Online Shopping

I had an interesting conversation a couple of weeks ago with the young woman who cuts my hair. We used to spend lots more time together when I was still getting my hair colored and I have been having her do my hair for about 10 years. I have seen her through a wedding and two babies. I have had four different jobs in that time. We have covered a range of topics over those years.

We somehow often end up talking about shopping. She is the kind of shopper who seeks out bargains, knows exactly when there will be a sale or a coupon worth noting, hunts for particular items for her children across two states. . . in other words, she and I shop very differently. I think of shopping as hunting and gathering and try to get it over with pretty quickly. It is not a sport for me.

But, we discovered a generational difference in the way we approach shopping now. Although I make decisions about buying something very quickly and am not willing to put in the time to hunt for the very best price, I do think of shopping as recreation. Shopping is different from buying for me. I was telling her, for instance, that when I am in St. Louis for a regular time of teaching classes in the western suburbs there, I like to go to a very fancy mall. If I buy anything there, it might be one piece of candy at the over-priced chocolate store. But, walking around that mall is like going to the zoo for me. I look at the $700 shoes at Saks the same way I look at the giraffe in the zoo. It is interesting to me that such things exist in the world but I will never buy them. I was bemoaning the fact that with so many retail stores closing, I will miss that recreational aspect of just kind of serendipitously seeing things that I never knew existed and, especially, never imagined that people would actually purchase.

She told me that she does not view shopping the same way. She has had some unpleasant encounters while shopping lately where she felt uncomfortable. She has two small children, so just getting in and out of the car and across the parking lot can be an adventure. Going to a particular store limits her choices to what is in that store. So, shopping online for all of those reasons is the only way she shops now for the things she used to buy at the mall.

All of this has implications for our churches. People are becoming more and more accustomed to doing everything from the comfort of their own home—buying groceries, doing their banking, interacting with friends—the list goes on. If going to church used to be just one of the “errands” that people did on a weekend amongst a million other stops for which they were getting in and out of their cars, then church, for many, has gone the way of shopping and banking. People can find excellent sacred music, moving prayers, inspirational sermons, and even interaction with others around their spiritual questions online. Why should they get up, get dressed, leave behind their twitter and Instagram accounts for an hour, and find themselves with a very small group of people who have known each other for some time or with a crowd into which they can disappear? What is the value added for them in showing up at church?

This might be an interesting discussion to have with your session or with your friends in the place where you do ministry outside of a congregation. What is the value added for you in sitting in worship? How can you articulate that to your puzzled neighbors or coworkers when they find out that you go to church? As the Psalmist tells us in Psalm 107: “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” We should all be ready to say why we worship together so that we can find new ways to bring hope in the name of Jesus Christ into the lives of those in our sphere of influence.


Susan D. Krummel (Sue)

Executive Presbyter

Presbytery of Chicago