The Next Generation(s) and the church

In every generation there are things that remain consistent-and there are some things that change drastically.  No matter what the venue-whether its Professional Sports, or the CHURCH,  "How to connect with the next generation" is always needed to be asked. 

As you read the article below, think of how we as a church-and how we as Bethany Lutheran Church in Escanaba- connect and integrate with coming changes that every generation brings. 

Youth is being served by professional sports franchises. Technology, for the most part, is the means.

“The next generation of fans is Topic A, A-prime and A-double prime,” said Bob Bowman, CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media.

These are the so-called millennials (also known as Generation Y), those in the neighborhood of 18 to 34 years old — the age range varies. There are at least 80 million of them.

Among their defining characteristics, “They have grown up with technology completely around them,”

“It’s not even technology for them,” he said. “It’s a natural extension of what it means to be human.”
— Don Marinelli

Among their defining characteristics, “They have grown up with technology completely around them,” said Don Marinelli, a former Carnegie Mellon drama professor who cofounded, with the late Randy Pausch, CMU's renowned Entertainment Technology Center.

“It's not even technology for them,” he said. “It's a natural extension of what it means to be human.”

In general terms, the millennials (and the latest generation, Z) interact and multitask via cell phones and other mobile devices more frequently than their elders.

That includes inside stadiums and arenas, accessing and sharing information through mobile applications and social media. The business of sports is catching on.

“The first way to engage millennials is to do it on their terms,” Penguins vice president David Peart said. “The Penguins were very early in on the notion that if I want to develop a fan base, I have to do it in a social environment.”

“Our entire mobile strategy is focused on the millennials,” said Bowman, who oversees a staff of which half is involved in technology.

“The first way to engage millennials is to do it on their terms,”
— Penguins vice president David Peart

From buying tickets to accessing live stats and highlights to taking and tweeting photos, “It's all about mobile,” Bowman said.

Mobile technology and social media represent “the way they think about the world,” said John Forese, senior vice president of LiveAnalytics, Ticketmaster's data analysis division. “It's the best way to engage fans inside and outside the venue.”

Accordingly, major sports venues are upgrading their Wi-Fi capabilities. The NFL last year set minimum Wi-Fi standards to be in place by the upcoming season. MLB expects its 30 stadiums to have full wireless connectivity by Opening Day 2015.

Marinelli describes young people who attend a ballgame as “socially inclined,” meaning that even at the game they still want (or need) to communicate with those who are elsewhere. “Connectivity to the outside world” is essential, he said.

Young fans like to share “thoughts and experiences,” Marinelli said. Referring to PNC Park, he put it this way: “I want to share the fact that whoever built this park was brilliant enough to have the cityscape in the background.”

From a big screen outside Consol Energy Center to having their own mobile app to tweeting every goal, the Penguins seek to “future-proof our fan base, to continue to expand our engagement with our fan base,” Peart said.

They also have done it in a more old-fashioned, low-tech way, by developing an extensive program that promotes and supports youth hockey.

“The more young individuals we can get to participate in a sport and become familiar with the sport, the more likely they are to grow up to be Penguins fans,” Peart said.

Last month, Pirates president Frank Coonelly told a ticketing and sports franchise symposium audience that the Pirates are diligent about engaging with younger fans and making sure they “stay in love with the game.”

“We need to break down any barriers to having kids participate,” he said. “The best fans are the ones who fell in love with the game at a young age and stayed in love with the game.”

Winning helps, of course. But Coonelly acknowledged that “fans need to be connected,” and he wasn't just speaking of emotional ties.

“It's their lifeblood,” he said. “You will be amazed at how many wires to takes to become wireless. The number of antennas and wires and trays you need to be fully enabled is stunning.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com.