In "Faith Formation 2020", identifies 8 "driving forces" influencing faith formation in the US, based on recent research. He gathered a group of leading US educators to work out possible futures for "faith formation".
1. Declining number of Christians and growing number of people with no religious affiliation
2. Increasing number of people beconing more "spiritual" and less "religious"
3. Declining participation in Christian churches
4. Increasing diversity and pluralism in American society
5. Increasing influence on individualism on Christian identity and community life
6. Changing patterns of marriage and family life (notably fewer kids, later in life, see below)
7. Declining family religious socialisation
8. Increasing impact of digital media and web-technologies
It's pretty easy to think of Australia, check the research, even, and tick all of the same boxes. Globalisation, westernisation and Americanisation seem to make us more and more similar, don't they? Or perhaps we are being schooled to view our lives through an American lens.
If these trends are also true in Australia, how are we different?
- Less religious and less Christian to begin with
- Less multi-cultural
Could we also say:
- increasing discussion about faith and religion in the public sphere
- increasing participation of churches in community services sector
- increasing participation in church schooling
- strong presence of churches in debate about social issues
Roberto's trends seem in many ways to focus on what has been lost, which is often the case here also when the church looks at how society is changing. I'm wondering what a more positive spin on the opportunity might look like.
eg. growing conversations around spirituality in relation to arts, health, education
It's also the kind of list where the last item is, "oh, and by the way, there's the Internet..." The list isnt in any particular order, yet I'd want to point out that electronic and mass communication has driven or accelerated many of the changes in the list.
Where he heads next (tomorrow's post) is to look at four scenarios for the future, which reallty define four audiences for faith formation.The book is interesting, and rich with things to think about, resources to check out, and I appraciate the generosity of putting so much of it on the WWW at www.faithformation2020.net and www.faithformationlearningexchange.net. Roberto is seeking to practice what he preaches in the book about information and resource-sharing.
I'm aiming to read some of the newer stuff from Philip Hughes and co. ("Spirit Matters" and "Shaping Australia's Spirituality" - http://www.cra.org.au/products-page/) to try to get a better sense of where and how things might be different here.
What would you say is distinctive/different about social trends in Australia?