The Importance and Proper Use of Words: Quality Time vs. Quantity Time

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In ‘90’s, the concept of “quality time” was a popular cultural topic. As our society became busier (even before ubiquitous internet, smart phones, and the prevalence of long-distance commuting), some psychologists and pundits advocated for spending quality time with one’s children in lieu of shrinking hours in a day in our modern world. Stats accompanying this social trend cited the emaciated time that parents (especially fathers) spend with their kids—some claiming seven minutes a week—with the implication that as long as we know we have limited time, we might as well make it a quality experience.

Being a somewhat relational person myself, I’ve never been a fan of the above argument—that one can make up for busy-ness by simply justifying next-to-nothing time spent with a loved one, friend or mentee as “quality.” Yes, I firmly believe that life is short; I freely admit that my own goals and responsibilities often shortchange my time devoted to others (often favoring tasks or personal goals); and I agree with author Gary Chapman that Quality Time (“giving someone your undivided attention”) is one of The Five Love Languages. But in my experience, there are no detours to get to quality time. We need to go through the ages-old route of “quantity time.”

Here at JUGHEADS, that’s why we offer snack and game time: not only to juggle together, but to eat and play together (however haphazardly, especially for late-arrivals and early departures). That’s why we offer special events, such as Jingle Jam, juggling festivals, gigs, our summer picnic & parades, and the Showcase. That’s why our SLT has a fall retreat and meets monthly. And that’s why we celebrate our graduating seniors every year at JJ, since it is special to extend one’s quantity time commitment through the end of high school.

I’m a Type A personality in most everything I do. Even my days off are marked by my daily disciplines of Bible reading, exercise, chores, neglected tasks, etc. However, the sweetest thing about those days off is that I often have about 3-6 hours of completely discretionary time to catch up on reading, contact a friend, host a family for a movie night, or enjoy a long conversation with Wendy over Sunday brunch. Similarly, the rhythm of activities at JH is always purposeful—warm-ups, meetings, records, rehearsals—but even those activities are designed to bring a quality experience to the members and leaders. Our staple offerings use quantity time to get to the quality time of a myriad of connections, a place to belong, a home away from home, and young lives made better and equipped with long-term virtues to spread “quality” to many others they meet for a lifetime.

I’ll end with two favorite related cliches: “Love is spelled ‘T-I-M-E,’” and “Everything takes longer than it does.” Quality time comes through quantity time. Be purposeful even on days off with down time to spare, but be careful to not pretend that connections can be made, nurtured and sustained like a microwave, drive-thru, or by osmosis. For such a time as this, JH exists to offer quantity and quality time to children and youth while encouraging families to do the same.