According to the research of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015. That's around a 30% drop in just over a decade. To put that into perspective, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. We're .75 seconds less attentive than "Bubbles!" No wonder people are looking out the windows before I even sit down!
Wonder how this plays out in your average day? Here's what scientists and researchers have learned:
* Percent of teens who forget major details of close friends and relatives: 25%
* Percent of people who forget their own birthdays from time to time: 7%
* Average number of times per hour an office worker checks their email inbox: 30
So what does this mean for, say, a church? Let's just think about one of our major tools for outreach - our website. Here are some internet browsing statistics that may cause you to rethink everything:
* Average length watched of a single internet video: 2.7 minutes
* Percent of page views that last less than 4 seconds: 17%
* Percent of page views that lasted more than 10 minutes: 4%
* Percent of words read on web pages with 111 words or less: 49%
* Percent of words read on an average (593 words) web page: 28%
Make you want to repackage things a bit? It should. But let's get back to our shrinking attention spans.
Some have suggested that what is really operating is highly evolved "eight-second filters." Generation Z (2001-present), for example, has grown up in a world where options and information are virtually limitless; time of course is not. So they have developed, almost out of necessity, the ability to quickly sort through enormous amounts of data. Or they rely on sources that do that for them, such as trending information within apps.
The good news is that once something does gain their attention and is deemed worthy of time, they can become intensely committed and focused. The very internet that forced them to evolve "eight-second filters" is the same internet that allows them to go deep on any topic they desire and to learn from a community of fellow interested parties.
KEY TAKE AWAY St. Mark is planning to leverage this technological reality for the sake of the Kingdom as we expand our online presence with website expansions, apps and the future hiring of a Director of Digital Engagement.
The online church presence is here to stay and it can be helpful as we continue to reach out to people who right now don't have a relationship with Jesus with our Grow & Go vision.
First, the online church will supplement the journey people will have toward Jesus ... not replace it. There's a big discussion on a myriad of blogs right now about online church. I think in certain niches online church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to a group of believers. Think of people who live in some pretty desolate places around our world or even in our country. But there is something about human relationship that requires human presence. Because the church at its fullest will always be a gathering of people around a historic event -- the resurrection; online church will supplement the journey.
I believe that online relationships are real relationships, but they are not the best you can experience. Think of it like meeting someone online. You can have a fantastic relationship and conversation. But if you fall in love, you ultimately want to meet and spend your life together. So it is with Jesus, people and the church.
Second, I believe that the online church will become more of the front door than a backdoor. There is no question that today online church has become a backdoor for some Christians who were done with physically attending church, upset about "organized" religion or got burned by clergy. But to use this ecclesiastical venue as a backdoor will not be the norm.
Within a few years, the dust will settle and a new role for online church in online ministry will emerge. Online church has the potential to become a massive front door for the curious, the unconvinced and for those who want to know what Jesus is all about. In the same way you purchase almost nothing today without reading online reviews or rarely visit a restaurant without checking it out first online (Yelp.com), a churches online presence will be a first home for people which for many, will lead to a personal, saving connection with Jesus and ultimately the gathered church.
So the good news?
You can still engage people on a very deep level with truth.
The bad news?
You've got eight seconds to get past their filters.
On attention span lengths, see National Center for Biotechnology Information, as well as the U.S. National Library of Medicine, as reported by Statistic Brain Research Institute.
For internet browsing statistics, see Harald Weinreich, Hartmut Obendorf, Eelco Herder, and Matthias Mayer: "Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use," in the ACM Transactions on the Web, vol. 2, no. 1 (February 2008), article #5.
Cary Nieuwhof blog & James Emery White
On "eight-second filters," see Jeremy Finch, "What Is Generation Z, And What Does It Want?" Fast Company