May 08 2015

Technology Is the New Normal for Churches

Streaming video, e-giving and other emerging technologies are reshaping churches as religious leaders seek to lure millennials.

Church services aren’t being conducted in the same way they were in the past.

In a bid to adapt to the times and attract new members, many churches have embraced contemporary worship and technology to engage the digital generation.

As part of their modernized outreach efforts, some churches are abandoning single-site models to reach parishioners where they are. According to Jim Tomberlin of ChurchTechToday — one of BizTech’s 25 Must-Read Nonprofit IT Blogsmore than 8,000 multisite churches have cropped up in North America, accounting for an estimated 5 million worshippers.

Tomberlin says that in this new landscape, video sermons, testimonies, promotions and announcements are growing more and more pervasive. “The larger the church and the more campuses, the more inclined to utilize video,” he adds.

Leveraging video in another way, the Believers Church in Jerome, Idaho, connects theology students with professors around the country via web broadcasts. And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has amassed 330,000-plus subscribers to its official YouTube channel, which hosts professional-quality videos on everything from Bible passages to overcoming obstacles to faith.

Even though video is becoming increasingly favored by organized religion, it’s hardly the only technology being adopted worldwide.

The Church of England recently announced plans to outfit all 16,000 of its churches with Wi-Fi, while San Antón church in Madrid not only offers free Internet access but also boasts a confession app and broadcasts live streams from Rome.

According to Slate, Christian podcasts are also an attractive option, as they greatly expand churches’ audiences. Many religious leaders are taking advantage of the medium to recap Sunday sermons or cover the types of topics that might never make it to the pulpit.

More important to the bottom line, churches are boosting charitable donations by coupling traditional offering plates with online and mobile giving options. Some church lobbies even house touch-screen giving kiosks that require little more than the swipe of a card, lowering the barrier to entry for many donors. Fast Company says e-giving will likely grow in popularity for a number of reasons:

For churches, the benefits of digital giving are clear, including access to new donors, easier accounting procedures and the steady cash flow of automatically recurring payments. It also allows churches to connect with a wider circle of adherents: A Christian in Seattle can listen to weekly sermon podcasts from a megachurch in Texas — and now he can easily donate from afar, too.

As a whole, tech advancements are driving major changes in organized religion, but church leaders say they’re not without purpose.

"At our church, we talk about being high-tech and high-touch,” Pastor Jeffrey Johnson of Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis told RTV6. “So, we are not just focusing on technology. We're using technology as a way to get Jesus Christ across to people.”


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