Walking in the Right Direction A column by Bill Ellenberger for The Daily Herald

New research describes use of technology in churches – Part II
As I mentioned last time, many of us have viewed church services on TV or attend a church that uses the latest technology. The services can be as simple as an overhead projector to view hymns, praise songs, announcements, and more. To use these tools effectively, much time is spent to use this resource tastefully and heighten the worship service experience. Here are some notes from the conclusion of this research.
“April 28, 2008 (Ventura, CA) Protestant churches across the nation are using various forms of emerging technology to influence people’s lives and enliven their church experience. But the pace of technology adoption seems to have slowed in the past two years as some churches focus upon making the most of what they already have, and other churches attempt to get by without incorporating such tools into their ministry mix.
Internet Presence
The ways in which churches are reaching out to people over the Internet are expanding. Back in 2000, just one-third of Protestant churches (34%) had a church website. That exploded to 57% in 2005, and has inched upward since then to 62%. About half of the small churches (48% of those drawing less than 100 adults) have a church website, compared to three-quarter of the mid-sized churches (75% of the congregations attracting 100 to 250 adults per week) and nine out of ten larger churches (91% of the churches with more than 250 adults attending).
One out of every four Protestant churches (26%) now has some presence on one or more social networking sites (such as MySpace). Again, church size was a factor in this with larger churches being more than twice as likely to have such a presence (20% vs. 47%). Charismatic churches were notably more likely (38%) than either mainline or evangelical congregations to use such pages in their ministry efforts.
Podcasting has been adopted by one out of every six churches (16%). Again, larger churches stood out in their embrace of this communications tool, with half of the churches attracting more than 250 adults (47%) utilizing podcast technology.
Blogging is also invading the ministry world. One-eighth of Protestant churches (13%) now have blog sites or pages through which people can interact with the thoughts posted by church leaders.
Satellite Dishes
One technology that has not shown any discernible expansion in the past several years is that of satellite broadcasting. In 2000, some 7% of Protestant churches had a satellite dish for receiving programming and training. That number has remained virtually unchanged since then, registering 8% in 2005 and the same 8% in 2007.
Technology Is Here to Stay
The incorporation of digital technologies into church-based ministry is an important frontier for churches to master, according to George Barna, who directed these studies for The Barna Group over the course of the decade.
“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,” Barna commented.
He also noted that small churches are less technology-friendly. “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.”
Barna also addressed the slowing growth of certain tools in the church market. “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. That is what made these tools so appealing to larger churches: being able to apply the tools to furthering their ministry goals.”
About the Research: Details of the study are available on the website. The Barna Group, Ltd. located in Ventura, California, You may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website www.barna.org. © The Barna Group, Ltd, 2008.”
When it comes to technology and the worship service, great insight must be shown to show Christ is the focus and not technology.
Stay focused on the King, Bill

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