Fall Church Shopping over the Internet

Note: that’s “church shopping,” not “church hopping,” although both seem to be frequent occurrences nowadays. USA Today reports:

Across the country, fall is high season for “church shopping,” as people in search of a new faith community to call home set about the task of finding one. But that doesn’t mean they’re showing up, singing hymns, shaking hands and sampling doughnuts at a different church each week. Instead, observers say, they’re visiting church websites and evaluating congregations — often without having actually met anyone at the church …

Church shoppers “used to have to go to the service, sit in the back row and watch,” says Tom Bandy, president of EasumBandy & Associates, a church consultancy. “The website has just replaced that. The color schemes, the formatting, the language, the music — those things powerfully reveal who they (in the church) want to come there and who’s going to be accepted there.”

Says Mark Sorensen, who oversees the site [at Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona]: “Just like people do a lot of car shopping and major purchase shopping online, they see what they can find out about the church online before their decision to come for the first time.”

Large churches, especially evangelical ones, are most inclined to use the Web for outreach. Eighty-two percent of churches with more than 200 worship attendees have websites, compared with only 29% of those with fewer than 100, according to a 2006 Ellison Research survey of 871 Protestant congregations nationwide.

Church shopping in the fall? Who would have thunk it? I know a lot of people start their Christmas shopping in the fall. Perhaps people are looking for a church home in time for the holidays.

Have you been “church shopping” recently? If so, how big a role did the internet play in your search? Or, even if you haven’t been church shopping, how important are church websites to you? Does your church have a website? Do you use it? Feel free to share your thoughts on churches and websites in the comments section.

Note: Here is our church’s website: Agawam Church of the Bible

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