Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Facebook Versus the Church

Richard Beck, a psychology professor at Abilene Christian University, makes a strong argument that "Facebook killed the church." His conclusion is this:

Why are Millennials leaving the church? It's simple. Mobile social computing has replaced the main draw of the traditional church: Social connection and affiliation.
I think Beck's insight is sound. The main appeal of any voluntary organization is the social connection with the people there. If it is to serve a function beyond social connection, then the activity that people do together has to be worthwhile in itself. Facebook can't replace, for example, playing sports together, no matter how much you like the camaraderie of the team - playing the sport requires others, and playing has a value to you beyond the social connection.

So what is the value of the activity of church? The stated goal is to worship God. I think it is a well attested sociological fact that collective worship can be more powerful than individual devotion - perhaps the most powerful of all human activities. But emotionally powerful worship is rare in ordinary church life, especially for young people.

My church is the kind of church that builds powerful social connections from regular, face-to-face interaction. Ours is a small-town church that plays a significant role in our town. It makes sense for us to get together regularly at church.

Most millennials are more likely to go to large, self-contained churches that could be located anywhere. The social space of a megachurch is not that much different from the social space of Facebook. They do not need church to make their social connections, which they then nurture daily by virtual means.

Of course, it helps that the people in my church are so old that most of them have not adapted to Facebook. But that will gradually change.


Wesley 'Whitey Lawful' Mcgranor said...

The Church is not an outlet of--for popular culture. When churches attempt to do such - the church becomes degenerate. As a consequence of embracing societal degeneracy. This isn't about the self, it is about an absense of self.

Lekhak said...

People leaving religion. All clamoring like lemmings to keep the pittance they make. Is there a dollar to spare for Tith? Is there disillusionment? Do Pastors sing in the tune of the Wealthy to brainwash the masses and support flawed foreign and fiscal policies? You can not pray on an empty stomach. In this fiscal, social and political climate you have to be a jelly fish to stay gruntled!

Find your answer:

surli said...

Lekhak, the bible repeatedly tells us to fast and pray.

Whit said...

While I agree that one of the primary "draws" of the Church, and one of its purposes, is social interaction, I would suggest five more might be found in G-1.0200: the proclamation of the Gospel for salvation, divine worship (as you suggest), the preservation of the truth, the promotion of morality and good behavior, and a partial demonstration of what the Kingdom will look like.

Unfortunately, many churches have little regard for these other purposes and so are easily displaced by Facebook.

Anonymous said...

I think Whit is completely correct. Maybe the church should focus on the others more, as they really aren't things facebook can do well.

Gruntled said...

I don't disagree, Anonymous, but since the people are the church, how, practically, do you get them (us) to focus on others?