Current and future use of technology, by church size...

Study results show a huge gap between large

and small churches in the use of technology

(Original release date:  January 4, 2005)  Research results that were released in the January/February edition of Facts & Trends magazine show nine out of 10 Protestant clergy have Internet access they can use for church business, but only about half of all Protestant churches maintain a website. 

 

The research was conducted by Grey Matter Research & Consulting (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona among a representative sample of 700 Protestant church ministers nationwide.  The study queried pastors about their current use of technology, as well as how technology fits into the near-term future of their church’s ministry.  The study shows some very large gaps in technology reliance according to the size of churches.  

 

Ninety-one percent of Protestant clergy have Internet access they can use for church business (either at the church or personally).  The vast majority of all types of pastors (e.g. different ages, different church sizes, different denominations) have Internet access. 

 

However, only 52% say their church maintains a website of any kind.  This varies dramatically by church size:  88% of larger churches (those with 200 or more people attending worship services during a typical weekend) have a website, compared to 60% of mid-size churches (100 to 199 people in worship each weekend), and just 28% of small churches. 

 

The presence of a church website also varies by the pastor’s age.  Among ministers under 60 years old, 56% are at a church with a website; among pastors 60 or older, just 35% are leading a church with a website.  

 

While nine out of 10 ministers are online, only a third of those online have a content filter at the church.  (A content filter makes it difficult or impossible to access objectionable sites on the Internet.)  Baptist and Pentecostal churches are most likely to have a content filter of some type, while Methodist churches are least likely to employ a content filter. 

 

The study also asked ministers to rate the importance of a number of different uses of technology in their church’s ministry over the next five years, using a scale of 1 (not at all important) to 5 (extremely important).  The importance of these various types of technology varies some by denomination, but much more so by the size of the church. 

 

Of the nine uses of technology tested in the study, the one that is extremely important to the greatest number of ministers is doing research on the Internet.  Thirty-four percent feel this will be extremely important to the work of their church over the next five years. 

 

A number of other uses of technology will also be extremely important to about one out of every four churches.  These include using Bible study software (28%), building or maintaining a church website (27%), using PowerPoint or other types of graphic presentations in worship services (27%), being able to show DVDs or videos (26%), and using e-mail to communicate with members of the congregation (25%). 

 

Two other uses of technology will be extremely important to a somewhat smaller proportion of churches:  using technology to connect with missionaries (20%), and advertising in the media (such as radio or newspapers) (19%). 

 

Of the tested uses of technology, the one of least importance to ministers in the near future is having their sermons available on their church’s website – only 9% feel this will be extremely important to the work of their church over the next five years. 

What really stands out, however, is not the relative importance of each of these technologies to ministers, but the significant differences by church size.  For instance, building and maintaining a website will be extremely important to 49% of large churches, but only 16% of small churches.  Many other uses of technology show similar gaps, including communicating with the congregation via e-mail (42% in large churches, 13% in small churches), using graphics in worship (36% to 16%), being able to show DVDs or videos (39% to 16%), and doing research on the Internet (42% to 26%). 

 

The only consistent difference by denomination is that Lutherans tend to be somewhat less convinced of the importance of a number of these technologies.  Using graphic presentations in worship, being able to show DVDs or videos, using Bible study software, and using technology to connect with missionaries are all significantly less important to Lutherans than to other denominations. 

 

Other denominational differences are mainly seen with individual uses of technology.  For instance, Methodist ministers are particularly impressed with the importance of using e-mail to communicate with their congregations and with using the Internet for research, while Pentecostal ministers are especially likely to feel Bible study software will be important to their work, but less likely than average to want to communicate with their congregation via e-mail. 

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that small churches often already are struggling with things such as inadequate budgets and few volunteers.   “As the American public becomes more and more reliant on technology in everyday life, they will logically expect churches to have things such as websites, streaming audio or video on the site, or study materials on video or computer software,” Sellers said.  “Small churches often don’t have the budget to pay for technology, or the staff or volunteers to implement it.  The increased use of technology in churches has a real potential to widen the gap even further between small churches and medium or large congregations.”   

 

Sellers also noted that churches may need to take a harder look at how technology can impact their ministry, as well as what members or visitors may expect today.  “Some technology is not appropriate for all churches; a PowerPoint presentation in morning services wouldn’t fit with the worship styles of many congregations, for instance,” he said.  “But pastors need to take a hard look at where technology might no longer be a matter of style or a luxury for the congregation, but an expectation.  For example, with the majority of Americans using the Internet, it’s amazing that over one out of four medium and large churches don’t have any presence on the web – particularly with many churches trying to figure out ways of attracting younger people, who are particularly likely to use the Internet to gather information and explore their options.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 700 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.  

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

Everything that can be invented, has been invented.

Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of

the U.S. Office of Patents, in 1899

A PASSION FOR

RESEARCH THAT

MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Grey Matter logo

Perceived importance of technologies to their church over the next five years

Perceived importance of technologies to their church over the next five years, by denomination

 

Uses of Technology

All Pastors

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

All Others

Building or maintaining a church Web site

27%

24%

20%

28%

34%

28%

30%

Sermons available on the church Web site

9

8

6

8

6

10

11

Communicating to the congregation with e-mail

25

25

15

34

30

16

30

PowerPoint or other graphic

   presentations in worship

 

27

 

30

 

22

 

28

 

13

 

34

 

27

Being able to show DVDs or videos

26

30

23

30

13

32

26

Advertising in the media

19

18

17

18

20

23

18

Using technology to connect with missionaries

20

19

26

18

11

19

21

Bible study software

28

27

28

23

12

41

27

Doing research on the Internet

34

30

32

43

30

29

34

 

Uses of Technology

All

Churches

Small

(<100)

Medium

(100 - 199)

Large (200+)

Pastor currently has Internet access

91%

86%

94%

97%

Church has a content filter (among those on the web)

32

27

36

37

Church maintains a website

52

28

60

88

Rate each of the following as extremely important in the next five years:

 

 

 

 

  -- Building or maintaining a church website

27

16

28

49

  -- Sermons available on the church website

9

4

8

18

  -- Communicating to the congregation with e-mail

25

13

30

42

  -- PowerPoint or other graphic presentations in worship

27

16

36

36

  -- Being able to show DVDs or videos

26

16

34

39

  -- Advertising in the media

19

15

22

23

  -- Using technology to connect with missionaries

20

18

20

26

  -- Bible study software

28

26

24

36

  -- Doing research on the Internet

34

26

38

42

 

Uses of Technology

1 - Not at All Important 

 

 

3

 

4

5 - Extremely Important

Building or maintaining a church website

11%

15%

23%

25%

27%

Having your sermons available on the church website

19

26

30

15

9

Communicating to the congregation with e-mail

10

11

24

30

25

PowerPoint or other graphic presentations in worship

18

13

20

23

27

Being able to show DVDs or videos

13

12

20

29

26

Advertising in the media (radio, newspaper, etc.)

9

17

29

26

19

Using technology to connect with missionaries

9

16

27

28

20

Bible study software

9

13

25

26

28

Doing research on the Internet

6

10

19

31

34