The next installment of our current newsletter series is unfortunately under quarantine. Honestly, at this moment in our world’s battle with COVID-19 it didn’t seem right to add to readers’ anxiety by discussing the cultural and social challenges facing congregational life. The immediate challenges are all too real at the moment.
We hope that our readership is well and practicing social distancing and the intense hygiene regiment that has come to define our present reality. We also pray that your congregations and various ministries are finding creative ways to do the work of religious communities in this time of anxiety, when many are crying out for spiritual comfort and a sense of hopefulness.
In place of the next part in our series, we wanted to offer a few thoughts on the congregational use of technology, along with some ideas for virtual ways of being a faith community in this moment.
If trendlines haven’t changed since our 2010 and 2015 surveys of roughly 15,000 total congregations of all faith traditions, the majority of congregations, especially those with fewer than 100 worship attendees, are facing a steep uphill battle in the effort to digitally deliver their services and the other functions of a faith community.
It isn’t that a majority of these faith communities don’t have the technology, since we saw a rise in all forms of tech use from 2010 to 2015 and likely to the present (we are in the midst of our 2020 survey right now). However, many congregations didn’t regularly or robustly use the technology in the past, especially if they were small. But, we saw underutilized technology even in many of the larger ones as well. Relatively few faith communities made significant use of the tech that they had except for basic tools like email, websites, wifi in the building, and, to a lesser extent, Facebook and texting. Those congregations who gave little emphasis to their existing technology didn’t fare any better on many measures than those whose communities who didn’t have the tech tools at all. Only those who said they used tech quite a bit or a lot reaped significant benefit in terms of positive congregational dynamics (for example
having online giving resulted in $0 extra dollars per capita, whereas
online collection methods increased per capita giving by $114, and emphasizing electronic giving
quite a bit or a lot
raised it by $300 per person).