How Churches Use Technology

February 27, 2006 by

Last week I spoke with Jesse Noyes from the Boston Herald about how churches use technology for his article, “Lord Works in High Tech Ways,” which basically explores how churches are using emerging technology like blogs and podcasts.

Church Marketing Sucks and our parent Center for Church Communication get a mention, though I didn’t say anything smart enough to get quoted. I thought my comment about podcasting enabling pastors to take sermons beyond Sunday was pretty good, though I guess it wasn’t incredibly inspired.

Someone definitely smarter than me made a good point about how Christians have always taken advantage of technology:

But since the advent of radio, conservative evangelicals have been the first to embrace the marketing clout technology provides, said Nancy Ammerman, a sociology of religion professor at Boston University. “There is something about the impulse to convert… that has long made evangelicals use whatever tools are available to them,”

I’m no historian, but I think even long before radio you’ll find Christians using the latest technology, whether it’s the printing press or improved navigation methods to reach people. Web sites are the new visitor packets. Blogs are the new newsletters. Podcasts are the new radio.

As always, there are the technology detractors. Near the end of the article there is concern about the drawbacks of technology and “creating a strictly virtual community.”

But if anyone using technology is going to overcome that problem, wouldn’t it be the church, where we actually meet face to face every Sunday? It seems to me that the church is uniquely equipped in that way since fellowship is so central. Technology is just another tool to more easily build that community.

There’s also this random comment from Daniel Harrell, associate minister at Park Street Church in Boston where they have a blog and a Craigslist-like forum:

“The whole evangelical movement has just bought lock, stock and barrel into the blogging format.”

Considering how many people still scratch their head when they hear the term ‘blog,’ I find this hard to believe. Then again, I’m probably just jealous that Harrell got quoted and I didn’t.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

5 Responses to “How Churches Use Technology”

  • Michael
    February 27, 2006

    What a great point Kevin. Think about it…the first thing to roll of the Gutenberg press was the bible. But how about the first blog, podcast?
    The church used to set the pace, now we’re trying to just keep up.
    I don’t know about you but a nice kick in the butt for me.

     | Permalink
  • Steve
    March 1, 2006

    We like blogs better than newsletters. I have one for each of several teams. Our junior high teaching team uses one sporadically as they first map out a teaching series. Our junior high volunteer team posts after every event to gather feedback quickly–feedback that used to slip beyond reach when we waited a week to ask for it.

     | Permalink
  • Robert Brewer
    March 4, 2006

    Somebody needs to re-read McLuhan. ;) There is a *very* wide gap between those churches who adopted broadcast media like email, radio and TV, and those which are adopting narrowcast/permission media like blogs and podcasts–their worldviews are different and the selection of media follows those.
    > Technology is just another tool to more easily build that community.
    Remember that “build community” is a phrase with a very short history, and has only recently entered the popular vocabulary from discussions about the “new media” and “social software”. Prior to the Internet, the only people talking about “building community” were pastors of large churches and city planners. Most Western churches were small and deeply localized before the 70’s, and their community didn’t have to be built–it simply existed all around them, neighbors were all part of the community whether they attended church or not. The boundary between communities was a physical one, resulting from the physical distance between towns and the resultant communication gaps. Those members of the community who attended church used broadcast tech primarily to reach other communities, which were far enough away that traditional face-to-face messaging was cost-prohibitive.
    Today’s churches choose to use blogs and podcasts because their models of reality and their goals are different. The “community” is no longer based on location–changes in city size, transportation, and communication have allowed churchgoers to affiliate based on shared interests and personal preference. Community is also no longer automatic–it must be constructed, and the primary edifice is a communication boundary between churchgoers and non-churchgoers. One way to do that is to use narrowcast media, to separate those-who-read-the-church-blog from those-who-do-not. A single physical area may host multiple instances of these new “religious communities” (many of them not Christian), and the communication style is changing in all of them toward more narrowcast media, in an effort to maintain their distinctiveness within that mixed society. Broadcast media can no longer be relied upon to reach across the gap to another, culturally homogeneous community–the return on investment for broadcast has dwindled to almost nothing due to the increase in cultural diversity within any given locality.
    We still send out missionaries to other, physically- and communicationally-distant isolated communities, but few of them ever used broadcast tech, instead preferring wholehearted participation as change agents in the target community. [It would be interesting to hear from American missionaries to Europe, to know how they see their use of various media changing, if it is.] But the American church has always experienced, and continues to prefer, more rigid boundaries between communities. Now that those boundaries are no longer automatically spatial, perhaps it’s time for many churches in America to send missionaries to the poor “community” that surrounds their building, as they continue to prefer to isolate themselves in distant parts of the city, “building community” out of the new media and eschewing the old.

     | Permalink
  • Keith Knight
    March 16, 2006

    The church has a strong tradition of following technology, rather than leading it.
    When churches and other religious institutions tell me that they want to create a website, I ask them: “Why?” and they are hard-pressed to answer. Most of them create websites because the church down the street has one.
    It seems that those of us reponsible for ‘leading’ denominations when it comes to communication have a tough time developing a theology of the Internet. How does the church use the Internet differently than, say, a hardware store or a miulti-national corporation?
    Church sites need to be interactive; they need to focus on building ‘community’. A church website that doesn’t engage its audience is as useless as a day- old Sunday bulletin.
    Keith Knight
    Communications Director
    The Presbyterian Church in Canada

     | Permalink
  • spills
    March 16, 2006

    Mine, Mine, Mine!

    As new social media tools such as blogs, podcasts and wikis empower all of us to post, link, rate, review, write, share and connect to our heart’s content, those who try to dam this surge of user-generated content with a

     | Permalink

News & Updates, Technology