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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

44% of Churches Still Don't Utilize Email

Email According to a new study out by George Barna, 44% of churches are NOT using email to communicate to their congregation.

Now this is something I would think nearly every church would be using to communicate all kinds of things to their congregations these days; but it seems that many churches (as usual) are slow to transition.

Email is free.  And just about anyone (anymore) has it.  (Even my 80-something mother checks her email multiple times a day!)

The whole Barna study on churches and technology can be seen here.

FOR DISCUSSION:  How do you use email communication effectively in your church?  And if you're one of the 44% of churches NOT using email... please give me some insight as to 'why'!?

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September 13, 2005 in Technology in the Church | Permalink

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We use e-mail, but I don't think it should be a primary communication tool. People can easily hit delete, or not check their e-mail for a few days etc...

And of course, using e-mail can leave those who don't have e-mail excluded. Homeless people, people who simply can't afford a computer / the internet, technophobes who don't want to / can't use a computer & e-mail.

Communicate via e-mail, but make sure you've got other means of communication for that info to people who can't have / don't want e-mail.

Posted by: James Farrer | Sep 13, 2005 6:53:46 AM

It depends.

I just moved from the D.C. area where everyone had always-on, constant, immediate access to email. It was quite simply, the best way to reach nearly everybody. Even better than the phone. The only challenge there is that it's easy to get misunderstood in emails, especially when you try to inject a little humor. People don't see your tone of voice and body language and misunderstand you.

But now I live in a town where a great number of people don't check their email very often at all, and some of them don't have it or don't use it.

So... it depends.

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Sep 13, 2005 7:40:16 AM

know your context...

Posted by: matt | Sep 13, 2005 10:00:54 AM

If you say that people in your church don't have email or don't use email....90% of the time you are making up excuses for not using it. Email is used by more than 85% of Americans on a semi - regular basis according to recent statistics. My mother who is above 80 uses it. One of our choir people, who doesn't have a computer, uses it (he goes to the public library every day for a few minutes).

If as much as 25% of your congregation is between the ages of 10 and 60, you have to use email to communicate with them. Most of my congregation in that age group will NOT even open a letter from the church. But they will open and read an email.

Posted by: David Mangham | Sep 13, 2005 10:05:29 AM

Based on my own experience,

The personal touch is the most important. If you are passing out information then a newsletter is usally ignored, and emails are read but rarely does it stick.

A phone call or face to face is still the most critical piece of relationship. I have a friend who does not have email. They choose not to have interne tservice for safety reasons. The missed some info and complained about it, the person that was in charge quipped they should have email. I realized at that moment that they did not have email for a reason.

I asked the person sending the email to quit making them feel bad about it. I talked with the guy later and he confided with me the internet was not worth the risk. I agreed.

Please remember that email while great, send a letter to someone to say you love them, it means you took time. (handwritten) Even more pick up the phone or go see them.(preferably announced not a surprise)

Posted by: Franklin Reeves | Sep 13, 2005 11:09:35 AM

If email is free why am I paying AOL? Yes we may have internet access anyway, but we are paying. We use email as much as possible, but in rural Iowa not everyone has email. My congregation of 200+ is 60% over age 65. Of those almost 40% do not have email (we have done surveys). That amounts to 50 people, about 25% of total congregation without email. We will continue to use email, but for us it is not the cure-all you make it out to be.

Posted by: Bart | Sep 13, 2005 11:19:56 AM

It amazes me to hear all these excuses as to why we don't use it instead of using this posting as a encouragement to tap into a resource we're not making use off.

Posted by: PR | Sep 13, 2005 11:40:28 AM

We use email as one of the many tools of communication in our tool box. When trying to get out information to many people you really have to use every means at your disposal. Email just happens to be a really good tool.
My experience has been that if it's our mass email, broadcast weekly to everyone on our list...we keep it very specific and try to make sure that what we are communicating is clear. Usually dealing with the upcoming weeks events or other information that needs to be put out or reenforced.
From there our emails are geared to specific groups or leaders.
All of our Key ministries have websites that they use in multiple ways. Our Worship ministry uses this tool to communicate very effectively. Music, word sheets, two weeks worth of planning and tons of info. Each ministry uses these tools to what ever degree is effective for them.
We use technology on all levels as tools to help us be more effective in staying connected to people and so they can communicate with us in multiple ways. Everything is always leading people to connect with others in real relationships.
Communication is everything. Using every tool available is a key in helping to make sure that people feel loved and cared for and that we as ministries can stay connected with people in the cultural we live in.

