The number of churches in Great Britain with websites has increased markedly in the last two years, and Baptists have the highest percentage among the main United Kingdom denominations.

Such are the preliminary findings of doctoral student Sara Batts, who is investigating how churches use web-based communication.

As part of her research, Batts took a random sample of 400 churches from all parts of England, split equally between the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic and Methodist denominations. She then looked for their websites using the search engine Google.

At the outset in January 2009 fewer than half (41 percent) had a site in the first two pages of the subsequent search.

Baptists were the highest, recording 57 percent, above Anglican (40 percent) Catholic (37 percent) and Methodist (28 percent) churches.

Two years later the proportion had increased to more than 66 percent.

All the denominations recorded a rise: 58 percent of Anglican churches in the sample now had websites, compared to 63 percent of Catholic churches and 61 percent of Methodist churches.

But Baptist churches still led the way, this time with 84 percent having a searchable website.

“It seems that churches are quickly becoming involved in online life,” Batts, a student at Loughborough University, told The Baptist Times.

“Either many have a website that wasn’t there two years ago, or those that do are getting better at their search optimization – making sure they are recognized in a Google search. If you can’t find it via Google, it might just as well not be there,” she said.

“I don’t know why Baptists are so high – maybe it’s a younger, more urban demographic.”

Tracking the sample of churches is just one aspect of the project.

Now Batts, a research librarian, wants to understand how churches choose what to say about themselves, who makes those decisions, and the purposes that churches want their sites to fulfill. She is looking to speak to those who use web-based communication in their local churches as well as those who don’t.

This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.

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