As we saw many religious organizations were embedding technology into their infrastructure–providing WiFi, live streaming services, accepting online donations, etc.–we knew somebody (or many some bodies) had to be behind this phenomenon. We reached out and found Jason, who has been instrumental in setting up many of these technology ministries around the country, including TD Jakes Ministries. Our collaboration with Jason sprung from him offering his book the IChurch Method, which shows churches how to build an infrastructure to become internet savvy and reach more people. Hopefully of this connecting and being engaged through technology is important to us because that connecting has to be done on a network.
What was the catalyst behind iChurch?
Caston: iChurch Method is a series of books that I have written on helping churches and organizations advance their ministries online. I use websites, multimedia, online videos, eCommerce, social media, and mobile. With those five parts we talk about how we can advance the organization online in reaching with key people–communicating with them, connecting with them, and engaging with them. When I started working with churches back in 2007, I started to see there were key areas that they weren’t effectively utilizing [for] these online platforms. So, I put together this five step method that was easy for them to follow.
How are people exercising their faith online? Why are they drawn to the technology?
Just like life in general, they are always using their mobile devices. Statistics show that we are never more than two or three feet away from our mobile devices. There are over 6 billion mobile devices around the world. The mobile device has become more of a life utility. So, all throughout the week we are steadily connected to our mobile devices to connect to our family, to organize our lives, and just about every other aspect. When we get to church it isn’t about how do we disconnect, but how do we take this life utility and enhance it with our spiritual and faith-based experience. Now when the pastor says turns to your neighbor on your left and your right and says this message is for you, you can tweet that message out and share it Twitter followers or Facebook friends. We share everything else in life, so, why not share our faith as well.
What are some trends that you are seeing?
There is a different effect with live video and live streaming. We are seeing an app like Periscope start to take off because people want to see what is happening in real-time, in real-life for a variety of things. In the churches with the live stream that seems to be the highest level of interaction and engagement for churches with their online platforms. People want to stay connected anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. A lot churches are showing weekend services or the pastor giving words of encouragement using Periscope because that is how people are connecting. Churches are meeting people where they are at through their mobile devices which they carry with them everywhere.
Here’s how people are using mobile devices in faith practices:
- Listen to or download music (42%)
- Stream servicesÂ (38%)
- Research or study (32%)
- Access holy or song books (29%)
- Keep up with religious holidays/holy days (28%)
- Give (24%)
- Use prayer/meditation apps (22%)
- Use faith/self-improvement apps (19%)
- Keeping up with dietary guidelines (10%)