We are living in the midst of a pretty significant cultural shift. Our world has, virtually overnight, become an “on-demand” society.
We are living in the midst of a pretty significant cultural shift. Our world has, virtually overnight, become an “on-demand” society. With TiVo, we bend the Networks’ schedule to fit our own. Can’t be in front of the TV for The Office on Thursday nights? TiVo it. (The true test of complete cultural acceptance is when it becomes perfectly acceptable to use a product name as a verb.) Don’t have TiVo? That’s OK. Hit hulu.com and you can watch all four seasons of Michael, Jim, Pam, and the rest of the crew. Movies are no different—think Netflix. Even iTunes plays to the on-demand nature of society: no more buying a whole CD for the two songs you like.
The rules of engagement have quite literally changed. But the question is, “What have they changed in the lives of the young adults we are leading?”
In what ways has the on-demand effect changed their relationships? Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter provide instant access to friends. The limitations of proximity have been erased. In what ways has the on-demand effect changed how young adults view their career possibilities? How has it changed how they plan for the future? For some of these questions we’ll simply have to wait and see. But there is one question we would do well to consider right now: How has this cultural shift changed the way young adults view the church?
Are there things we should modify in the way we do church to provide for this cultural shift? Are there areas of connecting that we can tweak in our approach to ministry to maximize the on-demand shift.
I am not advocating that we blow-up our current models in order to present church in a way that fits neatly with the culture. There are, of course, many non-negotiables. But there are plenty of ministry areas we can re-think to expand our ministry impact.
First and foremost, we can co-opt the various components of culture that contribute to the on-demand mentality. Most of us do this and have been for some time. You probably have a Youtube page with videos of your college or young adult group, a Flickr account and, more than likely, you have a Facebook group where people connect. You probably keep up with some of your friends through Twitter and if you don’t podcast your large-group time, it’s something to consider. These things are relatively easy. The next level of modification might be trickier.
We need to think about how we do programming. Part of the on-demand effect is the ability to interact with different elements when time allows—choosing from various sources of information, and consuming them at a time and a manner convenient to the individual.
Here are a few thoughts on integrating on-demand into your community.
Consider what it might look like to increase the variety in your programming. Only offering small groups on one or two nights of the week? What if you offered small groups every night? What if you created the content for your teaching time and placed it on iTunes for people to listen to throughout the week and then come together to discuss it at church or in a house group? Churches like LifeChurch.tv provide on-demand video for all their message series along with small group discussion questions.
Provide more choices for service opportunities. If you were able to provide multiple entry points to serve others, you might find your group more inclined to participate. The more individual choice you can account for, the more potential participation. Of course, you want to be discerning, making sure that the opportunities you provide are legitimate needs and not just gimmicks. And, be careful not to provide too many choices—this may cause people to be overwhelmed and avoid making a choice altogether.
Don’t be afraid to decentralize your community to connect more people. This doesn’t mean that you need to give up the large-group gathering, but it is possible to encourage more special interests groups to form,
providing diverse options for meet-ups beyond the established once-a-week gathering. These groups could be focused on niche elements like writing, film, social justice, martial arts or a hundred other
Providing for the on-demand effect can be a challenge, in part because it’s a phenomenon still evolving. Ultimately, how you approach accommodating your group will be impacted by how you view the dance between culture and Church. The goal should be to lead our communities, bringing them the timeless truth of God in a way that they will culturally recognize.
What are your thoughts on shaping our churches for the on-demand effect?
What elements are you using in the community you’re leading?