Social Networking and Congregations Survey

February 3, 2009 at 7:54 pm Leave a comment

(This survey and article originated at www.centerforcongregations.org )
 
Thanks to all who participated in our survey on social networking and congregations. The response was great, and the results are interesting! So, numbers first.We received 175 responses, most of which were from congregations in Indiana. While the survey was open to anyone anywhere, most of the ‘advertising’ was to congregations in our service area. I did solicit feedback from my social networks – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Some of those folks took the survey as well as provided some interesting observations and feedback. 
 
Here’s the data:
 
Does your congregation have a MySpace or Facebook group?
Answer Options Response Frequency
Yes 31.6%
No 68.4%
 
If ‘no’ to question 1, why not?
Answer Options Response Count
  110
answered question 110
skipped question 65
 
If ‘yes’ to question 1, does it enhance communications between the congregation and members?
Answer Options Response Frequency
Yes 40.6%
We think so but not sure 17.2%
We don’t think so 3.1%
No 7.8%
We really don’t know yet 31.3%
 
Does social networking tarket a specific age group (i.e. next generation, 20-30 somethings)?
Answer Options Response Frequency
Definitely 21.3%
We think so 35.5%
Not sure 20.6%
Probably not 6.4%
No 16.3%
 
Does your congregation use YahooGroups or something similar to host online conversations?
Answer Options Response Frequency
Yes 12.4%
No 87.6%
 
Does your congregation have a blog(s)?
Answer Options Response Frequency
Yes 25.9%
No 74.1%
 
Do any congregational leaders (pastor, rabbi, staff, etc.) use their own Facebook, MySpace, YahooGroups, blog, etc. to communicate with the congregation?
Answer Options Response Frequency
Yes 41.7%
No 48.8%
Not sure 9.5%
Other (please specify)
 
Do you think online social networking enhances or worsens congregation/member relationships?
Answer Options Response Frequency
Enhances 89.7%
Worsens 10.3%
Why?
 

The data is interesting, but not nearly as interesting as the comments. We’ll look at each individually.

Question 1: Does your congregation have a MySpace or Facebook group? Yes – 32%, No – 68%. Most responded no. The comments for this question ranged from ‘the youth group(s) have one’ to ‘lack of technical knowledge’ to ‘we’re thinking about it.’ Several commented they’ve created a Facebook or MySpace group but no one uses it.

Question 2: If ‘no’ to question 1, why not? The reponses for this question were wide ranging. Some report suspicion of the medium and a general lack of knowledge about its purpose or advantage. Several commented that clergy won’t support it. Some report they’re still trying to get a functional website up and running.

One of my favorite responses was “My church does not see the need to have a website. They still treat the internet like it is novelty.” Interesting, since someone from that church saw this survey and thought it important enough and was interested enough to fill it out! Many saw social networking as something to ‘keep up with,’ like maintaining a website. They reported a lack of administrative capacity to do this. One reported, “We’re probably not techie or hip enough.” Finally, several gave age as a barrier – average membership is ‘too old’ to use these tools.

Question 3: If ‘yes’ to question 1, does it enhance communications between the congregation and members? Most of the answers were affirmative – either yes or we think so – 58%. The next highest category was ‘we really don’t know.’ One can presume then that those who use Facebook or MySpace believe it helps with congregational communications.

Question 4: Does social networking target a specific age group (i.e. next generation, 20-30 somethings)? ‘Definitely’ and ‘we think so’ accounted for 57% of the responses – followed by not sure (21%). ‘No’ trailed at a mere 6%. This didn’t surprise me – there’s a general sentiment that social networking is targeted at younger people. However, statistics don’t support this contention.

Comments regarding the range of targeting was all over the place. Many said it targeted college students. Others claim the target audience is high schoolers. Some acknowledged that they have seen a wide range of users on these services – “I’m in my mid 40’s and I’m on Facebook.  I have Facebook friends of all ages.” Another was so specific as to say, “This is by and for 20s and 30s, especially 30s, urban workers in an urban church with a dominant member base of suburbanites. Part of the ‘re-urbanization’ of the church, whose ministries are focused on the downtown area, especially the homeless.”

Question 5: Does your congregation use YahooGroups or something similar to host online conversations? Yes – 12%, No – 88%. Some reported use of listservs and email groups, but by and large reporting followed in line with Facebook and MySpace use.

Question 6: Does your congregation have a blog(s)? Yes – 26%, No – 74%. The ‘yes’ number was higher than I’d expected. While congregations aren’t using secular social networking tools, many have realized that members want more than one-way delivery of information (traditional websites). The blog uses were varied and creative; building construction updates, clergy sermons with commentary, podcasting, sabbatical travelogue, and personal thoughts from clergy and staff.

I don’t mean to pick on anyone but some responses were downright funny. “No, but I would like to start one.  We are forming a committee to explore maximizing the uses of our church website, and a blog makes sense to me…” Great, another committee! And my favorite, “Most folks here are introverts and writing thoughts down seems redundant.”

More than a few reported blogs were in the works for 2009.

Question 7: Do any congregational leaders (pastor, rabbi, staff, etc.) use their own Facebook, MySpace, YahooGroups, blog, etc. to communicate with the congregation? Yes – 42%, No – 49%, Not sure – 9%. Wow! So while almost half of congregational leaders are using social networking, respondents don’t consider this to be part of the congregation’s communication strategy?!

Question 8: Do you think online social networking enhances or worsens congregation/member relationships? Enhances – 90%, worsens – 10%. By far, the answers to this question surprised me the most. Previous responses showed a clear trend against using social networking, either from suspicion, lack of interest or simply inability. However, the overwhelming numbers of respondents clearly believe these tools enhance congregational relationships.

These answers were summed up by one respondent who reported, “Intuitively, I believe it has the potential to enhance it, but we have no experience to back that.  We are working toward exploring this.” Well, so are we! Stay tuned for part 2 of this report where we explore the trends in social networking tools.

Aaron Spiegel

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Entry filed under: Reposts, Synagogue Studies. Tags: , , , .

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