I was asked to facilitate a session at one of our House Groups recently. The topic was on communication, and specifically “how the church can get its message across more effectively in the 21st century”.
I used the slides (see below) to help guide the conversation, which embraced the world of digital and social media. I was fairly clear at the outset that St Michael’s is well behind the curve in terms of utilising social media channels for outreach to the community, or even tapping into the benefits (and significantly lower costs when compared to print) of digital media for publicity or communication. However, if the survey results from the 2012 Buzzplant Survey (slides 19 and 20) are to be believed, we are not alone in neglecting the benefits of social media, with 42% of respondents saying that they were slow to adapt, very conservative or resistant to using internet technology. The survey used US data, but I’d be surprised if there was any significant difference with UK churches.
I’ve never believed that age demographics is the primary or only reason for lack of engagement with social media, with some surveys citing mobile users and older generations being the main drivers for worldwide social media growth. It seems more likely that it is the deep sense of tradition and conservative thinking of todays church-goers that is responsible for this “digital divide”. More worrying is the fact that this divide is growing, at a time when we are seeking ways of making the church and Christianity more relevant to the younger demographic, who appear to be are far more comfortable with using new technology and social media. If the Church want to reach out to a new (and younger) audience, it really does need to start using the same tools, channels and technologies that they are using, otherwise irrelevance of the Church is a growing reality!