Posted by: Preston | Sep 13, 2005 2:44:37 PM

I'll have to email this to everyone in the church...

Posted by: Tony Myles | Sep 13, 2005 3:10:56 PM

We started using e-mail on a limited basis just recently in our church. I also moved from an area where our church only half jokingly referred to the "membership" question from people with, "Do we have your e-mail? You're a member!" Now I'm in a much smaller community where half or less even have e-mail, and as others have mentioned - many don't check it very frequently. I work in the Children's Ministry area, and had a survey of volunteers last year evaluating areas of the ministry which included a mutliple choice question, "What's the best way(s) to communicate information about the ministry to you?" Phone, e-mail, postal mail, and other (fill in the blank) were the options. The majority checked other and filled in an option I hadn't even thought of putting in, "face to face" or "in person". We are a large church, and this isn't feasible or practical for mass communications, but e-mail is perceived as even less effective in this context than in others, even by those who have it and check it regularly. It's not stopping me from using it, but definitely causing me to measure carefully where and why I use it.

Posted by: Tim Ritter | Sep 13, 2005 3:56:45 PM

Perhaps there are actual REASONS why people don't use email, not EXCUSES.

In a small, rural town, our church attendees average 80 years old. The folks here are not excited about furthering their computer skills. These guys still love and encourage a good potluck (not so common among 20-somethings anymore).

So...don't knock the churches who CANNOT communicate with members via email. At least we respect the culture, values, and choices of the people we serve.

That's right...the people WE SERVE. I choose to speak their language.

Posted by: Monica | Sep 13, 2005 4:06:42 PM

I second the comment on "knowing your context".

I have spent the last couple of years working with a church in a rural town of about 700.

It's a church of about 120, and I would say that in those 120, there are about 50 that use e-mail on a regular basis. That means the majority of the congregation would be left in the dark.

Still, it is very useful, and I have used it regularly, but you must have other ways to contact people, especially in a context like this.

Beneath His Mercy,


Posted by: Brian Burkett | Sep 13, 2005 4:31:17 PM

what's email? we use blogs to communicate important things. does everybody know how to use blogs? no...but we are trying to teach them.

Posted by: josh | Sep 13, 2005 4:49:29 PM


You're right on... I was very suprised that I didn't see ANYTHING in Barna's research about the use of blogs. :(

Barna is so 2004. :)

(Sorry George!)


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Sep 13, 2005 4:53:07 PM

I have been dealing with this very question for quite awhile now. I am a pastor of an older congregation which tends to not be computer literate. It is also a poorer congregation on fixed income. Because of those facts, I haven't done as much emailing as I wish I could for communication purposes. I am also the webmaster for a district in my denomination and find that some people are just too afraid to learn something new. They do not see that in many ways they are becoming obsolete ministers to the younger people all around.

Posted by: Fred La Plante | Sep 13, 2005 9:17:42 PM

I pastor a new church start (2 years old) in middle Georgia of a congregation made up of mostly 30 - 50 year olds. I e-mail at least once a week and have found that even this age group neglects checking their e-mail on a regular basis. I am amazed and have asked if they also neglect their post office mail box. It's a different world out there, I wonder how many folks fought the telephone when it came along.
My suggestion is to use e-mail in your mix of communication with your church and know that this is a learning curve for many.

Just stay in touch with them!

Posted by: Jimmy Hammett | Sep 14, 2005 9:13:46 AM

Josh wrote: but we are trying to teach them.

That's my point... people don't use email, internet, blogs because they don't know how! TEACH THEM!!! Set up a computer in the church library for folks to come use... get them a yahoo, (hotmail, google etc...) email address... it's free and they can check it at the public library, work, family or friends....

One other point I would like to make along these lines.... there is nothing worse than going to a church's homepage to see that it has not been updated in weeks or months!!! You keep the church lawn looking nice and neat don't you... well treat your "cyber yard" the same way! People are "driving by" to take a look!

Posted by: Stephen Modawell | Sep 20, 2005 11:53:30 AM

The church is getting over-sexed with technology, what was Jesus email address anyway? I seem to have misplaced it.

Posted by: Tom Riggs | Sep 20, 2005 4:34:01 PM

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