Cocooning Instead of Congregating?

By Mark A. Taylor

Even though I’m an extrovert by nature, I love a weekend evening at home with my wife, sharing the couch and something fun to eat, and watching a program or movie we both enjoy on TV. This is especially nice at the end of a busy week, with several nights away from home, and workdays filled with multiple obligations. It’s great to settle in, put away the to-do lists, and just enjoy good food and good entertainment with my best friend.

Several decades ago, trend forecaster Faith Popcorn coined a term for a pastime like this. She called it cocooning, the practice of finding entertainment from staying in instead of going out. According to a post at USA Today this week, people are cocooning now as never before. Reasons: news of terrorism, mass shootings, and other violence has made many people wary of big crowds at sports or entertainment venues. And electronic options are proliferating; high-definition TV’s are getting bigger and cheaper, and people are watching movies, TV series, and sports events on everything from widescreens to smartphones.

The article reports flat attendance at movie theaters and increased spending on home electronics in 2012. It quoted research that shows 37 percent of U.S. homes pay at least $100 monthly for either cable-delivered or satellite pay TV.

Church watchers can’t help but wonder how this trend will affect church attendance. One source listed 67 Internet churches with weekly services (most offer preaching and worship several times each week), and that list certainly is incomplete. For example, not included on the list is the thriving Internet campus of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. According to Kurt Ervin who runs the site, it attracts 10,000 unique visitors each month, from 126 countries and all 50 states. A second Internet campus, totally in Spanish, is already attracting about 600 unique visitors each week, in its first six weeks online.

And Internet churches aren’t the only digital options for today’s believers. Many are using apps containing devotional guides and the whole Scripture text, and some attend small groups via Skype. As possibilities like these multiply for a hunkered-down, plugged-in generation, how many will see the need to leave home for worship and fellowship?

Many in my generation (qualifying for AARP membership) would assert that online worship can’t offer the impact of shoulder-to-shoulder, face-to-face experiences. But it seems certain that digital venues will reach some who wouldn’t first go to church for worship services as we know them. And that’s good.

Will videotaped and digitally distributed worship decrease the involvement of worshippers? Will a growing audience of long-distance worshippers increase the tendency of leaders to make worship little more than something people watch? I hope not.

But it’s exciting, isn’t it, to imagine all the ways we can harness emerging technologies to reach folks more accustomed to cocooning than congregating?

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2 Comments

  1. February 21, 2013 at 11:34 am

    As a pastor for 17 years I can assure you that a lot of people are moving towards digital worship because they are simply tired of church politics, churches who judge and refuse to love everyone and churches who only open their doors and expect people to want to come to them. There are simply too many congregations like this in our country today and it’s not only a real shame, its become an epidemic. People are tired of giving their hard earned money to churches just so the business side can meet a budget or pay a pastor. My website is simply my personal blog, but in 2012 I averaged 10,000 visits per month and reached into 100 different countries so what some of these sites are doing is not all that impressive, but it does matter how you use your medium to reach people.

    People today want to experience the love of God in real and tangible ways. Our responsibility before God is to love EVERYONE regardless of who they are or what they do, the choices they make, how they live their lives or what they wear to church. Too many churches turn people away who aren’t “just like them” and the harsh judgments of many “Christians” today leaves far too many people believing that God really does not love them and what these “Christians” and churches are doing is actually pushing people further away from Christ and I say “Woe unto them.” Churches and Christians wast time trying to change the morals of others when we are not called by God to do that. We are called by God and commanded by God to LOVE and that’s it.

    With digital worship people avoid church politics, harsh judgments, hearing people gossip and slander and back bite each other. Being a Christ follower is about having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus the Christ through God the Father to where you have this best friend with Jesus thing going on and you can actual be comfortable enough to call God “Daddy” or “Dad” God’s interested in people’s hearts first and foremost. He’s the only one who can change hearts and He’s the only one who can change lives.

    It’s safe to say that 10% of the people turning to digital church are doing so out of convenience. Most are doing so to avoid being judged, and not being show genuine, godly love. You may not want to hear that but it IS the TRUTH!

  2. February 27, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    This was a great article, and something that deserves a lot of reflection. Brian, that’s a great insight about people’s motivations for going to church online–it’s not just for convenience, but because of negative feelings and perceptions about going to a “real” church. As an experiment, not too long ago I logged onto an online service at Central Christian in Vegas. I really enjoyed it. They had a moderator for chatting with others who are watching online, so you experienced interaction with others. It was very well done.

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