A Dad for Christmas

Christmas presents

When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats.  But a survey highlighted in The Telegraph of their typical lists for Father Christmas has shown many have more serious concerns, requesting “a dad” instead.

A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.  But despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

The survey, of consumers at Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City, found children aged three to 12 years also wanted a dog, chocolate and a stick of rock.  Traditional hopes for a white Christmas were represented by a wish for “snow” in ninth place, with sensible youngsters also requesting a “house”.

Of the top 50 festive requests, 17 related to pets and animals, with some imaginative children hoping for a donkey, chicken and elephant.

iPhones and iPads also appeared on the list, with some quirky children asking for the moon, a time machine, a pond cover and beetroot. One child asked for Eva Longoria and another wanted Harry Styles from One Direction.

A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.


Latest research from Church Urban Fund

Church Urban Fund report

Survival Strategies: A survey of the impact of the current economic climate on community organisations in the most deprived areas of England

Church Urban Fund’s latest research report examines the impact of the current economic climate on community organisations in the most deprived areas of England.

It follows two reports published by Church Urban Fund in 2011, ‘At the Cutting Edge’ and ‘Holding on by a Shoestring’, which looked in detail at how public spending cuts were affecting people and organisations at a grassroots level. Returning a year later to the same organisations, we wanted to examine the ongoing effects of the economic climate.

We found that the current economic climate is having a significant impact upon community organisations and people living in deprived areas of England. This impact can be seen in the rising demand for services and the difficulty of securing funding.

However, in response to these difficulties, organisations are employing a range of survival strategies in order to meet rising demand with rising service provision.

Want to stay safe on the road?

Coldplay - Safer Driving

If you want to stay safe whilst driving there are some big obvious points – wear a seat belt, look in your mirrors, check your blind spot, don’t use your mobile unless you’re hands free … and now listen to Coldplay.

Strange as it may sound, the band’s tunes could help you avoid accidents while driving. Coldplay’s “The Scientist” landed on a list of “ultimate safe driving songs” compiled by Confused.com, the creator of driving app MotorMate.

From the data, London Metropolitan University professor Simon Moore concluded that the optimum music volume for driving is 55 to 65 decibels, while the ideal tempo should mimic the human heartbeat at around 60 to 80 beats per minute.

Based on Moore’s findings, Confused.com created a safe-driving playlist that includes: Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me,” Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” Radiohead’s “Karma Police” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” For more, check out the video above.

On the other side of the spectrum, Moore cautioned against listening to music that is noisy, upbeat and increases your heart rate. For example, drivers should avoid the Black Eyed Peas’ “Hey Mama,” which topped Confused.com’s list of top 10 dangerous driving songs.

What do you listen to while driving?  Do you think music can make you safer or more dangerous?

75% of homeless youth use Facebook and Twitter

Homeless Person

A recent study found that 75% of homeless young people use social networks to stay connected to others – a number comparable to that of university and college students.

The study, led by the University of Alabama’s Rosanna Guadagno, surveyed 237 college and 65 homeless young people that were an average of 19 years old.  A vast majority of both groups reported using social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook for at least one hour each day.

Over 90 percent of college students reported using social media programs for at least one hour every day.

Guadagno makes the argument that a “digital divide” in Internet access should be re-thought:

“To the extent that our findings show a ‘digital divide’ between undergraduates at a four-year university and age-matched participants in a program for homeless young adults, it is mainly in types of Internet use and not access to the Internet, and that divide is relatively minor.  Since it is clear that the proportions of undergraduates and homeless young adults accessing social networking sites are similar, we assert that the term digital divide is not descriptive of the young adult population.”

Another recent study from the University of Dayton found that homeless youth are closely linked to social media in their daily lives. They don’t only use such networks for social contact and equality, but as a means to solve practical daily issues.

Art Jipson, the head of the Dayton study, found that the homeless use social media as a place where all people are treated “equally,” and through a series of interviews, discovered that it can also be a medium to find social services, somewhere to sleep and their next hot meal.

I’d be interested to know if any similar research has occurred in the UK with the ever increasing group of sofa surfer teenagers.

USA MegaChurches – Infographic


According to the infographic going around the web at the moment mega churches are predominantly white, suburban, conservative congregations led by baby-boomer pastors.  This infographic is based on research compiled by Forbes, The Christian Post, and Leadership Network.

