Saturday, March 06, 2010

Cell phones and church attendance

Richard Beck, a psychologist at Abilene Christian, has been discussing whether or not Facebook and other social media networks are detrimental to Church life in that virtual relationships might be replacing personal relationships.  He makes some good points about FB reflecting, rather than substituting, for relationships.  Then, in the next post, he offers this plot.  Now, I'm not entirely sure how he created it, but it's interesting (Thanks Ben):


Aydan said...

Disclaimer: I am NOT a sociologist or a psychologist!

This seems like the explanation is much more likely to be correlation than causation. I might argue, for example, that the increasing hecticness of life (and basically I'm taking this statement of faith from my elders, since I'm a college student) helps lead people back to church where they can find some peace, balance and stability.

One way to gather more information would be to compare rates of cell phone usage among different churchgoing and non-churchgoing populations.

jeremy said...

Age structure of the populations (areas w/ lots of old people will have high church attendance and low cell phone subscriptions while areas w/ lots of young people will have low church attendance and high cell phone use) and urban-rural differences likely account for some or most of this. Then there's the whole ecological fallacy thing. I would be *very* surprised if this correlation were not entirely spurious.

A "hecticness" hypothesis may not be wrong, but cell phone use is so ubiquitous in most places that I don't think it's really a valid measure. Then again, no one asked me. :-)

jeremy said...

OK, I probably should have read his post before commenting. This appears to be some sort of trend analysis (change over time). I'll just say that pinning declining church attendance rates over the last few decades to cell phone usage or the advent of numerous communication devices is "one giant leap for mankind."

I am sympathetic to his argument in some ways, though. I don't have a cell phone, and I don't want one!

mark said...

Aydan wrote:
"...the increasing hecticness
of life helps lead people back
to church where they can find
some peace, balance and

Peace, balance and stability?

In church?


I have never seen that in a church. All I have seen in church is little old ladies getting offended over every little thing and way too much drama over every little issues that doesn't seem worth the effort. And don't even get me started on the petty politics.

Maybe I should try your church. It sounds much better than any of the others I have attended.

jlr said...

I'm with jeremy - this is a third variable problem I think. Age and cell phone use are correlated. Age and church attendance are correlated. I think the regression needs a lot more work before there's much you can say.

Aydan said...

Maybe I should try your church. It sounds much better than any of the others I have attended.

Maybe you should! I've seen my share of drama and petty politics, of course-- been kicked out of a church over them-- but whatever humans do, it cannot change the peace that passes understanding that comes from God.

Mark said...

Aydan wrote:
"...whatever humans do, it
cannot change the peace that
passes understanding that
comes from God."

Agreed, but what does that have to do with attending church?

Maybe people are discovering that church is not a very good path for having peace in your life or getting closer to God but an obstruction. Our new virtual society lets one tune in the good stuff and turn off the foolishness and petty drama.

I stopped going to church after a small group leader told me I shouldn't be friends with people who were not saved. He told me that my job was to convert them not be friends with them. The Senior pastor heard what this man said to me but kept silent.

Can you imagine the bigotry? And that's exactly what it was, bigotry cloaked in the robes of Jesus.

I didn't let them know that I also have several friends who are homosexuals because I figured that would have freaked them out.

I went for several years never hearing a pastor speak and life was much better. But now I can stream the sermons of several world class pastors every week and still avoid the emotionally disturbed people who seem to be the majority of every church I have ever attended.

So in summary, I have no idea how you find any sort of peace in church but I'm envious. I only see stress and frustration in church.

Brad Wright said...

Certainly there's a third-variable thing going on, though the analysis looks at cell phone rates per capita and attendance rates per capita, so it's not individual-level third-variables.

I wouldn't put too much faith in a straightforward cell phone -> church attendance, but there might be something here. If nothing else, an unexpected finding.

Aydan said...

Mark, I've had a church group hint that I shouldn't be friends with unbelievers, too. I left that group. Actually, they blackballed me, but it was sort of a mutual parting of the ways.

I guess I am able to find peace in church because there's something very powerful about a community of believers coming together to worship God. There's something powerful about singing liturgy with twenty other voices who believe it along with you. We are flawed believers, yes. The man standing next to me might gossip about my hemline or my interpretation of Ephesians 5. He also might help me with a construction project or bring me a casserole if I've been hospitalized.

Obviously, not all churches are created equal. It can be hard to find a good one and you'll never find a perfect one. But I've never been part of a group that didn't have its power plays and petty politics. So, if you'll forgive the impertinence of my giving advice to a total stranger on the Internet, you might want to keep trying to find a good church.