Study: Churches Slow to Adopt New Technology

New research shows that a majority of churches use some type of emerging technology in their services, but the pace of technology adoption has slowed in recent years.

Although 65 percent of Protestant churches now have a large screen projection system, that number is just slightly higher than in 2005 when 62 percent had such a system, according to The Barna Group. The use of large screens had jumped from the year 2000 when only 39 percent were using them.

Since 2005, there was only a 5 percent increase in the adoption of a large screen projection system.

The Barna study, released Monday, found that churches that say they are theologically conservative are more likely to have large screens (68 percent) than churches described by their pastor as having "liberal theology" (43 percent).

Smaller churches – ones that average less than 100 adults each week – are less likely to have big screens, with only 53 percent of them reportedly having one. Meanwhile, 76 percent of churches that draw 100 to 250 adults have a large screen and 88 percent of churches that draw more than 250 adults have it.

Over half the churches that have a big screen use it to show movie clips or other video segments during their services and events.

Along with the slower adoption of large screens, sending e-mail blasts have also not prevailed in the last couple of years.

Fifty-six percent of Protestant churches send email blasts to large groups or to the entire church body but that number has remained the same since 2005.

More churches have created an Internet presence since 2005. The latest study showed that 62 percent of Protestant churches have a church Web site, up from 57 percent in 2005. In 2000, only 34 percent had a Web site.

Larger churches are more likely to have an Internet presence. Nine out of 10 churches with more than 250 adults attending have a Web site while only 48 percent of churches with less than 100 adults have one.

"Many small churches seem to believe that new tools for ministry are outside of their budget range or may not be significant for a church of their size. It may be, though, that such thinking contributes to the continued small size of some of those churches," said George Barna, who directed the study.

Also connecting to the MySpace generation, 26 percent of Protestant churches have some presence on one or more social networking sites. Charismatic churches were more likely to use such sites (38 percent) than mainline or evangelical congregations.

Nearly half of large churches (more than 250 adults) have adopted podcasting. Only 16 percent of Protestant churches overall are utilizing podcast technology.

Blogging is also being picked up by more churches with 13 percent of Protestant churches now having blog sites or pages where people can interact with the thoughts posted by church leaders.

Churches meanwhile have still been slow to utilize satellite broadcasting. Only 8 percent of churches use such technology for receiving programming and training, a slight increase from the 7 percent in the year 2000.

"The fact that market penetration of digital technologies seems to top out around two-thirds of the market could easily change if the digital-resistant churches conceived ways of facilitating their vision through the deployment of such tools," Barna noted. "That is what made these tools so appealing to larger churches: being able to apply the tools to furthering their ministry goals."

Despite the slower adoption of emerging technology use, Barna stresses that the incorporation of digital technologies into church-based ministry is an important frontier for churches to master.

"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," he said.

The study is based on interviews on a random sample of 605 senior pastors of Protestant churches. In prior studies, 845 senior pastors were interviewed in 2005 and 610 were interviewed in 2000.

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