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August 11, 2018Culture

Mattresses, Experiences, and Instagramming Your Worship Service

What place does social media have in our worship services?
Mattresses, Experiences, and Instagramming Your Worship Service
Image: via Creative Commons

When was the last time you bought a mattress? Did you walk around a showroom and awkwardly lie down on several of them? Did you close your eyes, try to get comfortable, and imagine what it would be like to sleep on it day after day? Did you then pay too much, and wait too long for it to be delivered to your house?

No wonder the mattress industry was ripe for disruption. In the same way that Amazon disrupted brick and mortar retail, Uber disrupted the Taxi industry, and smart phones disrupted camera, calculator, and flashlight sales, Casper has done the same for mattresses.

Casper, an online mattress retailer, has been so effective at upending a $29 Billion industry that other companies have quickly followed suit. And just last month, they took things to the next level by building their first brick and mortar store—except, at this one, you can’t buy a mattress.

You buy a nap instead.

Instead of designing their store like other mattress retailers, such as Mattress Firm, The Brick, or Ikea, they decided to create an experience where the mattress was secondary. It’s called the Dreamery in New York City. Here’s how they describe it on their website: “At Casper, we want everyone to sleep better and live better. So we created The Dreamery, a magical place in NYC where you can rest and recharge whenever you want. Because when you snooze, you win.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. Book a nap session: Choose a 45-minute time slot whenever you could use a boost. Walk-ins are welcome, too.
  2. Get some rest: Wind down in the lounge, change into pajamas, and lie down in your own Casper Nook—a perfectly private, quiet pod with an outrageously comfortable bed.
  3. Feel recharged: Embrace your post-nap pep. Freshen up and enjoy a coffee before taking on the rest of your day (or night).

Do you see how the mattress is peripheral to the whole experience? The point is the nap, not the mattress. But what’s genius about this strategy is that they’re actually creating the ideal conditions for customers to fall in love with their mattresses, without having to box it up and ship it back to them if they’re not satisfied.

Welcome to the Experience Economy

Joe Pine and James H. Gilmore have a term for this newfound cultural emphasis on experiences. They call it the Experience Economy.

Here’s the progression that has occurred over the ages: We’ve moved from commodities, to goods, to services, and now to experiences. They use an example of a birthday cake to describe the shifts. Here’s my take on it.

Once upon a time, when we all lived on farms, if someone had a birthday, you’d eat a cake that was made from scratch with locally sourced and farm fresh ingredients. It sounds hipster, but that was actually the only way you could get cake. You had to harvest your own grain and grind it into flour. Raise your own chickens to get eggs. Milk your own cows to get milk and make butter. And grow your own sugarcanes for the sugar. In other words, you had to work with your hands and the commodities to get a cake.

Eventually, Betty Crocker came around. Her cakes tasted better, were more consistent, and she had access to more ingredients. Let’s face it—buying her cake mix for your next birthday was a lot faster and simpler than farming all of the ingredients on your own. Sure, it was more expensive, but paying for this good, as in the cake mix, was better than working with commodities.

Grocery stores eventually tuned in and figured out how profitable it would be to bake birthday cakes and sell it themselves as a service. Of course, anyone could now buy the ingredients themselves without having to farm them. And sure, you could also buy the pre-made Betty Crocker cake mixes as well. But why do that when you could buy a birthday cake pre-made, pre-iced, and pre-packaged?

This leads us to present day. When my children were young, for their birthday parties, we sometimes bought pre-made cakes; other times, my wife, Christina, made them herself. Even I have baked a gluten-free cake before. But generally, we hosted our children’s parties at our house, at the park, and a few times at our church.

Not anymore. As our children are getting older, and life is getting busier, we’ve now begun outsourcing the party. Our girls had a joint party at a local jumpy house franchise that took care of everything—even writing the names down of who gave what for a present! Our son had his at Chuck E. Cheese. The funny thing about this experience was just how ancillary the ‘thing’ became—I’m referring to the birthday cake.

Experiences have become the new currency. In other words, amassing stuff and getting things aren’t as valuable as experiences anymore. And even when we buy those new things, we’re often buying it for the experiences that they will help create.

So What?

The rise of the experience economy has caused us to over-identify with our experiences and fall into the trap of believing the myth that we are what we experience. This is the second myth that I explore in my upcoming book.

Here’s an example that I’m not particularly proud of.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to “One Sweet Day,” a classic duet from Boyz II Men and Mariah Carey—I know the song is from 1995, but it’s amazing. When I heard my wife coming downstairs, I called out to her from my office, turned up the music, and then invited her to dance.

I don’t know what it is, but anytime I hug, kiss, or dance with my wife, our children always seem to appear out of nowhere and attempt to join in. This time, it was our son, Makarios. He came into the office and started dancing beside us. Initially, it looked like he was dancing to some punk rock song, so when I told him to slow it down, he closed his eyes, started bending his knees, and began moving with the rhythm of the beat. It was adorable.

I wish I could’ve told you that I just smiled and continued to dance, but I didn’t. I grabbed my smartphone and hit record. I don’t know why, but I felt compelled to share this private experience publicly with others. Unfortunately and unintentionally, I exchanged a potentially romantic moment with my wife, for hundreds of views and likes on Instagram and Facebook.

It’s a cycle, isn’t it?

Go on an experience, snap a picture of it, and share it online. The more likes and followers you get from that picture, the more you want to go on another experience, so that you can get even more likes and followers. And on and on it goes.

Now here’s my question to you: Are snapping, sharing, and liking appropriate behaviors during worship?

When someone has come to the altar and is confessing his or her everything to the Lord, is it okay for you to take a picture and share it online? When someone’s eyes are closed and hands are raised during worship, is it kosher to Instagram it? Or are we prostituting our church members for the sake of likes and follows?

Sure, we’d never put it this way. We often sanctify our photos by saying that we’re trying to help others learn about our church. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a ban on photography and social media during worship; I’m just asking the question because this behavior carries unintended consequences.

Are we perhaps cheapening the worship experience for newcomers when we only take and post photos of people crying, kneeling at the front of the stage, and lifting up their hands in worship? And if those are the only photos we have on our social media accounts and website, what if someone worships at your church for the first time, and doesn’t have those same experiences? Is it his or her fault?

Friends, the Experience Economy is all around us, so how shall we respond as the church?

If you’re interested in learning more about this myth and the six other ones that I’m writing about in my upcoming book, click here.

Daniel Im is the Director of Church Multiplication at NewChurches.com.

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Mattresses, Experiences, and Instagramming Your Worship Service