A majority of pastors see the Internet as a useful tool for doing ministry and are increasingly open to people experiencing religion online.
Barna recently surveyed Protestant pastors and compared it with responses from the turn of the century. Here’s what they found.
Pastors believe the Internet is a good thing.
A majority today believe the Internet is a powerful tool for effective ministry (54 percent, up from 35 percent). A similar percentage say that for a church to be effective in the future, it will need to have a significant website or presence on the Internet (55 percent, up from 26 percent).
Additionally, more than half of pastors agree that developing a significant presence on the Internet is a good investment of their church’s money (54 percent, up from 31 percent).
Those are all majorities, but it is worth noting the substantial number of pastors who feel otherwise.
Also compared to 2000, fewer pastors felt the Internet was a distraction from real ministry or that the bad outweighed the good of being online.
Churches can use the Internet to help.
Today, 87 percent of pastors say they believe it is theologically acceptable for a church to provide faith assistance or religious experiences to people through the Internet, up from 78 percent in 2000.
Similarly, nearly nine in 10 pastors today say they think people in their area would find it acceptable for their church to provide faith assistance or religious experiences to people through the Internet (86 percent), compared to only seven in 10 who said so in 2000.
People are increasingly turning to the Internet.
In 10 years, 9-out-of-10 pastors believe it will be at least somewhat common for people to rely on the Internet for at least part of their faith experiences, activity, and information.
And 47 percent say within the next decade some people will go online for all of their faith experiences.