Broadcast TV Ministries Fail at Online Outreach

Phil Cooke posted an excellent article telling the story of Mary Hutchinson’s experiment into what happens when a spiritual seeker goes to a broadcast television ministry’s website looking for spiritual guidance.  She writes:

Every day, more of our media viewers or listeners are opting to go on church and ministry websites to give, ask for prayer, order products. I wanted to know how well ministries – in general-are doing in using the web and email to do “one on one” ministry with people seeking a relationship with God.

Once again, I selected a few dozen broadcast ministries, some small, some large, some evangelical, some Charismatic. I spent no more than five minutes on each site with the goal of either finding the Bible based answer I sought easily or a place to ask the question directly.

When I did ask the question, I was sure to give my name and address so that if they chose to followup by mail, they could.

The results were shockingly poor.  63% had no salvation message on their website.  And despite the fact that Mary submitted contact info, 65% still had not contacted her after 2 months.

You can read the full article here.

I find this really frustrating.  I’m left wondering… Are the people serving in these ministries that ignorant about websites and follow-up?  Or do they just not care?  Generally speaking I almost always go the extra mile to give people the benefit of the doubt, but what other explanation can there be?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

6 Responses to “Broadcast TV Ministries Fail at Online Outreach”

  1. At the risk of stereotyping a bit, I think that Christians tend to be late adopters. This is one of the points made in Frankie Schaeffer's book "Addicted to Mediocrity." While there are plenty of churches out there using technology, I don't know how many of them are led by people who really understand the technology or the benefits to be had from it or from social media. In my experience (10 years working as a worship director), most church staff members – especially pastors – use technology only because they know they should in order to speak to this culture, and not because they truly understand social media (which is really what this discussion is about).

    I think there is a general impression that churches use technology well, but there are a LOT of churches out there, and while those that use social media well are getting more public exposure, those churches represent only a small fragment of the churches that exist. In my experience, the website is usually moderated by an administrative assistant or another person who – and this is key – doesn't see it as their job to make that personal connection with those who come to them through the website. Those email get forwarded to pastors or elders (not at my church, however) who are then expected to do the follow up, but as those people don't tend to be – again, in my experience – people who really grok the technology, they don't follow up well.

    I should also point out that I work for the LCMS, which is usually even more hesitant to adopt new cultural expressions and technologies than other church groups.

    • Hey Chris, I didn't know you were for the LCMS. I grew up in the LCMS. I'm curious to hear more about what you do.

      I agree with most of what you say about churches being behind the curve technologically, but I would have thought TV ministries would be a) media savvy (including the Internet), b) focused on evangelism, c) have enough money to do their websites well, and d) care enough to make following up with people a priority.

      • I was going through old emails and noticed I hadn't responded to this yet. I can't find an email addy for you anywhere, and I hate to respond about LCMS stuff here – but boy do we need help! If you want to ping me, I'm crispone at gmail dot com.

  2. I don't really understand the assumption that these TV ministries would be media savvy. I've watched the Christian channels from time to time and it's exceptionally rare that I see something anywhere near the production quality of "worldly" TV. The message can be good (sometimes), but honestly I usually cringe at both the quality and relevance of the shows. If they are that far behind on TV, which has been around for 50 years, should we expect them to be on top of things in the online world?

    Another interesting part of the article is that they say that the mega churches with TV ministries were really only one's who were good a being responsive. Maybe that says something about the focus of the both the websites and missions of the other ministries.

    Whatever the reasons, it is disappointing info to read. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go improve my church's website. ;)

  3. I think it is more an issue of attention to detail and striving for excellence. Whether it is in church ministry or even businesses, lately I have been less than impressed with many organizations responsiveness. I am not saying that every organization is not getting it right. Maybe it is the ones that miss the mark that stick out in my mind more than those who are good at responding.

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