There’s No Going Back to the 1950s

In Networked: The New Social Operating System, Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, and Barry Wellman, sociology professor and director of NetLab at the University of Toronto,[i] talk about how the internet is changing us and our relationships. They say that people no longer seek membership in groups as they did in the past. Rainie and Wellman coin the term “networked individuals” to describe how we now prefer to connect digitally to a variety of social networks and search engines to acquire information.

The new trend towards networked individualism has tremendous ramifications for congregations, because in the early to mid-20th century, congregations were one of the most recognized and highly accepted social groups to which people belonged.  This recognition was even built into the fabric of the culture of the United States which reflected Christian values. Stores were closed on Sunday so people could attend church and spend the day with family. In Kindergarten I remember saying both the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer each day as school began. In fact, the church of the 1950s and early 1960s is the vision of church and hope for the future so many leaders still hold. They lament the loss of these glory days of high church attendance and assured giving and seek to return to these days. The reality is there is no going back. Life and culture is vastly different in the 21st century.

[i] See Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman, Networked: The New Social Operating System (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).