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Embracing the Power of the Crowd

There’s nothing like taking communion with 15,000 other people.

This issue’s article on Christian music festivals brought back a lot of memories for me. Going to a major festival near my home in Kentucky was a pivotal part of my youth group experience as a teenager. I enjoyed it so much that I spent my summers in my 20s volunteering at the same event.

There was a lot to enjoy about the festival experience. I loved the music, of course, but also loved camping, eating junk food and hanging out with my friends. But the highlight of each year’s festival was the moment on Saturday evening when the entire crowd would gather on a hillside to take communion together.

Communion is a foundational practice that spans the entire breadth of Christian traditions. Most churchgoers take communion dozens — if not hundreds — of times throughout their lives. And like any repetitive action, it can feel routine at times. But for some reason, the music festival communion was always deeply impactful for me.

Maybe it had something to do with the setting: taking communion outdoors at sunset instead of at church. Or maybe it had something to do with the heightened emotional state that comes from too much junk food and too little sleep. The more I think about it, though, the more I am convinced that the real power of this moment was in the crowd experiencing it together.

Group dynamics can enhance all kinds of experiences. Your church is a perfect example of that. You likely spent some of the pandemic worshipping at home via online services. And while that served a purpose for a time, it was a far cry from the experience of singing, learning and sharing together in person.

But this power of a group goes far beyond the church. It’s more fun to attend a sold-out sporting event than to sit in a half-empty stadium. Dining in a crowded restaurant is more exhilarating than eating the same meal from a take-out box at home. Even conferences and professional events feel much more significant when they’re well attended.

Of course, crowds bring their own sets of challenges. I still can’t wrap my head around the logistics involved in passing out 15,000 sets of communion elements in five minutes. And attending popular events often involves high prices, long waits and lots of strategic planning. But I believe the potential power of large-scale experiences can far outweigh the costs.

There’s a strength in crowds that you can use to your advantage in travel. You already know that traveling as a group helps you build community, strengthen relationships and heighten the trip experience. But imagine what could happen if you scaled your group up by joining with a larger event.

Whether it’s a music festival, a women’s retreat, a ministry conference or a secular celebration, the emotional power of the crowd can add depth to your group travel experiences. As you plan trips for your church and your community, I hope you’ll take advantage of opportunities to join your small group with a bigger crowd, at least for a moment or two.

It might prove to be best moment.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.