either way, it seems like a win-win.
– Rev. R. Phillip Hart, Designated Conference Minister