Sponge Bob, Cub Scouts, and Brownies

On the family-life front, these were some experiences I had today:

a) I read in the paper this morning that a psychologist tested four-year-olds, showing group one Sponge Bob Square Pants, showing group two Calliou, and having group three draw pictures. After each group did their assigned task, he gave them tests. He found that the Sponge Bob Square Pants group seemed to suffer from ADHD, to some degree, while being tested. It wasn’t the topic of Sponge Bob (a sponge that lives beneath the sea and has kind of a flippant attitude). It was that the speed of topics goes at three to four times the rate of Calliou or what the kids thought about while drawing. If this is true, what possible effects could video games be having on our kids since I bet the speed of events and topics goes much faster than even Sponge Bob?

b)  Our daughter went to her first Brownies meeting today. By the end of the meeting (an hour long) the girls had memorized songs and were ready for an induction ceremony. When our son showed up in his Cub uniform, they even had a song about how Girl Scouts were better than the Boy Scouts. My son joked around with them, but when the meeting ended, he borrowed my cell phone and started playing “Angry Birds” [see above].  At this, all competitiveness melted away, and our son looked like something out of an Austin Powers movie, with five girls hanging off him, all crowded around to see the game.  Five mothers.  I was the sole father.

c)  Our son had his first Cub Scouts meeting of the school year.  This had four times the number of Cubs as Brownies, plus almost an equal number of sisters show up, who were tasked to wait in the back half of the room with their parents.  The Cubs did not talk as much as the Brownies did, but they rough housed at least three times as much, pushing, jumping, and running around regularly.  But it didn’t get to full bore play until the meeting was over and the girls and boys began playing with each other.  This generated tons of energy, competitiveness, and ten times the raw energy as any of the parents were exhibiting at about 8:00 p.m.  Nine mothers.  Two fathers.  All Cub leadership was female.

So, as I sit pondering at the end of the day, what does this bode for the future?  

The gender differences seem very apparent to me today in both the children and the adults.  Girls and women seem much more ready to participate in meetings than both boys and men. 

Technology is something that seems to unify the sexes’ interest.  You can see it in the children when one is playing with a Nintendo DS (as happened at the end of the Cub Scout meeting) or even if one borrows a cell phone (as happened at the end of the Brownie meeting).  And I wonder if the technology makes the kids even less ready for regular meetings than children usually are. The meetings probably seem very slow paced compared to playing video games, television, or even being on the playground today.

While all this gives me much to ponder as a parent, it also gives me things to think about as a pastor.  If these behavior patterns are true in Scouting, it also surely is something of import to the church.  We also see fewer men (particularly 30s-50s)  participating, and we also are trying to keep the attention of young and  adults whose play and maybe even work might seem much more fast paced.  We seem to be able to pay attention to more things today but can’t stay focused as long as our predecessors.  It fits in with a pattern that the church service we’ve seen the biggest spikes for in attendance this year isn’t the sixty-minute service, but the thirty-minute one.

As parents, we can make adjustments to help our children thrive.  But what adjustments can or should Christians make in our fast-paced world?  Should we encourage “unplugged” sabbaths?  Should we encourage people to slow down for a day before they jump back onto the high-speed conveyor of our lives?  Or should we go in the opposite direction and promote worship and classes which don’t dwell on topics for longer than eight to ten minutes before switching gears?  Would four thirty-minute services be better than two one hour ones?  Should we make classes and meetings more interactive?  

And be it in church or in Scouting, how do we re-engage younger adult men in the process?

There is no easy answers to all this.  But I feel I am seeing before me in some simple meetings some deeper dynamics of our society.

What are your thoughts?

Until next time,

Tom


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