I’m a few months away from submitting, so all research is done, interviews transcribed and I’m starting to look for places to share the findings with people – and hopefully finding ways of making practical use of the story I can tell.
The project set out to find out how English Christian churches use email, websites and social media to connect with their congregations and communities. Churches are still learning how these tools might help. Results show that only 55% of Church of England churches had a website – a proportion that had risen from 40% in 2009. It’s a little better for other denominations, with the Baptist church leading the way. If churches do have websites, their content can be patchy, and often out of date. You might be able to find out the service times, and maybe have a map, but a wider sense of a vibrant community is harder to portray. Pages designed for newcomers are still full of church-talk.
Interviews with clergy across main denominations (Catholic, Methodist, Baptist and C of E) suggest that relying on volunteers to have time to update sites and keep the design modern can be tricky; everyone is pushed for time. Also, a great website needs planning and evaluation, and to be considered as a key part of the church’s outreach. Evidence suggests that this may not be happening in many churches where either the size of the congregation, or the perception that older congregations aren’t interested, limits the effort put in.