Why Older Churches Must Embrace New Technology | Ep. #130

Pro Church Daily is the show where - in ten minutes or less - you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus, while navigating the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years.

June 12th, 2018

We constantly encourage churches to seize the 167 hours outside their Sunday service each week. Brady explains why this applies to churches with older demographics as well.

What’s In This Session?

  • The stats (1:44)
  • #1: Number one source for finding information (2:20)
  • #2: 19 hours per week are spent online (4:50)
  • #3: 4 hours & 9 minutes per week are spent on social media (6:30)

Show Notes & Resources Mentioned

The Full Transcript

Alex Mills: Well, hey there and welcome to Pro Church Daily, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you’ll get your daily dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift we’ve seen in the last 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by the boss man, it’s Brady Shearer. Today, we’re talking about why older churches must embrace new technology. 

Brady Shearer: The entire reason this channel exists, Alex, is to talk about seizing the 167. 

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: The 167 hours beyond your church service. We talk about this wild communication shift that we’re living through, and the number of companies that have come out of nowhere in other industries and completely disrupted the way that we’ve done things forever. We encourage churches to embrace this new technology, to take the timeless message of Jesus and share it through timely mediums, so that more people can hear the hope of Christ, but reconciliation, and redemption, and purpose, and eternity with love and hope. 

One of the common push backs that we receive is from churches that are older when it comes to their demographics. They’ll say to me in DMs or in emails, people with great intentions that are trying to do as much as they can with what they have. I’ll hear things like, ‘I don’t know if my church is ready for this. We’re just a little too old.’ 

Alex Mills: Right. 

Brady Shearer: ‘There are too many people in our church. We’ve done things one way for too long. I don’t think that we can change now.’ 

I just want to push back on that misconception a little bit. Every congregation is unique, but when we look at the general data that we’re about to share now, I think that it paints a pretty encouraging and hopeful picture for what is to come, and also where we are right now. No matter if your congregation is old or young. Let’s start with some general stuff. 

In the year 2000, five in 10, American adults were online. Fast forward to 2015, that number has ballooned to nine in 10, and that research comes from Pew. If you look at the demographics of 50 and under, more than 97% of people in America under 50 are online. 

Alex Mills: So everybody. 

Brady Shearer: Everybody.

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: Again, that’s 50 and under, so it’s easy to push back on that and say, ‘Well, my church has a lot of people that are older than 50.’ 

I’ve got three really exceptional and surprising, frankly, data points when it comes to seniors and boomers. The first two come from a report directly from Google for boomers and seniors. The internet is their number one source for finding information, more than friends and family, more than television, more than magazines, and more than newspapers. Even for those senior and in the boomer generation, the internet is their number one resource for finding information when they have questions. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: For tracking down information when they’re unsure of something. They go to the internet. 

Alex Mills: This one’s interesting because these are the people that traditionally would look to the newspaper for some of the information that you and I are going to Google for, or YouTube, or whatever. I’ve even noticed in our own community that people’s hands are really being forced now. Our local newspaper that’s been around forever, a beloved local newspaper is gone. It’s sold and we no longer get a newspaper delivered to our driveway. Whether people like to receive their information one way or another, in today in 2018, their hand is even being forced, even if they’d rather not. It’s not … You can’t get the local newspaper anymore. 

You’re following the Town of Niagara on the Lake on Twitter to get the updates on what’s going on in Niagara on the Lake. It’s very interesting. Yeah, this stat was shocking to me at first hearing it, but as I kind of thought about it for a minute, I realized ‘Oh, well, even if their preferred method of getting information is another way, in 2018, they don’t really have a choice anymore.’

Brady Shearer: That’s the thing. I was with my grandparents the other day. They had their friends over. My grandparents are around 80. Their friends were a little older, pushing 90. Really vibrant, like doing a ton of stuff, haven’t slowed down, living their best life. At one point, they pulled out the newspaper and like, ‘Oh Brady, have you seen this article in the newspaper?’

I was like, “What?” 

Alex Mills: In the what? 

Brady Shearer: I don’t even know how you got that. That’s to show that these communication mediums are still beloved, but they also had their phone and were looking up a bunch of stuff while we were there. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: It’s a little bit of a both end. You’re older and the grandkids that you want to keep up with, the kids that you want to keep up with are spending so much time online. You’re forced to migrate, and then that newspaper you’ve got for so long. Well, now you’ve got to keep up with the town on Twitter. You’re forced to migrate. This I think shows the adaptive nature of all humans. 

Alex Mills: Yes. 

Brady Shearer: Necessity is the biggest driver of change. Even for you as a church, you may not want to make these changes, but we’re getting to the point where even if your congregation is older, that necessity line, if we haven’t already crossed it, is creeping up more, and more, and more. 

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Let’s move to data point number two. Boomers and seniors, this one also from Google still, spend more time online than they do watching TV in an average week. That might not come as surprising. Here’s what may: how much time does the average boomer and senior spend online? 

Alex Mills: A few hours, maybe? 

Brady Shearer: About 19 total hours online each week. 

Alex Mills: Wow.

