In February of this year, Jeroen Nawijn authored a study on vacation and happiness. Her work was published in the Applied Research in Quality of Life journal, and it showed that our level of happiness during vacation actually has a lot more to do with the planning, preparation and anticipation preceding vacation, more so than the actual vacation. (For more, the LA Times has a good summary of Nawijn’s research.)
A similar line of thinking is behind Devin Leonard’s article on Steve Jobs (“The Last Pitchman“) in Bloomberg Businessweek. “Like all great salesmen, Jobs knows that controlling the product is a lot less important than controlling our desire.”
This got me thinking about how churches could tap into people’s neurological wiring when it comes to how we lead our church communities through the expectation of what’s to come. Many churches do teasers for upcoming sermon series. However, what would it look like if there was more intentionality to how we helped people anticipate? Teasers are one thing, but those are often very linear and transactional. “Come next Sunday for our new series on ‘The Miracles of Jesus.'” That’s great, but it’s more of a heads up than a heads in. How can we create experiences that are more integrated and relational?
Holiday-themed experiences are a great example of building expectation. Is it just me, or does it seem like the people who get the biggest thrill are the ones planning, producing or performing the experiences? What would it look like to get more people involved in the planning, producing or performing roles? How could the majority of people be a part of anticipating, instead of just the minority?
What if small groups spent more time dreaming, planning and creating for experiences or moments that were two, four, six months out? What if weekend messages built anticipation for an outcome, resolve or climax that kept people coming back for more?
For the skeptics who write this off as dirty marketing or huckstering, I’m not suggesting we slide down a path of lies, false hope or showmanship. I’m simply dreaming of ways to engage the way we’re wired with how God might bring transformation into the lives of people in our church communities.
Anticipation is a powerful thing.