Bowling alone… by preference

One of my favorite jokes goes like this: Two economists are looking at a fancy car.  One economist says “I’ve always wanted to buy that kind of car.”  The other economist says “no you haven’t.”

The point being that if we don’t do something that we say we want to do, sometimes we really don’t want to do it.  (Not always, of course).

I’ve been thinking about the concept of Mark Regnerus’ blog post earlier this week that mentioned how community life used to be stronger (Gemeinschaft if your playing along at home).

Countless times I’ve heard people lament that community ties aren’t as strong as they used to be, and it’s probably true.  Why it that the case?

At the heart of it, I think that we don’t have as strong a community ties because we don’t need to.  Many of the ties that we look back on fondly were there out of necessity.  There was no internet, so if people needed to communicate, they would call or stop by.  People had less money, so they would borrow more.  Women had less access to jobs, so they had more time to volunteer.  Etc…

Since about the mid-1990s, [Read more...]

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, [Read more...]

Which Churches are Growing? FACTS on Growth 2010

Faith Communities Today, a program out of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, has recently released their latest FACTS report.  It comprehensively examines a simple but vitally important question: Which congregations are growing?

So, let’s see you know the answers to these questions…. which churches are the most likely to be growing?

- Those in rural areas, suburbs, or downtowns?

- Those in the South or elsewhere?

- Predominately white or non-white?

- Conservative protestants or mainline congregations?

- Those with electric guitars in their services or those without?

Want to know the answers?  Well, check out the report here for these and many other interesting facts.

Thanks to Scott Thumma for the link!

Emotions in Church

I would like to pose some questions about emotions in church. What should be the emotions expressed from the pew? From the pulpit? How might the church’s emotion-rules hurt it’s people and hinder its mission?

Here are my thoughts:

In most churches there are clearly defined implicit rules about which few emotions are appropriate to express.

For the church goer, the modal expression should be polite interest, and the face should show either a neutral expression or, even better, a smile. It’s okay to sometimes laugh or look troubled when prompted to from the person leading the service. Attending a church service in the U.S. often proves to be a cognitively-rich but emotionally-passive experience, and I wonder if these services would hold more appeal, and have a greater impact, if the congregation was more emotionally involved in the service. Black churches, with typically more active participation from the pew in all parts of the service, seem to get this more right than white churches.

For the pastor, the rules of emotion are even more strict. Before and after the service itself, when greeting people or talking with them, pastors are limited to [Read more...]


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