Brady Shearer: 19 hours. How much time is that boomer or senior spending in your church? One each week, two? 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: Even if they spend five hours and they were the most committed volunteer ever, they’re still spending four times as much time online than they are in your church. Again, we have this misconception because we know that one person in our church who’s particularly prickly about online. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: They don’t want to get rid of the bulletin. They don’t want to receive information through email. They don’t want to have to check the church website. But, generally, that’s not most older people. 

Alex Mills: Yeah, I see this, especially this stat kind of refers to television, I see this with my parents a lot as well. My dad specifically is subscribed to satellite TV, but he’s just about fed up with it because the internet is making everything that he consumes on television so much more easy to digest, and much more affordable.

Brady Shearer: Right. 

Alex Mills: Having satellite TV sometimes is very convenient, but for the price that he’s forced to pay for it, it’s just not worth it anymore because the internet is offering the same things. Yeah, I’ve watched that transition happen for him. Instead of watching his news programs on TV every morning, he gets them online on demand. It’s kind of making these other mediums of consuming this kind of content a little bit irrelevant because it’s not only more affordable, but it’s much more convenient to digest it online. 

Brady Shearer: Right. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: Final data we wanted to share with you concerning the use of technology amongst older people, adults ages 5- plus spend on average, four hours and nine minutes on social media each week. That’s a stat from 2015, I believe. It comes from Nielsen, 50 plus spending more than four hours every single week on social media. We’re not just talking about going onto Google and using a search engine. 

Alex Mills: Right. 

Brady Shearer: We’re talking about the timely platforms of mostly Facebook, but also Twitter and even a little bit of Instagram. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: Four hours and nine minutes every single week. 

Alex Mills: This one gets me because as a millennial, you hear often … I don’t hear it as much anymore, because I’m a bit older, but I remember when I was younger, ‘Oh, you millennials always got your heads in your phones. You can never get out of your phones,’ or whatever. I look up and I look around, and I’m like, ‘You guys are on Facebook more than I’ve ever used Facebook.’ It’s like … This stat, like you said, it’s from 2015 and so three years later, now we’re in 2018. I’m sure that this number is probably inflated even more, and we’ll have to wait a little while to get the stats of the time that we’re living in right now. I’ve always found that funny when people point to millennials. ‘You guys spend so much time on your phones.’ When I look up and see well, … I mean, I didn’t even have the Facebook app on my phone until I started working here and had to have it on my phone, because I just didn’t want to interact with that on my phone. 

Brady Shearer: Here’s the great thing about older people that use Facebook. Facebook’s probably going to be your biggest social platform as a church. 

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Facebook groups, we’ve talked about a lot this year, and how timely those are right now. The amazing thing about older people on Facebook is that they do use it differently than younger people. 

Alex Mills: Yes. 

Brady Shearer: You know how hard it is to reach a young person on Facebook or on social? 

Alex Mills: I know. 

Brady Shearer: That’s what we talk about stopping the scroll. 

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: How that should be your number one goal. With older people, you don’t really have to do that much to stop the scroll, because they’re scrolling a lot slower. That’s not an insult. 

Alex Mills: No.

Brady Shearer: That’s an amazing thing for your church. 

Alex Mills: Yeah, it really is. 

Brady Shearer: You’ve got me, and I’m like … scrolling through like a mad person. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: Then, my grandparents, they’re like, ‘Yeah, I see every single thing you post on social.’

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: I’m like, … ‘You’re the best.’ 

Alex Mills: They also comment on every single thing, share every Facebook post. 

Brady Shearer: Exactly.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: I have gone into … This is another online thing. I’ve gone into our email open rates for Pro Church Nation. Our greatest contact of all time is my grandmother.

Alex Mills: Of course. 

Brady Shearer: Because she opens every single email. 

Alex Mills: A legend. 

Brady Shearer: That’s because she loves me, but those, the older people involved in your church are going to exhibit the exact same behavior.

Alex Mills: Yes, yes.

Brady Shearer: This is a good thing. Here’s the bottom line: if you are an older church, it’s time to start embracing technology. One, because that line, that necessity line, I think we’ve already passed. Also, because yeah, maybe your church is a bit older, but the data would suggest that just because your church is older doesn’t mean that they are not using social. 

Alex Mills: Right. 

Brady Shearer: When we look at the generations to come, Gen X, millennials, Gen Z, 95% of Gen Z uses YouTube, and 50% of Gen Z say they cannot live without YouTube. 

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: This is just going to become more and more concentrated. This behavior is going to increase and exponentially grow. 

Alex Mills: Right. 

Brady Shearer: There is no better time than now to start embracing this. I know it’s uncomfortable. I know it’s unfamiliar. I know you’ve been a church for 40 to 120 years. Your church demographic is the one that’s declining the most because you are so conditioned to doing things one way, it’s hard to change. 

Alex Mills: Yeah. 

Brady Shearer: But, it’s getting to the point where you’ve got to change, or else these types of churches are going to be the Kodaks and the Blockbusters of the world, and the Toys R US of the world that had such influence at such time, but weren’t able to make the change and were left behind. The encouraging thing is that reaching people now is easier than it ever has been before. 

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Your demographic is probably a lot more engaged in online than you may be willing to accept. 

Alex Mills: Yes, it’s all good news.

Brady Shearer: It’s all good news. 

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: That’ll do it for today’s episode of Pro Church Daily. We’ll see you next time.