It seems that many churches have not moved from the desktop and hard drive-based world of church management -- or even from the paper and pencil -- and onto "the cloud" (as Web-based management tools are called).
LifeWay Research, in a survey sponsored by Fellowship Technologies, a partner in LifeWay's Digital Church initiative, found that only 12 percent of Protestant churches use Web-based church management software to share information about their church members and ministries.
The survey also asked about what other tools churches use "to share information about members, volunteers and events across ministry areas or departments," and found that about one-third say they use computer-based management tools; 28 percent use multiple software packages; 8 percent say they don't use any tools; and 12 percent aren't sure.
Curtis Simmons, vice president of marketing and community at Fellowship Technologies shared the reason they sponsored this research, which was conducted in September 2010: "We wanted to see how many churches were running software in the cloud. Our goal is for the church to focus on its core competency -- ministering to people. Cloud solutions seek to provide a church access to their information anytime, anywhere they need it without local software to maintain."
Ten percent of churches participating in the survey said they use "other" tools to communicate information, but those "other" tools are rarely formal church management tools. Rather they are items like the phone (1 percent), bulletins (1 percent) or e-mail (2 percent).
"Traditional communication tools are still helpful, but increasingly people expect to be able to interact with information about people and ministries in their church when they need it," said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. "One reason churches go to the cloud is accessibility."
Though knowledgeable about heavenly things, many church leaders still have limited access to information about the earthly information about their own church. In the average Protestant church, half of their leaders "can personally access data about their own ministry or group such as attendance, contact information and trends," the survey revealed.
"It is hard to mobilize a volunteer force that doesn't have the information they need to do the work," McConnell said. "Improving church leaders' access to information has the potential to improve the effectiveness of every ministry in a church."
Churches might be slow to place information on "the cloud," but their leaders seem to be less slow about personally adopting some other forms of technology, particularly the use of mobile devices. More than half of churches (53 percent) said staff members use mobile devices to access e-mail and 33 percent of churches said staff members access their calendars via mobile device.
"Any volunteer organization has the potential to be very inefficient, and churches are no exception," McConnell said. "New software and mobility solutions have the potential to improve communication and workflow in ministries today."
Methodology of the survey: LifeWay Research conducted a phone survey among a stratified, random sample of Protestant churches Sept. 8-20, 2010, interviewing 1,003 staff members most responsible for making decisions about the technology used in their church. Responses were weighted to reflect the natural size distribution of churches. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed ±3.2 percent.
Brooklyn Lowery is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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