When more than a century of tradition is involved, charting new territory can be a challenge. While many churches have relied on traditional means of communication to share information and knowledge, for some, the time has come to combine digital technology and tradition.
“Some churches, not all churches, tend to be slower in how they embrace change,” says the Rev. Krista Kiger of First Presbyterian Church. “And yet, one of the challenges that all churches are facing is how do we reach out with the Gospel to the new generation?”
The changing dynamic of churches, digital technology and social media is an issue First Presbyterian Church is hoping to address during its current Wednesday Night Lights class series, held on Wednesday evenings this month.
The number of church leaders using Twitter has increased in the last three years, from 13 percent in 2011 to 23 percent in 2013, according to a study by Barna Group, which looks at religion and culture. About two-thirds of pastors also use Facebook.
“We have to work with new vessels. The Gospel doesn’t change. But the vessels in which we deliver the Gospel do and have over the course of history,” the Rev. Kiger says. “We are just in another one of those changing times.”
One major motivator to use social media is to better reach a younger generation, the Rev. Kiger says. In the last two decades, church attendance has continued to decline across the nation. Currently, about 20 percent of the U.S. population regularly attends church, according to a study by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research.
“The limit in many, many churches is that we don’t have the younger generations. Why don’t we have the younger generations?” she says. “I think that’s a very important question. I think social media has something to do with it, but I don’t think it’s the only thing.”
Social media also presents the unique opportunity for churches to share knowledge and information across the globe quickly, the Rev. Kiger says. Earlier this year, they sent money to Liberia to fund Ebola prevention kits. While no one from the church traveled to Africa, the congregation was able to plan the fundraiser, gather donations and see what they had contributed, largely by using social media and e-mail.
“We were able to put this beautiful thing on the front page of our newsletter because (colleague Dr. Yatta Young) e-mailed photos to us,” the Rev. Kiger says. “We were able to communicate to the congregation everything that she was doing because of technology. …that’s the upside.”
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SOURCE: St. Joseph News-Press