The Church and Facebook, a Survey Completed

Some time back a Fuller student, Graham Bates, asked me to post a survey he was doing, and he recently notified me of the results. What I was so happy about is the number of us here at the Jesus Creed who responded — leading to the conclusion that the survey became a sketch of the readers of this blog.

Anyway, here are the results.

I’ll split what I learned into two headings: Things I Already Knew and Things that Surprised Me.

Things I Already Knew

Most of the people who took the survey came from Jesus Creed and so the results about reading blogs were expected – 80% visit daily or more. 3/4ths of McKnight’s readers are male and also very educated – 57% have post-graduate degrees.

Half attend some type of in-person sermon or lecture weekly.

More people felt websites and podcasts they read/listen to helped them learn more about God, the Bible and how they fit into this world. I should put this in a pseudo-category “Things I figured but didn’t know.” I control what websites and podcasts I frequent. I can’t change the minister’s sermon.

Things that Surprised Me

When asked if in-person lessons help give purpose to their life less people “agreed” than “strongly agreed.”

Denominational affiliation was at the bottom of both lists of important aspects of both in-person and electronic messages. “Challenges me to think” came in first both times. This could be because Scot’s blog is inter-denominational or could be a shift in the Christian-cultural landscape. I hope for the latter, but that is more of an opinion than fact.

People seek in-person sermons to connect to others. They seek electronic lessons to learn from broader perspectives.

Most people considered their blog’s audience to be friends and family. But they wanted their audience to be challenged in their thinking and connect to their views while being exposed to different views. I’m not sure why this was surprising, but it was.

Conclusions

If you are a minister – think of your sermons and classes more as a place to connect people to each other since blogs often cannot do this, being removed from the reader’s life. Encourage the learning of facts to be done outside of class.

Encourage your members to seek out helpful materials to bring to class. Your role is more like an editor on Wikipedia instead of the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica – an expert curator instead of an authoritative gatekeeper. Help understand what is going on outside instead of preventing it from ever getting in.

If you are not a minister – don’t be afraid to go outside your group to learn. And don’t be afraid to bring what you read and learn back to your group.

My only fear is that due to the single-blog source of traffic that this does not give an accurate view of churches today. If only the minister reads blogs and listens to podcasts then the minister must connect the member to the both Word of God and each other. However, I think if Christian ministers were to start openly asking members to contribute by bringing in posts it might start a snowball effect.

Many thanks goes out to Scot McKnight and his readers for helping me out in this project. I could not have done it without you. And Carrie – I’m sorry we haven’t kept in better contact.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    Do you have any idea how many of your readers are pastors/seminarians?

  • Pat Pope

    “I think if Christian ministers were to start openly asking members to contribute by bringing in posts it might start a snowball effect.”

    Of course, this would take ministers who are not threatened by other teachings and are willing to dialogue with the material and even admit what they don’t know.

  • Scot McKnight

    Michael, no I don’t.

  • RJS

    I find the results quite interesting.

    “People seek in-person sermons to connect to others. They seek electronic lessons to learn from broader perspectives.”

    I know that I crave the person-to-person interaction as both teacher and student. And I would seriously limit my “blog-time,” both writing and reading, if there was a person-to-person alternative. But there isn’t.

    And a small note: More accurately the numbers, “80% visit daily or more. 3/4ths of McKnight’s readers are male and also very educated – 57% have post-graduate degrees”, reflect the subset who answered the survey not necessarily all of McKnight’s readers. As this was not a random sample there could be a significant bias in respondents.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    If you are not a minister – don’t be afraid to go outside your group to learn. And don’t be afraid to bring what you read and learn back to your group.

    Wait, wait, Graham Bates! :) (yes, that rhymes, sorry) You are, or were, a Fuller student! Have you read Mouw’s, “He Shines in All That’s Fair”? If so, why did you precede the “don’t be afraid” with “If you’re not a minister”?? The strong agreement on learning more from “in-person” lessons would fit with Mouw’s insight. Ministers, too, need to go outside our groups to learn. Groupthink is a terrible trap into which we can all fall.

    I agree w/ RJS’s note on statistical validity of the sampling.

  • RJS

    Ann F-R,

    I think the survey represents an interesting study of a group – just not all of “McKnight’s readers.” So my quibble isn’t with the survey itself, but with that one phrase.

  • http://grahambates.blogspot.com Graham Bates

    Michael – I do know that very few were seminarians but I don’t know how many were pastors. One question asked if you were in a Christian school or seminary.

    RJS – you are technically correct. However, “McKnight’s readers who were willing to complete a survey by a random student” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

    Ann F-R – I have not read Mouw’s book, at least that one in particular. I guess I assumed since most of the respondents listened to an in-person lesson once a week that they were most likely the minister. Since the #1 reason to go to a blog was to expand their view I figured they were already doing this. And in my own experience I have found that members are often less willing to venture out into the blogosphere.

  • Evelyn

    “Challenges me to think” as priority is unsurprising from a group of highly educated individuals, methinks. A less highly educated group (and maybe one with more women? *) would probably be more interested in the sermon-as-therapy model…

    * As a woman I feel I am letting the side down by saying that, but women are ON AVERAGE more touchy-feely than men.

    [ducks and hides]

  • jim

    How many people responded to the survey?
    Thanks

  • RJS

    Evelyn,

    I suggest that the selection here probably reflects women accurately as well. The women who are reading Jesus Creed lean to the “makes me think” side. At least this is true of me. Touchy-feely and sermon-as-therapy don’t rank very high with me.


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