Last Thursday, we spent our class time presenting our second congregation visits. While most information in the presentations had been covered during the first round of congregation visits, this time around I was able to focus less on the details of each organization and instead appreciate Redlands’ religious diversity as a whole. I realized that this diversity is what allows people to not only be picky and shop around for a goldilocks church (perpetuating the religious market narrative), but it also encourages more participation in organized religion as a whole. Because they have so many options, people are more likely to find a church that matches not only their belief system but the kind of community and level of commitment they are looking for. If there are fewer churches to choose from, families and individuals might feel too much like they are conforming to something they don’t fully believe in and end up not joining a church at all.
Sticking with the vernacular of the religious market narrative, I think that to an extent it is the responsibility of the congregation responsibility to convince potential members that the “goods” they provide can meet their needs. Extra efforts to recruit could be the difference in whether they decide to return or not, but it is nearly impossible to know exactly what people are looking for. I think it would be very cool if there was an application that helped match people with religious organizations. After entering their basic preferences(religion/belief system, size of congregation, length of service, anonymity or community, etc), the app could find which nearby organization(s) best fit the individual’s needs. Users could see which of their friends go to which churches, and view detailed profiles of each organization. The app could also give organizations access to data that reflects what most people are looking for, so they can adjust based on demand. Perhaps this is oversimplifying, or it has been done before, but I think this app could make the process of joining a church easier, and has the potential to increase membership in religious organizations wherever it is implemented.