Religion Finds the Cloud

by Matt Klassen on September 19, 2013

Does God like technology? It’s a question religious communities have wrestled with since the beginning of time, with some choosing the road of outright rejection and austerity, with others attempting to welcome the benefits of such advancement in an often times uncomfortable embrace. There are numerous factors behind this reticence regarding technology, however, ranging from theological issues over how technology changes us as human beings, to far more common reasons like money, reasons shared by the religious community, NPOs, and private enterprise alike.

So as the world discovers the benefits of cloud-based alternatives to traditional on-premise software and systems to help achieve their varied business goals, you’ll have to excuse me for being just a little surprised at the news that the religious and NPO communities are quickly embracing the cloud as well.

In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Intacct, of the 1,000 small to mega churches that participated in the survey 80 percent of the large churches (with over 1,000 parishioners in weekly attendance) and 55 percent of small/medium churches used cloud-based services as part of their day-to-day operations, and those churches who have embraced the cloud have seen a marked increase in attendance and giving. But is the cloud really responsible for this religious resurgence?

As one who has studied religious phenomena for most of his adult life, I’ve always been interested in the relationship of religion in general with the culture it finds itself in, and an interesting subset of that study is the investigation of religion and technology. For centuries religion has largely resisted technological change, some times because of the thinking that technology will change the traditional way of doing things and thus might impact the core values of the community itself, while other times its simply because as a NPO the church, or mosque, or synagogue simply can’t afford to adopt cutting edge advances.

In fact, like almost every other enterprise in the world, the religious segment has faced stiff challenges over the last few years, as economic uncertainty has left many of the faithful unable to contribute like they used to, with many church scandals leaving them with second thoughts about giving anything to begin with. Churches are looking for ways to engage with their congregations, to encourage attendance, and, of course, to increase giving, and it looks like the cloud can help with all three.

According to the Intacct survey, forward-thinking churches that have embraced cloud technology are significantly more likely to experience increases in giving than those who have not employed cloud services. In fact, three-quarters of the churches who reported using cloud technology saw congregational giving grow compared to only 18 percent of those not using the cloud.

So can the cloud help grow your church? While cloud services provide churches with cost-savings in system management, ease-of-use, ubiquitous access, and security, the link to congregational growth and increased giving is not a direct one, but rather adoption of cloud services is an indicator of progressive religious thinking about technology, and such thinking often means that the church is utilizing other technological means to reach its constituents.

Simply put, nearly half of all churches using cloud-based services employ a giving app for smartphones, and 65 percent of large churches (and 46 percent of small) have an online forum or blog, not to mention a strong social network presence, that helps the church engage with a wider spectrum of its constituents.

So despite the fact this survey would like you to picture a strong connection between the cloud and congregational growth and increased giving, the real connection is between church growth and technology in general, for while the cloud doesn’t help with giving or attendance specifically, embracing the cloud is a strong indicator of a willingness to embrace the technology that will help you grow your church.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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