Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Digital Technology In Churches

My thanks to John Jaeger from Dallas Baptist University whose frequent news postings on ATLANTIS brought this item from the Barna Group to my attention:

New Research Describes Use of Technology in Churches

According to the Barna Group, the pace of adoption of technology in Protestant churches has been slowing over the past two years. The Barna Group attributes this to churches having to pause for breath while they figure out how to configure the software they already have, while other churches "attempt to get by" before bringing digital technology into traditional church ministry.

George Barna has been researching the incorporation of digital technology by churches for a decade now. He comments:

"The fact that market penetration of digital technologies seems to top out around two-thirds of the market could easily change if the digital-resistant churches conceived ways of facilitating their vision through the deployment of such tools. That is what made these tools so appealing to larger churches: being able to apply the tools to furthering their ministry goals."

From my vantage point working in a seminary, though, I am wondering if some churches are starting to have a moment of reflection about whether their ministry goals are compatible with digital technology. Technology can be a tool that allows one to do what one has always done in a better or more efficient way, but technology can also be transformational. It can change what one does in ways that are difficult to predict.

Do the ministers that we are training need new ways to network and reach out to people in cyberspace, or do they need ways to bring the Facebook-frenzied away from their blinking screens into a community of believers? Do they need the capability to do both?

I continue to think of a theological library as a place that serves both purposes. We are making good use of the best technologies to improve access to the wealth of the writings of the Church, but we are also providing physical places where scholars can interact with each other and with books in a way that cannot be done online. I hope our churches will be able to do the same.

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