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...]

This is not my father’s world

I’m not sure if it’s age or what, but I’ve been thinking more frequently about my father lately. He died on the morning of November 23, 1999 from metastasized melanoma, at the age of 56. I was 28. He was something of an old soul. He even looked older than his age. What I’ve been drawn toward lately is thinking about where he was and what he was doing and what he seemed like to me when he was my current age—41, as of two days ago. He was grayer at 41 than I am today. He weighed a bit more than I do, though not excessively. I suspect he carried more work-related stress than I do, largely because ministers live in fishbowls while tenured professors have some freedoms, independence, and security that Protestant ministers do not.

Perhaps our parents, when we recall the past—as we should—will always seem older to us than we feel about ourselves at the same age. It certainly makes me wonder how my own children perceive me. A month after his 41st birthday, my dad moved us to northern Michigan, where he became pastor of his third and final congregation. Most children aren’t itching to move, but I think it’s fair to say my brother and I were game for a new setting, and the forests of Missaukee County were a welcome change from the pastures of Grundy County, Iowa. (However, I’m not sure there’s a better place to grow up than rural Iowa.)

Pardon such sentimentalism. Such thoughts also turn me toward reflecting on how the world has changed in 12 short years. [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!

Asian American Religion and Depression, Killing the Hope of Our Youth?

     In the Christmas season when lots of joy and cheer abound, we know that this sentiment is not always shared by those around us. I’m not talking about those who don’t believe in Santa or those who don’t believe in Jesus. I’m talking about those among us who fight the noonday demon called depression. A lot of us who skim this blog already know this: suicide attempts and depression run higher in these winter months and a number of theories have been kicked around to explain what’s going on. For sociologists, suicide and depression are matters of context: people who are disconnected, who feel like they don’t have a community feel especially ill at ease during this time when they feel set apart from those around them that are involved in a group. [Read more...]

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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