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Nearly half of Protestant churches use social networking, poll reportscomment (0)

February 3, 2011

Nearly half of more than 1,000 Protestant churches polled by LifeWay Research in September indicated they are using Facebook as a ministry tool.

The research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention’s publisher, LifeWay Christian Resources, said increasing numbers of churches are turning to social networking and Facebook is far and away the most used networking tool.

Forty-seven percent reported using Facebook, and 28 percent uses other services like MySpace or Ning or a church-management software, while 40 percent of churches said they are not using any kind of social networking utility.

“Churches are natural places of interaction,” LifeWay Research Director Scott McConnell said.

“Congregations are rapidly adopting social networking, not only to speed their own communication but also to interact with people outside their church.”

The most popular use of social networking (73 percent) is interacting with the congregation, followed closely with 70 percent that uses it only to distribute outbound news and information.

Church staff members also are turning to mobile devices like smart phones to access e-mail (53 percent), access calendars (33 percent) and update and respond to Facebook posts (32 percent).

Fifteen percent of staff members use mobile devices to blog or tweet.

Three-fourths of churches (78 percent) maintain a website. Most (91 percent) use the website to provide information to potential visitors, while eight in 10 (79 percent) use it to provide information to members of the congregation.

Fewer than half (43 percent) use their websites to obtain and distribute prayer requests, and 39 percent allows people to register online for events and activities.

Four out of 10 churches (42 percent) update their websites once a month or less frequently. Forty percent posts new material at least once a week and 15 percent more often than that.

One in four churches (26 percent) uses blogs in its online ministry, but 33 percent of churches said they expect to be blogging this time next year.

A quarter of churches (26 percent) said they proactively look for new technology. Half (47 percent) are open to new technology but don’t go looking for it.

One in four (24 percent) admits to being slow in considering new technology, but 3 percent avoids it altogether.

“Many churches are using their website like a Yellow Pages ad characterized by basic information and infrequent updates,” McConnell said.

“This is in sharp contrast with churches that use their website like a bustling church receptionist registering people for upcoming events, collecting prayer requests and obtaining volunteers.

“There is nothing wrong with using a church website to simply give directions to the church or state the church’s beliefs,” McConnell added.

“However, we must realize that more and more people expect to be able to interact online without having to drive or make a phone call to the church.” (ABP)

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