As churches embrace technology, many see strategic importance of social media fading in future: study

As churches embrace technology, many see strategic importance of social media fading in future: study By Leonardo Blair, Senior Features Reporter for Christian Post

A majority of American churches now embrace technology as an important tool in achieving their mission and agree that the digital church is here to stay. But less than half of them believe social media will be as “strategically important” as other online tools in the future, according to a new study.

The finding comes from The 2021 State of Church Technology Report, which was created from data collected in a survey of nearly 2,000 decision-making church leaders by software company Pushpay. The survey was conducted between September and October 2021, and the cohort of church leaders included in the survey spanned “ministries of every size, from all across the faith spectrum.”

Researchers found that 93% of churches believe technology plays an important role in achieving their church’s mission, but not all technologies carried equal weight in different congregations.

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“For example, the amount of tech solutions a church already employs dramatically affects their opinions and behaviors. If a church is currently using no technology — that includes basics like social media, email, etc. — they’re dramatically less likely to consider tech important for their future,” researchers noted.

“But the most compelling insight lies in the difference between what churches are currently using, as opposed to what they consider ‘strategically important’ for them in the next few years. For instance, while 94% of churches are currently using social media, just 53% think those platforms will be strategically important for them moving forward,” they explained.

“Put another way, while social media is overwhelmingly the most popular digital tool today, churches are telling us that solutions like ChMS, mobile apps, scheduling systems, livestreaming, and more will all be more valuable to them in the near future. This doesn’t mean Facebook and Instagram are going away; it means that they’re already in the fold, and churches are interested in expanding their tech portfolio as they continue to grow.”

This finding comes in stark contrast to how churches looked at technology as the COVID-19 pandemic began unfolding in March 2020.

Research from the Nashville-based LifeWay Research conducted in the fall of 2019 found that only 22% of pastors livestreamed their entire service, while about 10% livestreamed their sermon only. Some 41% of pastors admitted that they did not post any portion of their church service online, while about 52% say they post the sermon online after the church service is complete.

Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, also noted at the time that only churches with weekly attendance of more than 250 people were likely to offer services online, but they were the minority.

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