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Over the course of the past year, I was introduced to a series of YouTube videos entitled “Shift Happens.” Here are two samples to check out: Did You Know; Shift Happens-Globalization; Information Age and, at the bottom of the page this embedded video Did You Know 4.0

According to the video’s wiki page this video series originally started out as a PowerPoint presentation for a faculty meeting in August 2006 at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. The presentation hit the web in February 2007 and, as of June 2007, had been seen by at least 5 million online viewers. As of today the old and new versions of the online presentation have been seen by at least 20 million people, not including the countless others who have seen it at conferences, workshops, training institutes, and other venues.

The content of the videos is fascinating. They present very intriguing statistics about the nature of our changing world with the intention of asking a very simple question: “What does all this mean?”

I have been so taken by the content of the videos that I took the time to transcribe some of the statistics so that I could have them at my fingertips. I am convinced that these statistics have profound implications for how we do ministry. Read through these statistics and then let’s start a conversation. What does all this mean for ministry?

  • The top 25% of people with the highest IQ in China is greater than total population in North America. Translation: China has more honor students than we have students.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that today’s learner will have 10 to 14 jobs by the age of 38.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor . . . 1 out of 4 workers today is working for a company they have been employed by for less than one year.
  • More than 1 out of 2 are working for a company they have worked for for less than five years.
  • According to former Secretary of Education Richard Riley . . . The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.
  • It’s estimated that a week’s worth of New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.
  • Predictions are that by 2013 a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computation capability of the Human Brain . . .By 2023, a $1,000 computer will exceed the computation capability of the Human Brain . . . And while technical predictions further out than about 15 years are hard to do, predictions are that by 2049 a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational capabilities of the human race.
  • Today’s 21-year-olds have:
    Watched 20,000 hours of TV
    Played 10,000 hours of video games
    Talked 10,000 hours on the phone
    And they’ve sent/received 250,000 emails or instant messages
  • Number of Internet devices in 1984: 1,000
    1992 – 1,000,000
    2006 – 600,000,000
  • The first commercial text message was sent in December 1992
    The number of text messages sent and received today exceeds the population of the planet
  • The Internet started being widely used by the general public in early 1995
    1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. in 2005 . . .met online
  • There were more than 2.7 billion searches performed on Google this month
  • YouTube visitors 0 in 2005 to well over 100,000,000 today
  • Well over 1 million new books are published worldwide every year.
  • A Google Book Search scanner can digitize 1,000 pages an hour.
  • Americans have access to:
    1 trillion web pages
    65,000 iPhone apps
    10,500 radio stations
    5,500 magazines
    200+ cable TV networks
  • Newspaper circulation is down 7 million over the last 25 years. But in the last 5 years, unique readers of online newspapers are up 30 million.
  • In 2009, traditional advertising revenue faced steep decline:
    Newspapers advertising was down 18.7%
    TV advertising was down 10.1%
    Radio advertising was down 11.7%
    Magazine advertising was down 14.8%
    Meanwhile, digital advertising is growing rapidly:
    Mobile advertising is up 18.1%
    Web advertising is up 9.2%
  • More video was uploaded to YouTube in the last 2 months than if ABC, CBS, and NBC had been airing new content (with no re-runs) 24/7/365 since 1948 (which was when ABC started broadcasting).
  • ABC, CBS, and NBC collectively get 10 million unique visitors per month. These business have been around for a combined 200 years.
  • Myspace, Facebook, and YouTube collectively get 250 million unique visitors per month. None of these sites existed 6 years ago.
  • Wikipedia launched in 2001. It now features over 13 million articles in more than 200 languages.
  • The average teenager sends 2,272 text messages per month.
  • Dell claims to have earned $3 million via Twitter posts since 2007.
  • The mobile device will be the world’s primary connection tool to the Internet in 2020.
  • The computer in your cell phone today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful and about a hundred thousand times smaller than the one computer at MIT in 1965.

Let’s start a conversation. What does all this mean for ministry?

Attached Media
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Many of these statistics are dubious, and depend greatly on the meaning of certain words. Take, for instance, the first one. What is the actual range of IQ scores? According to the IQ and the WEALTH OF NATIONS study by Lynn & Vanhanen, China rates 12th at 100 and the US comes in at 98. But, as this site points out ( there are significant problems with comparing cross-cultural, cross-language IQ scores. The reality of change has been with us now for nearly 150 years. In some ways it has accelerated. In others, it has remained flat. Human nature, for all this, has not changed much at all.

What all these statistics really boil down to is highlighting the change in the way information is accessed and transferred. With more information generally accessible, strategies for identifying the SIGNIFICANT information becomes more important. The best way to hide a needle is not in a haystack, but in a large pile of other needles. Skill at identifying the specific needle one is after quickly and accurately becomes particularly valuable, and people begin to develop this skill.

One of the things that means is that teachers and preachers need to become adept at presenting information that will be flagged by "browsers", enticing people to stop and dig a little deeper because they'll see that this "needle" is an important one. Effective headlines and titles, for instance, become much more important. Even with that, one has to hook people early on or they've already gone to the next page/link/site.

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