Two Trends Worth Watching in 2012

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.

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  • Anar

    How much of the lack of face-to-face communication comes from the older generation not wanting to listen to younger people?

    And how much of the decline in marriages comes from the older generation not sharing the lives with younger people; letting them see how marriage has benefited them?

    Many Christian children grow up being sent away to Children’s programs instead of worship services (or if they are in a worship service that have to be quiet), at social dinners they have kids tables, and kids are put to bed early. The majority of their social interaction is at day care or schools with kids of the same age. These systems are adult-centered instead of family-centered. And when the kids get older the adults say, “Get married. Join us.” The older generation could do more to convince them of why this is good.