Although fewer Americans are joining churches, virtual congregations are growing. And experts say a church’s online presence is likely a valuable entry point for newcomers.
Twenty years ago, 70% of Americans belonged to a church. Now, the number is down to about half, according to data from Gallup. Fewer people in the pews could mean more logging in for online worship services, USA Today reported in a story about how churches are using technology to connect.
Jay Kranda is an online campus pastor for Saddleback, a California megachurch whose online worship service is viewed by 20,000 people. He acknowledges the need to bridge the gap between watching a service and truly engaging with a local church. Kranda also says virtual church is a good entry point for non-attenders.
“In the beginning, a lot of churches thought the internet would hurt and keep people from coming,” he said. “But it’s actually one of the best ways to reach new people.”
Church health expert Thom Rainer agrees:
“The overall pattern is that online ministries of churches are becoming a strategic part of the overall church ministry. They are not viewed today as much as a separate congregation than as an entry point for people ultimately to connect to the physically-gathered church.”
– USA Today, ThomRainer.com