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As Church Attendance Declines, Leaders, Influencers Look To The Web To Aid Ministry

Photo by Samantha Borges via Unsplash

As Church Attendance Declines, Leaders, Influencers Look To The Web To Aid Ministry

By Movieguide® Contributor

Brick-and-mortar church attendance might be on the decline in the U.S., but not people’s desire to be spiritually fed. Many church leaders and ministers are looking online to fill their need, according to The Christian Post.

“Digital platforms are disrupting churches. This didn’t happen during the pandemic. That happened when Web 2.0 came out,” states Chestly Lunday cofounder of the Digital Church Network. Web 2.0 is the second phase of the Internet largely marked by the rise of social media.

Church membership is at a historic low, according to Gallup polls, where membership in houses of worship have fallen below 50% in 2020 since it started tracking church membership in 1937. According to Gallup, church membership decreases with each younger generation with only 36% of millennials belonging to a church as opposed to around 66% of those born before 1946 belonging to a church.

Lunday believes that the ability for the church to adapt to the growing technology is essential for engaging with the younger generation.

He states: “You’re going to start seeing a massive exodus from churches that think the old way because that’s not how people relate to each other anymore. Content is a commodity, it’s not king, it’s a currency. And that’s the point that needs to be shifted. My goal is to help churches see that and redesign their ministries for a world that exists. Right now. They’re designed for a world that no longer exists.”

One such church that is embracing the digital age is the Facebook group Barbecue Assembly of God, or Barbecue Church, started by Andre Anderson and has 500 members so far. Anderson’s goal is to “help feed people biblically, spiritually and literally,” with not only sermons but cooking videos.

For those looking for a more immersive online experience there is the Oasis Church VR where they seek to “curate creative church experiences in virtual reality for people who feel excited about digital spaces.”

The church recreates biblical stories such as the book of Ruth in a 3D environment, where people can join in the discussion of the passages. The church has its own metaverse sanctuary as well.

Not only have people looked to the web for church, but Christian inspiration, as well, especially with the advent of TikTok. Popular Christian influencers like Maurice Dowell and Elijah Lamb whose faith-based posts have garnered them 3.8 million followers and 670,000, respectively.

“I think the way that so many Christians on this app are zealously pursuing truth and preaching the Gospel without shame is amazing,” Lamb said. He continues to say that he is impressed with the “ amazingly diverse group of creators who make equally diverse content.”

Even with Christian content more accessible online than ever, this shift has had negative effects on pastors, Lunday said.

“It’s absolutely fueling the burnout and the disappointment because you’re doing the things you’ve always done and it’s not getting the results that you used to have,”  Lunday explained.

Fellow church innovator and cofounder of Digital Church Network Jeff Reed believes there is still a place for the traditional church.

“I’m not the guy that’s going to say the buildings need to shut down, everything’s got to go digital, because it’s not going to work. My father will never attend a digital church. And that’s OK. Because I don’t want to validate one over the other,” Reed told the Christian Post.

Instead he said his desire is to have “the freedom to be able to explore multiple options, have the freedom to explore digital, not look at these people, as they often are looked at, as heretics.”

In a previous article, Movieguide® points out the link between church and mental health:

As mental health becomes a growing concern in the digital age, a recent Gallup poll found that regular church attendance improves mental health.

According to the poll, 44% of people who attend church regularly described their mental health as “excellent.”

“The wellbeing of most groups mirrors the national trend, with their mental health scores worsening last year followed by little to no improvement this year,” Gallup reported.

Conversely, of the people who do not regularly go to church, only 29% described their mental health as “excellent.”

The study also showed that the overall mental health in America has decreased over the past 21 years, with just 34% saying it is “excellent.”