Apple: Apple has successfully created a brand experience around its products. From the sleek design of their devices to the intuitive user interface and seamless integration across different devices, Apple has built a loyal customer base that values the overall experience of using their products.
Airbnb: Airbnb transformed the travel industry by offering unique and personalized experiences for travelers. By allowing people to rent out their homes or spaces, Airbnb created a platform where travelers can have more authentic and local experiences, immersing themselves in the culture of their destinations.
Starbucks: Think about Starbucks. Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business. You’re paying for the cozy ambiance. You’re paying for the skilled and friendly staff (in 2022, Starbucks announced they would spend $1 billion on higher wages and better employee training). Why? Because the experience matters.
The list of companies unsuccessful in making the shift is long, including Blockbuster, KMart, The Sports Authority, and Sears. And many, many churches.
This experience economy is clear to see and here to stay—at least for a while. And we better understand it and adjust to it.
The Church in the Experience Economy
How long has your church hosted in-person services and experiences?
I became the lead pastor of Woodstock City Church in November 2008. This one role alone means I have over a decade of hosting church services and other in-person gatherings. Your church leadership experiences may be a little shorter or decades longer. Either way, you get the point. Many churches are stuck in an in-person gathering rut.
Let’s back up a little more, though: How long has THE Church hosted in-person gatherings? We don’t know the exact format of the early church gatherings, but we know they had them! That’s one of the reasons I love this passage in Hebrews…
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)
I love knowing these first-century Christians gathered in person. And as a church leader, I equally love to know these first-century pastors ALSO struggled to get people to attend their church! There’s something comforting about that.
As church leaders today, it’s evident that we need to adjust our in-person experiences. This is challenging because we all have our own habit (or rut) of doing things the way we’ve always done them.