The modal image of Christianity in America is face-to-face meetings predominately attended by families. These meetings can be weekend services, prayer meetings or small groups, but they involve interacting with other people in person. Also, there are often a lot of families and married couples at these meetings; in fact, marriage and child-bearing are occasions that prompt many people to turn to faith.
With this in mind, two societal trends worth watching regard how we communicate and how we form relationships.
People, especially the young, increasing communicate via texting, tweeting, and other forms of technology, and this affects how we as a society do social interactions. For example, over the holidays a friend of mine, who’s an engineer, bemoaned that his younger coworkers will ask him questions via texting rather than walking over to his cubicle—even if they’re only several cubicles away. While time efficient, this approach works against the long, problem-solving conversations that are integral to his type of work.As communication becomes less face-to-face, how should the Church respond? Certainly it wants to be wherever communication happens. Furthermore, this type of communication seems an important means for reaching out to young people—a perennial concern.
Another trend regards declining marriage rates. People simply get married less often, whether because they live with someone or simply choose not to form long-term relationships. How does the church make sense of these people when they don’t fit into the traditional categories of people—youth, young marrieds, or (marriage-based) families? What does it look like to have sustained church growth without the relatively-stable building blocks of family life?
I don’t have any particularly useful answers to these questions, and I am keen to watch innovative, thoughtful answers to them emerge over time as the Church grapples with society changing yet again.