Skye Jethani, editor of Leadership Journal has written some interesting thoughts on the infographic:

For the most part the stats look very positive for mega and gigachurches (yes, that is a term now being used). These massive congregations, unlike many other churches, are still growing. They’re expanding staff, seeing increasing budgets and have an optimistic outlook.

But buried in the positive stats about megachurches may be signs of challenges ahead. Could a bubble be forming? And when it finally bursts will the mega-model be abandoned or severely reengineered? Are we seeing the maturation of the megachurch movement into a sustainable and long-term model for the American church? Or, like Wile E. Coyote, is the ground going to suddenly disappear under its feet? Let’s look more closely at the numbers.

First, the average age of a megachurch pastor is now 50. Not surprising perhaps, but when linked with the fact that most megachurches are less than 30 years old, it means the senior pastor was likely the founding pastor, or the leader who took the congregation from average size to mega-status.

With most of these congregations being led by boomers nearing retirement in the next 10-15 years, how will they navigate such a transition? Some will be fine. But these are uncharted waters for the young megachurch movement, and churches of all sizes tend to decline sharply during leadership transitions. It’s part of the natural life-cycle of an organization. And some never recover at all — the sad story of the Crystal Cathedral in California comes to mind.

So, while things are looking bright for megas right now, there are serious challenges ahead for these boomer-led churches.

Secondly, the infographic shows that half of all megachurches (48 percent) are located in young, growing suburbs of a major city. Anyone who has studied church growth or church planting knows that growing communities tend to fuel growing churches. (When was the last time you read about a growing church in Detroit?)

But like pastors, communities also age. I live in suburban Chicago. 30 years ago Dupage County was the growing edge of the Chicagoland area. Numerous churches were planted and grew to mega-status here. But today the growth edge is further west of the Fox River, and since the real estate bubble burst in 2008 growth has slowed significantly.

My point is that a megachurch located in a growing suburb in 1990 may no longer find itself in the same demographic soup that ignited it’s rise to mega-ness. Some churches come to this realization and launched satellite campuses to tap into the new growing suburbs, but the long-term sustainability of such a model isn’t clear. We’re seeing an increasing number of multisite churches, including early pioneers of the model, release their campuses to be independent churches. Colonization, as history has shown, is rarely sustainable.

Adding to the dilemma is the megachurch model of very large facilities. It isn’t likely that a megachurch formed in 1985 will abandon it’s massive $30 million facility and relocate 40 miles away to be on the growing edge of the city again. They’re going to have to find a way to fill and fund their facility in a suburb that is no longer growing demographically. For many that could prove challenging.

There’s some interesting thoughts that I will share some of my reflections on tomorrow.  But what do you think?  Is the Mega Church trend one that will die with the baby boomer leaders or is it going to develop in a different way with future generations?

1 in 6 Follows No Religion

The Global Religious Landscape

A global study of religious adherence released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that about one of every six people worldwide has no religious affiliation. This makes the “unaffiliated,” as the study calls them, the third-largest group worldwide, with 16 percent of the global population — about equal to Catholics.

The study also found a wide disparity in the median age of religious populations, with Muslims and Hindus the youngest, and Buddhists and Jews the oldest. The median age of the youngest group, Muslims, was 23, while the median for Jews was 36.

Over all, Christians (including Catholics) are the largest religious group, with 2.2 billion people, about 32 percent of the world’s population. They are followed by Muslims, with 1.6 billion, about 23 percent. There are about one billion Hindus, about 15 percent of the global population, and nearly half a billion Buddhists, about 7 percent.

The study, “The Global Religious Landscape,” is a snapshot of the size and distribution of religious groups as of 2010, and does not show trends over time.

Conrad Hackett, a primary researcher on the report, said:

“Something that may surprise a lot of people is that the third-largest religious group, after Christians and Muslims, is the religiously unaffiliated. There may have been some guesses floating out there before, but this is the first time there are numbers based on survey data analyzed in a rigorous and scientific way.”

More than three-quarters of the religiously unaffiliated live in Asia, the majority in China. Many of the people in this group do hold some religious or spiritual beliefs and may even believe in a deity, but they do not identify with a particular faith.

The study is based on analysis of 2,500 different data sources, including censuses and demographic surveys of children and adults in 232 countries. It relies on self-identification, so it includes people who are not regular practitioners or orthodox believers of the religion they claim.

A History of Social Media [Infographic]

This infographic does a great job of showing the history of social media: