more jimmy fallon & gen y: what if? (a fridea)

This week, I’ve been reflecting anew on the Millennial wizardry of Jimmy Fallon – and you can see not only those posts but ones from my original “Jimmy Fallon & Gen Y” series right here.

But this gets me thinking once again about a question I ponder regularly: Could campus ministries’ weekly meetings resemble multi-segment “talk shows” more? Should they? I realize this pondering is a little far out there – but that’s what Frideas are for! (And this blog is called “Exploring College Ministry,” after all!) Continue if you dare… or like pondering new methods…

Here’s what I notice: The late-night talk-show format – monologue, some sort of comedy sketch, and then a few guests from various fields – is by now an old standard. Yet when it comes to church services and other kinds of worship services (like ours in collegiate ministry), this TV talk-show format is already more “eclectic” and varied than what we usually present.

But Jimmy Fallon seems to turn up the eclecticism all the more, right? As I wrote way back in 2009,

Even in a single episode, the number of “shifts” represents a willingness (or purpose) to provide an eclectic experience. Fallon may chat unpredictably with band members, announcer Steve Higgins, and audience members; present some sort of one-time running theme throughout the show; or tell personal stories. There seem to be any number of options and themes for the post-monologue comedy bits; Jimmy’s just as likely to appear on a prerecorded video sketch (playing a moody Robert Pattinson or his own wife, for example) as he is to host a semi-mock game show with audience members, like Cell Phone Shoot-out or Wheel of Carpet Samples. And even the number of those bits varies night-to-night.

Though I had read somewhere that Fallon’s monologue would be longer now (to match the usual Tonight Show expectations), this first week it hasn’t seemed to be. Instead, he might spend that time riffing on the Olympics in a short sketch, or playing charades with celebrity guests later in the show. And probably both, with a few other twists on the normal talk-show format.

But the point is, variety was already a part of the classic format; Fallon has simply amped up that characteristic – certainly a favor to the iPod-shuffling generation.

So if we college ministers are not even as varied in our presentation as a format that has been successful for decades (let alone “newer versions” that reach out to the same generation we’re impacting), I often wonder if some additional variety might make sense in our contexts. Not simply to draw more students – this isn’t a recruitment play, although it might not hurt. Instead, the addition of variety ultimately might be an impact experiment for the college ministries brave enough to try it.

What if our impact across one Large Group Meeting took on different forms throughout the night? Would it make more of an impression? Would more students be “hit” by something that’s spoken in a message, or shown on a video, or sung, or shared in a testimony, or shared through an interview… if we were doing all these things and more? Would it keep students’ attention better? Might they remember more, not less? Lots of questions. I honestly don’t know the answers.

This would, indeed, be an experiment. But if you’re brave enough to try – or know a ministry that has been – I’d love to hear about it.

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