Demographics and Psychographics

After spending a while hanging with this smart guy and talking about the church, I was listening to the radio.  There was this really great interview where the person used the term psychographic.

I did some research into the term, because I was instantly intruiged.  One particularly pithy and helpful entry is here.   Psychographic is a category that exists paralell to demographics.  While demographics are external and easy to quantify, psychographics are squishier, internal, harder to quantify.  There will be some cross over.  Being born at a certain time or place (demographics) will make certain attitudes and values (psychographics) much more likely.

The thing that occured to me, is that the local church has been focused on demographics while it should have been chasing after psychographics.

We end up with traditional services where all the old people go.  And “contemporary” services where all the younger, hip people go.  The young are deprived the wisdom and experience of the older.  The older lose out on the enthusiasm and energy of the young.

Although being a Christ follower is a tremendous thing that we have in common, I’m not simply saying that every service will inherently feel equally relevant to every believer.   What I am saying is that when we think about a church service, we ought to be thinking deeper than electric guitars for the 20-somethings and organ music for the senior citizens.  We ought to be striving to create intergenerational communities, and I think the way to do that is to appeal to deeper beliefs, feelings, and experiencing than a demographic focus allows for.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Demographics and Psychographics”

  1. “We end up with traditional services where all the old people go. And “contemporary” services where all the younger, hip people go. The young are deprived the wisdom and experience of the older. The older lose out on the enthusiasm and energy of the young.”

    This is why the Eastern Church allows only a single service on the Lord’s day: everyone has to go to the same service, old and young, rich and poor, Greeks and non-Greeks, or else miss out.

    Don’t come here and comment much, because it’s been apparent to me for awhile that Christians of such different worldviews clash more than harmonise when they get together.

    This is unfortunate because I believe that all followers of Jesus share the same faith, as the Bible declares, and so we should be able to talk to each other. We can, of course, when it comes to the straight gospel, but on almost everything else, there is little convergence even when we seem to be using the same glossary: we’ve defined the words so differently, we speak different languages.

    Worship, service, fellowship, witness: all these words are used by most Christians, yet we mean sometimes very different things by them. That’s one reason why an Orthodox Christian finds some modern non-Orthodox worship so unworshipful, and conversely, why our services seem to be nothing more than meaningless ceremonies to the modern Christian: in both cases, we are all wrong.

    I don’t have an answer to this problem, if I thought I ever did.

    I say, ‘Orthodoxy is the heritage of all followers of Jesus,’ and by that I mean that all Christians should take up the worship and bible believing environment or ethos of the Orthodox Church. But that means you all have to become Orthodox, right? Well, yes, I guess it does, but it isn’t like joining another denomination. But wait a minute, to you it does seem like joining another denomination, and you’re right, of course, because to worship the Orthodox way, you have to be Orthodox. Even if your congregation came over and studied minutely every detail of our services, ceremonies, and got skirted up in our ceremonial garb, etc., and then set yourselves up as an Orthodox congregation, you’d still have to get ‘connected’ to the Church somehow, otherwise you’d just be an anomaly, not just evangelical anymore, yet not fully Orthodox. Why do things have to work this way? I don’t know, but I wish it were that easy. But it simply isn’t, as many self-evangelized congregations in Africa have found out. You can imitate Orthodoxy in every detail, but until you somehow are united with the historic Church by being placed under the authority of an Orthodox bishop, you’re just pretending. I don’t think you are, but that’s just how it works. Shame on us all, for being fussier than God.

    This comment has little to do with your post, I’m afraid, but your post has pushed me into these thoughts, and I am just thinking out loud. I feel comfortable enough with you to do this, because I recognize in you the same faith as I find in me. But as I say, and as I’ve said before, our languages don’t sync. If only we could just speak the words that scripture uses and discard the rest!

    Christ is in our midst, brother! As we head towards Pascha, the Lord’s passover and feast of His glorious resurrection, I bid you, peace.


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