It all began with my offer to go the September 4 University of Michigan football game with Gary for the first time in 28 years. I had been banned from the “Big House” since 1982. On that ill-fated Saturday, when we left one year old Sarah with a babysitter in Ann Arbor, Gary and I sat directly behind the Michigan team. Because they stood up the entire time, I couldn’t see a thing, so I decided to read a book during the game. Unfortunately, Michigan lost the game, and I became the jinx – or, rather, my book became the jinx.
Granted, I have not been particularly interested in Michigan football over the years but have been very supportive of the passion of my husband and our 2 youngest children, who have 4 Michigan degrees between them. For some reason, I felt that now was the time to return to the newly renovated and expanded Big House. Gary placed just one condition on my journey to Ann Arbor. I was not allowed to bring a book. Which I didn’t. Michigan won.
The next day I attended worship at both the Middleville and Snow United Methodist Churches, where pastor Mike Conklin referred in his sermon to “The Sunday Ticket.” Coming off a full day of football, I was intrigued enough to google “The Sunday Ticket” and discovered a whole new world!
Evidently, American satellite provider DirectTV advertises a $59.99 a month “Out of Market Sports Package” where you can watch Sunday afternoon National Football League games that are not available on local affiliate stations. DirectTV bids $700 million a year for exclusive rights to this package, which has been available since 1994.
I had no idea. No wonder it’s difficult to get people to come back to church for Sunday evening activities! You can sit in the comfort of your home and watch any football game you want all afternoon and evening. 18 million people subscribe to DirectTV. But that’s not all!
New for 2010 is NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go, where for an extra $9.99 a month, you can watch live game streaming on your iPhone, iPad, select Android, Blackberry smartphone and Windows Mobile devices, and Palm Pre handsets. Anywhere you go, including church, you can watch your favorite football team.
The church has a lot to learn from “The Sunday Ticket.” Of course, the natural connection for a preacher to make is to emphasize that no one needs a ticket for Sunday worship. We don’t rent pews anymore. Nor do we need a ticket or token to be admitted to communion, as was the case in many Protestant denominations inAmerica, the British Isles, andEurope through the 1800’s.
I am convinced, however, that Direct TV is on to something with their NFL Sunday Ticket. So I propose a United Methodist Sunday Ticket. Maybe I’ll even put it in the form of a petition and send it to the 2012 General Conference. The UM Sunday Ticket would allow subscribers to view any Sunday morning church service they wish, including non-United Methodist churches for an extra fee. Moreover, the UM Sunday Ticket would include all the free add-ons that you get with the NFL Sunday Ticket.
- Add-on #1: All NFL Sunday Ticket football games are in HD (High Definition). As the ad says, “See every bead of sweat. Feel every bone-crunching hit. Hear the crowd like you’re right there on the sidelines. Experience it all like never before in HD.”
- Imagine watching worship with the UM Sunday Ticket. See every line of tension in the preacher’s face. Agonize over every missed high note by Ann in the choir. Feel every collective sign of the congregation when Mike finally ends his convoluted and incomprehensible children’s time, and the kids are free at last to go to junior church!
- Add-on #2: Why restrict yourself to one game at a time? The Game Mix channel allows you to watch up to 8 football games at one time. The screen is simply divided into 8 parts.
- What a great way to worship! With the UM Sunday ticket Worship Mix Channel there would be great flexibility. You could have a real preach-off by watching 8 worship services simultaneously and deciding which preacher hits a home run with the lectionary text.
- If you were church shopping, you’d save the inconvenience of visiting 8 different churches and could compare them from your recliner. You can choose your new church without ever setting foot in it!
- Here’s another great option. You could divide an individual worship service into 8 parts so that you can be on top of everything that’s going on.
- Screen 1 – the preacher: politically correct to have on a screen, but is this where the action really is during worship?
- Screen 2 – the choir: who’s chatting with whom?
- Screen 3 – the ushers in the narthex: hey, where are they? Did they sneak down into the kitchen again during the sermon for doughnuts?
- Screen 4 – the nursery: is your baby sleeping or screaming?
- Screen 5 – the church entrance: did your teenage daughter disappear from worship with a few friends?
- Screen 6 – the congregation: how many people are “resting their eyes” this week?
- Screen 7 – the sound techs: how long does it take them to spring into action when the mike screeches?
- Screen 8 – the balcony: was that your son who just sent a paper airplane flying down to the main floor?
- The UM Sunday Ticket captures the high points of every worship service, including the climax of the choir anthem, the preacher’s wind-up, Amos’ inspired drum solo, and Sam dropping a full offering plate during the doxology
- The UM Sunday Ticket includes your favorite church stats ASAP: worship attendance, (the real attendance – not the preacher’s count); number of children in junior church; number of first-time visitors; number of people in the choir, how many fell asleep during the service, and how many people left during the last hymn to beat the Baptists to the buffet
- Add-on #3 Red Zone Channel: never miss a play from inside the 20 yard line: brings you the final yards of every drive
- Add-on #4 Short Cut Channel: watch an entire football game in 30 minutes
- The UM Sunday Ticket edits for you. Now you can watch the worship service without endless announcements, the praise band’s botched song (Tony and Lana got their signals crossed), the 10 minute “digression” of the pastor who obviously wasn’t prepared, and Jack’s painful solo.
- Add-on #5 Player Tracker channel: keeps tabs on up to 18 players in real time on your screen.
- With the UM Sunday Ticket, you can track how many times the preacher said “uh” or “you know” in the sermon and “just” in the prayer
- You can track which band had the most repeats in a praise song
- You can also track the whereabouts of your favorite parishioners, including Joe and Ethel, who are the only parishioners in the congregation who don’t sit in exactly the same seat every Sunday
- Add-9 #6 Stats, Scoring Plays, Standings & Daily Quiz: The Sunday Ticket gives you every team and individual stat known to humanity.
- Add-on #7 With NFL Sunday Ticket on Demand, every day is Sunday: relive the best plays of Sunday NFL football whenever you want!
- With UM Sunday Ticket on Demand, you can receive endless joy by watching endless worship highlights
- Want to see Pastor Jim repeat that hilarious joke?
- Want to hear that screaming baby go on for 10 minutes until an usher timidly suggests taking their kid to the nursery?
- Want to experience the sound system blow up over and over and over?
- Want to see Edna drop her bread into the communion cup and try to fish it out with her bare hand?
- Want to see Curt run up for children’s time and bump into the flower stand, then watch it crash to the floor, with water, glass and flowers flying everywhere?
As you can see, the UM Sunday ticket could be an incredible tool for evangelism in The United Methodist Church. In fact, churches that offer live streaming of their worship services already offer a free UM Sunday ticket!
The UM Sunday Ticket has the potential to reverse our 4 decade long membership decline, for it would market what we already know. Every week amazing things happen in worship that can only be explained by the movement of the Holy Spirit. God takes our very real and human efforts at worship and transforms them into moments of glory where people encounter the living God, hearts are touched, lives are changed into the likeness of Christ, and the world is transformed. Sign me up!