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Churches rate themselves ‘low’ on communications success

In a recent survey conducted by United Methodist Communications, pastors indicated that having worship services that connect with people and effective communications activities, such as welcoming, were the most important factors in church success.In evaluating their performances, however, many churches found themselves lacking.

Factors Important to Church Success

In the survey of 1500 respondents, 80% reported that "having worship services that connect with people" was the top factor related to their church success.Three of the next six factors in importance were related to communications, "attracting and welcoming visitors", "improving communications with members", and "improving communications with the community".

When asked to rate their church’s performance on these factors, most pastors gave their churches relatively low scores in many areas.

Factor

Importance of Factor
Extremely/Very Important

Rating of Factor
Excellent/Very Good

Having worship services that connect with people

80%

84%

Attracting and motivating visitors

70%

36%

Communicate effectively with members

49%

55%

Communicating effectively with the community

47%

30%

Getting positive press for ministries

28%

37%

Planning communications

28%

23%

Internet ministries

20%

19%

Applying emerging technologies

8%

4%

Only one factor, "having worship services that connect with people", had as many as 20% giving a score of "excellent" to their church.

Role of Technology

Despite a number of efforts within the church to spur the use of technology in communications, factors related to the application of technology generally were less likely to be seen as very important to church success. Ratings of church capabilities, other than for knowing how to use software, tended to be low.

Factor Importance of Factor
Extremely/Very Important
Rating of Factor
Excellent/Very Good
Using new technology to improve worship

27%

29%

Internet ministries

20%

19%

Access to discounted software

20%

35%

Knowing how to use computer software

19%

61%

Applying emerging technology

8%

4%

Interest in Training

Interest in training in communications related areas is very strong, particularly programs that affect welcoming and communications with members and the community.

Course Area Very/Somewhat Interested
Welcoming and attracting visitors

92%

Improving ability to communicate with the Community

85%

Improving ability to communicate with members

80%

Planning marketing and communications activities

65%

Developing effective web ministries

63%

Training for crisis communications

45%

 

Key Research Implications

1. Churches see communications as important to their success; however, the area is not viewed as a strength by many churches.Interest in receiving additional training is strong at the local level.

2. Technology tied to communication efforts often is viewed as relatively unimportant to church life.This may reflect a perception that technology-related media, such as the Internet and email, do not fit with the church’s current demographics or, potentially, the pastors’ lack of comfort with technology in general.

3. "Knowing how to use computer software", while not seen as particularly important to the success of an individual church, tended to be seen as a strength.The factor also was not selected as one which most churches indicated a strong interest in additional training; however, when churches were asked what training activities they expected to fund in the next year, almost 40% of the churches listed it.This may reflect the ready availability of inexpensive, local computer training opportunities.

For more information, contact Chuck Niedringhaus, United Methodist Communications, at cniedringhaus@umcom.org.