You can visit many churches that show no signs of awareness that we live in a digital age, awash in multiple media venues and online opportunities for social networking. For some folks, I suspect, a simple sanctuary with nothing more high-tech than a piano may be just that — a place of sanctuary and longing for a simpler day.
But I’ll bet at least three-quarters of the worshipers in those bare pews will have cell phones in their pockets.
Trend-spotter George Barna published a survey on Churches and Technology this week. The study took a look at eight technologies and their application in Protestant churches. Surveyors found that 65 percent of churches now have a large screen projection system. Size, as one might expect, played an important role:
Among churches that average less than 100 adults each week, only half (53%) have such systems. The proportion balloons to 76% among churches that attract an average of 100 to 250 adults, and nearly nine out of ten churches (88%) that draw more than 250 adults each week.
Researches even noticed a somewhat surprising correlation of large screens and theology: just more “liberal” churches used large screens, while 68 percent of churches perceived to be more conservative used them.
Barna has a vested interest in knowing how many churches use screens for video clips and the like: his Barna Films division makes a host of clips available, indexed to scriptures or topics and with royalties appropriately paid. His group found that 80 percent of churches with large screens also used film or other video clips in some way. The number that use satellite dishes to offer remote training opportunities remains small, at eight percent.
But that’s not all Barna’s interested in: his researches found that 56 percent of Protestant churches use “e-mail blasts” to communicate with the congregation, and 62 percent have an Internet presence through a curch website. As expected, the larger the church, the more likely it is to have a website.
Churches have been slower to get on board with social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook: only a quarter of Protestant churches sponsor a group on social networking sites, with large churches and charismatic churches being more likely to be plugged in.
While many churches embrace technology, they aren’t as likely to provide interactive opportunities. Just one of eight churches host a blog where members can respond to blogs posted by church leaders. Watch for social networking and blogging, along with community-building opportunities like Twitter, to skyrocket in coming years — or churches will be left in the digital dust.
One-way communication such as the commonly employed “tape ministry” for shut-ins has also benefited from technology: one out of six churches now offer podcasting, allowing tech-savvy members to download sermons or other programs and listen at their leisure.
The Internet has become one of the pivotal communications and community-building tools of our lifetime. Churches are well-advised to have an intelligent and foresighted Internet strategy in order to facilitate meaningful ministry.
That’s the sort of news many churches don’t want to hear, but it’s a truth that they’ll need to heed if they want others to hear their message. For younger believers who love being part of tight communities, high-tech and high-touch go hand in hand.
[Graphic from Cross Systems, Inc. ]
Samuel’s plea for a dog.A personal note: some of you have heard about our son
The effectual fervent plea of a righteous son availeth much.
His name, Samuel says, is Banjo.