Access to Internet technologies, by denominational group…

Access to Internet technologies, by type of church…

Churches aren’t making full

use of the power of the Internet

(Original release date:  January 8, 2006)  Research conducted for Facts & Trends magazine show one out of every four Protestant churches in the United States has virtually no involvement with the World Wide Web.

 

The study, conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona, among a representative sample of 871 Protestant church ministers nationwide, explored how churches use Web technology. It shows 27% of all churches have no connectivity at all – no staff e-mail, no website, and no Internet connection.

 

While the research shows 58% of all churches provide Internet access for their staff, a similar study conducted in 2004 by Grey Matter Research showed 91% of all ministers have access to the Internet. The current study demonstrates that in many cases, ministers have personal access but not access through their church.

 

Only half of all churches provide staff with e-mail, and just under half maintain a website.  The proportion with an active Internet site has not changed significantly over the past year.

 

Relatively few Protestant churches use e-mail prayer chains (23%), have an e-mail church newsletter (18%), or have an online member directory (4%).

 

The proportion of churches making some use of the Internet is lower in the South (65%) than it is in other parts of the country.  The smallest churches (with fewer than 100 in the congregation) are much less likely to use the Internet (60%) than are mid-size (100 – 199 people – 86%) or larger churches (200 people or more – 96%).  Churches led by older ministers are also much less likely to be connected than are those with a pastor under the age of 60.

 

Presbyterian churches are the major denominational group most likely to be using the Internet (92%).  Most other major denominational groups were about average, but Baptists from outside the Southern Baptist Convention (such as Progressive Baptist, Missionary Baptist, American Baptist) are much less likely than others to make any use of the Web (54%).  In general, mainline and evangelical churches do not differ much in church use of the Web.

 

The study also explored Web content among churches with active Internet sites.  Only four types of content are provided by a majority of all Protestant churches with a website:  a map and/or directions to the church (70%), a calendar of upcoming events (65%), a statement of beliefs (60%), and pages for specific ministry departments (56%).  In addition, half provide staff e-mail addresses on their site.

 

Other types of information provided by a significant proportion of churches include denominational information (43%), staff biographies and/or backgrounds (42%), special pages for youth and/or teens (42%), a regular church newsletter (38%), a way to submit prayer requests online (27%), and information about joining a small group (25%).

 

Among content less likely to appear on a church website are Bible study material or helps (19%), sermon transcripts (16%), upcoming sermon titles or topics (14%), sermons available in streaming audio (13%), a bulletin board, forum, or chat room (12%), sermons in streaming video (4%), testimonies (4%), and a way to donate online (2%).

 

Larger churches are not only dramatically more likely to have a church website than are smaller churches, but their sites tend to be more sophisticated, with far more content.  For example, 60% of large churches with a website provide special pages for youth or teens, compared to only 25% of small churches.  Forty-five percent of large churches provide information about joining a small group, compared to just 8% of small churches.  And 65% of large churches provide staff e-mail addresses, versus only 37% of small churches.  About the only common type of content equally likely to appear on church websites regardless of the size is denominational information.

 

Mainline and evangelical churches differ somewhat in their Web content.  Mainline churches with a website are more likely than evangelical congregations to have a regular church newsletter on their site (46% to 32%).  But evangelical churches tend to have more content and more diversity on their sites, as they are more likely than mainline churches to provide a statement of beliefs (72% to 36%), special pages for youth/teens (48% to 34%), a way to submit prayer requests online (27% to 15%), Bible study materials or helps (26% to 10%), sermons in streaming audio (17% to 6%), and testimonies (7% to 1%).

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, explained that this study confirmed the company’s previous research showing a growing technology gap between larger and smaller churches.  “Not only are larger churches far more likely to have a website, but they have much more content available for visitors to their sites.  Their sites are also much more interactive, with ways to contact staff, learn about upcoming events, watch streaming audio or video, and submit prayer requests,” Sellers said.

 

However, Sellers also noted that even large churches infrequently take advantage of the many ways the Internet can impact ministry and communication.  “Even among larger congregations, only a minority have a website where visitors can interact with other visitors, get help studying the Bible, get involved in a small group, learn about the pastor’s background, or submit a prayer request,” Sellers stated.

 

“Businesses of all sizes are learning how to incorporate the Internet into a broader communication and marketing strategy, using their website to take orders, interact with customers, educate people, and promote the brand.  Many church sites, on the other hand, are limited to static information, such as a map to the church and a statement of beliefs.  Increasingly, churches need to determine whether they want to have an online site or an online ministry.  Right now, most only have the former, if they have anything at all.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 871 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.2 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.

 

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.

Kenneth Olsen, Founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, in 1977

Access to Internet technologies, by region of the country…

A PASSION FOR

RESEARCH THAT

MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Grey Matter logo

Content of the church website, by type of church…

 

Available on Web Site

 

All

Small Church

Midsize Church

Large Church

 

Mainline

 

Evangelical

Map/directions to the church

70%

62%

68%

81%

68%

73%

Calendar of upcoming events

65

55

61

82

71

67

Statement of beliefs

60

54

59

68

36

72

Pages for specific ministry departments

56

39

58

73

54

64

Staff e-mail addresses

50

37

50

65

53

53

Denominational information

43

44

44

40

53

47

Staff biographies/background

42

32

37

57

36

47

Special pages for youth/teens

42

25

44

60

34

48

Regular church newsletter

38

27

36

51

46

32

Submit prayer requests online

27

21

26

34

15

27

Info about joining a small group

25

8

23

45

24

24

Bible study materials/helps

19

18

16

24

10

26

Sermon transcripts

16

12

13

23

17

15

Upcoming sermon topics/titles

14

10

10

20

14

15

Sermons in streaming audio

13

5

11

24

6

17

Bulletin board, forum, chat room

12

8

15

13

9

12

Sermons in streaming video

4

4

2

7

3

4

Testimonies

4

3

5

5

1

7

Online donations

2

2

2

3

1

2

Any other content

4

4

6

4

5

6

 

Technology

 

 All

Small Church

Midsize Church

Large Church

Pastor
<45

Pastor
45-59

Pastor
60+

Staff Internet access

58%

43%

70%

89%

62%

62%

42%

Staff e-mail

49

34

58

82

54

51

36

Church website

47

29

62

82

46

50

41

E-mail prayer chains

23

14

27

48

31

24

14

E-mail church newsletter

18

10

22

38

17

20

14

Online member directory

4

2

5

9

4

4

5

None of these

27

40

14

4

27

23

38

 

Technology

 

 All

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

 

Presbyterian

All

Others

Staff Internet access

58%

67%

41%

64%

60%

52%

76%

69%

Staff e-mail

49

58

36

49

43

45

70

60

Church website

47

46

30

42

52

55

71

58

E-mail prayer chains

23

28

13

23

18

18

32

34

E-mail church newsletter

18

20

10

14

21

16

30

30

Online member directory

4

5

5

2

4

3

2

7

None of these

27

25

46

25

23

32

8

14

Technology

All

Northeast

Midwest

South

West

Staff Internet access

58%

54%

61%

52%

64%

Staff e-mail

49

56

50

41

52

Church website

47

49

40

43

57

E-mail prayer chains

23

25

23

19

27

E-mail church newsletter

18

15

16

15

25

Online member directory

4

5

3

3

6

None of these

27

20

27

35

21