FACT square logoFaith Communities Today Newsletter 
Issue 15March 2012 

The latest research reports at Faith Communities Today


Virtual Religion:

Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations


FACTs on Growth: 2010 


A Decade of Change in American Congregations--Trends 2000-2010


American Congregations Reach Out to Other Faith Traditions 


Holy Toll: The Impact of the 2008 Recession on American Congregations


Plus reports from participating 



Quick Links...
Join Our Mailing List 


How the Internet is Changing Congregations


The use of technology by religious congregations has doubled in the past decade and correlates with spiritual vitality and growth

New information from a national, multi-faith survey

The use of both websites and email by American congregations has more than doubled in the past decade. Nine out of ten congregations now use email and three out of four have a website or a Facebook page. Large majorities also use an electronic data base to track members and participants in activities, and some kind of projection technology in worship. Smaller, but significant numbers are using blogs, texting and social media.


"Adaptation to these new tools of ministry ... is no longer the luxury it was in the 1990s," writes Scott Thumma, author of a new research report and Professor of Sociology of Religion at Harford Seminary. "The use of technology is now a congregational necessity."


Virtually Religious: Technology and Internet Use in American Congregations is being released as part of the Faith Communities Today (FACT) series of survey reports. An online news conference is scheduled for March 13 which will provide opportunity for journalists to interview Dr. Thumma.


Almost all congregations among all religions have members who use Internet technology in their daily lives. Religious leaders who recognize this reality and use these technologies to minister to their people have a distinct advantage. For one thing, the Internet is a valuable tool that allows ministry to be widened despite fewer resources. The research also uncovered a number of reasons why new technology correlates with vital, growing faith communities.


Innovativeness: "The social context has changed. Congregations must change with this social shift in order to keep their presentation of faith relevant. Increased use of tech is strongly related to the congregation being characterized by willingness to change to meet new challenges. [It] also correlates to the likelihood that the congregation altered its worship style in the past 5 years as well as this worship being described as innovation."


Distinctiveness: "Congregations that have a distinctive vision, a clear sense of mission and purpose and those who are distinctive in the 'religious marketplace' have a natural advantage. Increased technology use enhances that distinctiveness."


Vitality: Local religious groups "with a greater use of technology ... are more likely to describe their worship as innovative, joyful, thought-provoking, and inspirational. [They] are also perceived as being more spiritually vital and alive."


Growth: There is a strong relationship between use of technology and the number of members who get involved in the recruitment of new members. Only 10 percent of congregations which report that none of their members are involved in recruitment make major use of technology, while half of congregations with a lot of their members involved in recruitment do so.


The report includes a section on "moving beyond the data" which focuses on how congregations can develop "an expanded and enhanced ministry." It also has an appendix with individual data from 27 faith groups and clusters of faiths. 


This is the fifth in a series of reports from the monumental, decade-long research enterprise in which the major religions in America worked together. A copy of the 12-page report is available for download at the FACT website.

New Report: The American Mosque 2011 
This new study was written by Dr. Ihsan Bagby, a professor at the University of Kentucky. It is one of the research reports from a faith community that is part of the Faith Communities Today partnership. Dr. Bagby is a member of the steering committee of the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP), the organization that oversees the FACT research enterprise. A copy of the report can be obtained at www.cair.org.

Resources for Internet Ministry 


 Two ebooks have been published recently that provide specific instruction on how congregations and clergy can use Internet technology in ministry. One is entitled Creating a Good Website: Guide to Connecting Your Church Members Online and it can be downloaded at www.faithhighway.com. The other is Facebook for Pastors by Chris Forbes and it can be obtained from the author: chris@ministrymarketingcoach.com.


Several ebooks are also available online that seek to train small business proprietors to use the Internet for marketing purposes. Much of this information can also be utilized by religious congregations and leaders although the publications are secular in nature. Three of these are especially useful: 25 Essentials for Exceptional Email Campaigns published by Lyris, Inc., can be downloaded at www.lyris.com ... Internet Marketing from Infusionsoft at www.infusionsoft.com ... Special Report: Top 5 Facebook Case Studies from 2010 by Marketing Serpa at www.hubspot.com.


A number of books have been published on this topic in recent years, all of them from Christian authors, although much of the practical information can easily be used in Jewish, Muslim and other congregations.


The Blogging Church by Brian Bailey (2007, Jossey-Bass) ... Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church Can Learn from Facebook, the Internet and Other Networks by Dwight Friesen (2009, Baker) ... Wired for Ministry by John P. Jewell (2004, Brazos Press) ... The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected are Redefining Community by Jesse Rice (2009, David C. Cook) ... SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World by Douglas Estes (2009, Zondervan).


For further information about FACT, or to learn how to join the Cooperative Congregations Studies Partnership (CCSP), contact David Roozen at roozen@hartsem.edu.