Research questions

  • To what extent have English Christian churches established a distinct individual web presence?
  • To what extent do churches and church leaders use email, websites and social media tools to find and publish information?
  • Is there evidence that traditional notions of hierarchy and authority been affected by online sources of information and communication?

Aims and objectives
Aim 1: This study aims to establish the extent to which English churches are using websites and collaborative (Web 2.0) online tools, and to what purposes.
Related objectives are to:

1. Establish a baseline measure of the number of parishes or churches in England with a purpose-built website.

From a smaller sample, investigate key aspects of website production, publication and content choice to establish:
2. Whether websites are part of a planned information and communication strategy
3. How content is presented and created
4. Whether there are variations in the choice of different information topics across denominations
5. Whether content includes information which explains or highlights the congregation’s faith, traditions or community
6. If any differentiation is made between church members and the wider community as audiences for local church websites.

From the same sample, investigate the extent to which churches place themselves in the wider community via their websites, including whether:
7. Churches use interactive tools including allowing user-generated content or place restrictions on content creation
8. Churches use hyperlinks to locate themselves in local, national or global online communities.

Aim 2: To explore church leaders’ adoption and perceptions of online tools as information and communication media in relation to their ministry duties and everyday life.

Objectives are to:
9. Explore whether leaders have experiences of challenges to authority led or encouraged by online media
10. Explore the ways in which church leaders use the internet for vocational and personal tasks
11. Explore the use of social media by churches and their leaders as a tool for sharing information.