Advancements in technology have changed almost every facet of life. From the internet and websites that can connect us with nearly any person or company, to mobile devices that make information accessible from the palms of our hands, it’s clear that technology will only grow more powerful in the years to come.
It’s no surprise that technology is impacting the way you and your congregation practice religion. Today, we’ll take a closer look at this tech shift, as well as the ways smaller religious organizations can make better use of available technology to support their congregation’s mission.
1) From paper to digital: Religious texts
These days, nearly everything is going digital, and that includes some of the oldest and most revered religious texts. For example, many parishioners are now consulting digital versions of the Bible, including young congregation members participating in Bible study classes on tablets, or pastors and church leaders preparing for sermons electronically.
According to BBC contributor Chris Stokel-Walker, the popularity of digital religious texts is being supported by new mobile apps for texts like the Bible, the Torah and the Koran. To date, the Bible mobile app has been downloaded more than 260 million times since becoming available in 2008. Users have spent over 3 billion hours interacting with the app and have highlighted more than 636 million Bible passages.
“One of the first things Christians did with the computer was to put the Bible into digital formats,” said Reverend Pete Phillips, director of the Codec Research Center for Digital Theology at the U.K.’s Durham University. “To some extent, the mobile phone Bible is now replacing the book Bible.”
This makes the Bible, the Torah, the Koran and other digitized versions of important religious texts more accessible than ever before – now, anyone with a smartphone can read them. What’s more, younger readers can now interact with religious text in a more familiar way, thanks to the ability to digitally highlight passages. Since everything from schoolwork to business processes is being digitized, it only makes sense that religious study should follow.
2) Video services and post-sermon connections
In addition to bringing religious texts to a wider audience through digital means, churches and religious organizations are also video recording their services, enabling more people to listen and view from outside the church building. While congregation members formerly needed to attend in person, now they’re able to view live streams of services, or view the recorded sermon after the fact.
If a worshiper is traveling outside the community, or isn’t feeling well enough to attend services, they don’t have to miss that week’s sermon. This approach can be particularly beneficial for congregations with older members who have trouble with mobility, or in more rural communities where members must travel far distances. In addition, providing a video of the week’s services may give individuals who are not yet part of the church a sense of the organization’s message and mission. This may encourage them to attend services in-person in the future, or become a full-fledged member of the church.
What’s more, as Biblewaymag contributor Eston Swaby pointed out, posting a recorded sermon or service online – either on the church’s website, social media or other webpage – can enable conversations among members and non-members, and encourage spirited religious discussions online.
“Gone are the days when if you miss a preaching sermon, that was it for you, there was no more opportunity for you to see it again,” Swaby wrote. “Millions of people gather on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram each day to watch videos, look at photos … and to communicate with each other, thereby creating a medium in which churches can spread the gospel through videos and other means.”
3) The ability to spread the message – and access necessary resources
The advantages of technology don’t just benefit congregation members and worshipers – pastors and leaders of smaller houses of worship can utilize advanced devices and systems as well.
This is particularly true when it comes time for religious leaders to discuss particularly difficult themes, or to answer tough questions from young members. This could include challenging political topics and how they are impacted by religious views, or conflicting beliefs among different religious organizations. Whatever the case, leaders can use technology to their advantage by investigating how others in their sect or within their parent church might have approached these challenging topics. In this way, leaders can discuss the topic in a way that supports their members and makes sense to them. Taking cues from the successes of others by consulting online faith-based communities or blogs written by religious leaders can help ministers offer well-rounded counsel to their congregation.
Using technology to your advantage
These aren’t the only resources spiritual leaders can access online – there are all types of information and services available, including information from religious authorities and businesses offering services specifically for churches. Here are a few tips to help you start harnessing the power of technology within your church organization:
- Host a post-sermon online discussion: All different groups and industries are leveraging social media and other online discussion forums to their advantage – and your congregation can do the same. One approach to consider is an after-sermon discussion, open to members and even non-members. Online discussions like this can align with the topic of that week’s sermon and deepen the conversation. Best of all, you don’t need to be a tech expert to set something like this up. Church Online Platform, for example, is a free and simple-to-use resource that can help you create an accessible online group forum.
- Social media to inform and engage: Another low-barrier way to connect via technology is to create a social media page for your church organization. Today’s social media platforms are very user friendly, enabling church leaders to post their schedule of events and help support engagement within the community. This is also a great way to reach out to young members through a channel that’s familiar and accessible to them.
Start small – inform and educate: One of the first ways pastors and religious leaders can begin their technological journey is by accessing and using some of the informational resources available. As noted, checking out the strategies other groups have used to approach particularly difficult concepts can be especially helpful. In addition, resources like The Greater Good Blog provide great information, including articles and blogs to keep you informed about the religious sector. From tips and best practices to support your worshipers, to guidance on how to be the best possible leader of your religious organization, we offer a wealth of insights on the most important topics.
The information contained in these materials is intended solely to provide general guidance on topics that may be of interest to you. While we have made reasonable efforts to present accurate and reliable information, Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions, or for any actions you take or fail to take based on these materials. The information provided may not apply to your particular facts or circumstances; therefore, you should seek professional advice prior to relying on any information that may be found in these materials.