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I’ve just completed my fourth and (planned to be final) data collection day for the longitudinal part of the research project. Over two years, I’ve been recording the number of English churches with a website I can find. In January 2009 I took a random sample of 400 churches, and looked for their websites. This was in order to establish a kind of baseline for the number of organisations that had a presence on the internet.

This has been an interesting exercise. The number of findable websites has increased for all the four mainstream denominations that I looked at, but the rate of change has been different for all four. For the first time in December 2011 the well-known search engine I used returned two Facebook pages for churches, rather than a stand-alone website. That may or may not be indicative of an interesting trend. Data is below – I’m still thinking about what other stories these numbers may tell.

Anglican 

%

Baptist 

%

Catholic 

%

Methodist 

%

Phase 1 40 57 37 28
Phase 2 46 67 41 39
Phase 3 48 72 53 59
Phase 4 58 84 63 61

With the end of my third year fast approaching the rest of my New Years holidays will be spent finalising my report, planning for a PhD research day in the department on 7 February and starting to try to recruit potential interview volunteers for 2011.

This is probably a bit self-referential since I think many visitors here will have come via the Church Times blog article, (welcome!) but I was rather pleased today that my project was featured. I have had some good feedback and some volunteers to be interviewed which is encouraging after two years spent in glorious isolation!

Just to re-iterate though, the findings are preliminary, and I will be searching again in July and December to see if there are new websites available. In May last year, of my sample of 400 churches, I found a site for 42%, which had risen to 49% by January 2010.