The mosque, church and synagogue are all embracing digital

This contribution is by Mike Johns, President of Digital Mind State who tweets here

In an age of smartphones, tablets, smart televisions and social media it is no surprise that the allure of technology has also touched the field of religion.

Islam, Christianity and Judaism may have their differences, but one thing is certain, they have all embraced and integrated technology.

Some of the US’s top ministers such as Joyce Myer, T.D Jakes, Joel Osteen, Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and even the Mormon Church have brought digital technology into their ministries.

According to Gallup more than 118 million Americans attend church. However, church membership is down 1.15 % and declining. There is a new trend that’s unfolding as some churchgoers are opting to watch church services online rather than attend. Viewers can watch, be engaged as well as make electronic tithing using a credit card.

A large percentage of the world’s top minister’s audience comes from broadcast and online viewing. In a age where people are always on the go, the multi-screen experience of watching a favorite pastor is now available via mobile, tablets, computer screen and of course TV.

Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the world’s largest religious broadcaster recently announce that all of its 24-hour networks can be accessed on Apple’s mobile devices as well as on most smartphones.

“We are living in an increasingly mobile world, where sitting down and watching TV just isn’t an option for many individuals. But they still want access to their favourite programs, and we’ve been hard at work developing the technology that allows them to watch all of TBN’s channels, in real time, at home, at work, on the road, or wherever they are,” says Paul Crouch Jr., TBN’s Chief of Staff.

The online church is on the rise and for some it’s not just an option but rather the sole source of their church life. he Internet has become the hottest place to reach people. YouTube and other online video streaming services have played a big factor in this.

A growing number of congregations are creating Internet offshoots that go far beyond streaming weekly video services. Pastor Joyce Meyer has to be most advanced in this area. Besides having a web presence and a mobile app that also ties into social media to engage with audience, her ministry is using a combination of video cloud and app cloud to extend the reach of its flagship syndicated TV program and complement its print publication to audiences worldwide.

Online video is the only option for viewers who cannot watch the syndicated TV show in the US. Viewers in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and Africa (as well as rural areas of the US) have varying bandwidth and video viewing capabilities, causing videos to pause or stop mid-stream.

In addition to a more reliable playback function, Joyce Myers has also implemented the ability to track detailed information about which aspects of the show appealed most to her viewers, to provide audiences with a more tailored, improved version of the show.

The available analytics in video cloud technology have provided additional benefits for Joyce Meyer Ministries. Her team is now able to track viewers’ attention spans, taking note of where people pause or stop watching. Even more impressively, Joyce Meyer Ministries plans to utilise new features in app cloud that allows the organization to send location-based push notifications.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckenberg noted in a recent interview the company missed the boat on mobile applications but amazingly enough the dominant world religion didn’t.

“Mobile technologies help people practice Judaism,” said Barry Schwartz, CEO of Rusty Brick, a software company that has created more than 30 Jewish mobile apps. “It is the future. Wherever you go, the airport or the synagogue, people are looking up information and praying.”

His website offers detailed information about Judaism and lets visitors receive anonymous, live assistance from Jewish scholars who are available 24 hours a day, 6 days a week delivered right to mobile phones.

Muslims have a unique app, Ramadan Times, an app that sets the fasting times depending on the location of the device. People are surprised at their smartphones’ capabilities, says Arif Hisam, head of PakData, the Pakistani company that created the app.

The church is typically viewed as followers not leaders when it comes to adopting technology but ministers such as Rev. T.D Jakes are revolutionising today’s ministry. Rev T.D Jakes’ website is optimised for both online and mobile. When it comes to tithing (putting cash in the collection plate – ed), ministers such as Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Joseph Prince have created various options beyond dropping cash or a check in the plate.

Choices have expanded to including swiping a debit or credit card on PIN-protected, ATM-like kiosks in the church lobby, tithing using Paypal by logging in to a church website and even taking offerings using a smartphone.

In Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have created a new program on the Mormon Channel called Tech Savvy which examines the latest technology, how to use it, what the Church is doing with it and ways its members can use it for good.

There is a lot SMEs can learn from how religion has implemented technology into its marketing mix in order to reach, engage and connect with its audience. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, what religion will look like in 20 years, or even in five years, is unclear, but regardless the mosque, the church and the synagogue appears ready for the challenge.

Mike Johns (13 Posts)

Mike Johns is the Founder and President of Digital Mind State formerly known as UrbanWorld Wireless, the Los Angeles based company that bridged wireless technology and hip-hop culture. Mike Johns is the driving force behind the Digital Mind State brand, responsible for planning, business development, marketing and the company expansion.