In 1973 researchers at Stanford University carried out the marshmallow experiment on young children. Each was taken into a room and shown a plate with two marshmallows. They were told they could have one now or both when the researcher returned after 15 minutes. They were then left alone. The children were tracked through their school years, and it was found that those who were able to delay gratification had better outcomes educationally as well as in health indices. This experiment has been repeated with similar but slightly less clear cut results, so it is clear that the ability to delay gratification has some impact on development.
However, delaying gratification is no longer the necessity it once was. Remember allow 28 days for delivery on mail order. Similarly, access to credit is instant, so we can have what we want at once. But it’s not just credit and couriers, we can also go where we want with ease. We just get in the car.
This may seem an interesting but irrelevant point for the Church, but consider; the people we are seeking to engage with, outside our direct congregation, are a generation that doesn’t delay gratification. Look at what Doug says about the new normal. How can we reach them? What changes should or could we make while still being recognisably Church?