December 20, 2000

Wired Churches, Wired Temples

Methodology

About this report

This report is based on the findings of an online survey of 1,309 congregations. Roughly 12,000 congregations with Web sites and email addresses were invited participate in the survey, which ran from November 21 to December 8. Congregations received one invitation and one follow-up reminder, and were offered individualized summaries of their own Web site use compared to other congregations of their size or denomination as an incentive to participate.

As with all studies that require sampling Internet pages, the results of this survey must be considered descriptive rather than scientifically generalizable. A scientifically valid survey requires that a sample of subjects be drawn from the entire population. There is no single comprehensive listing of Web sites from which to draw a sample, let alone a listing of congregational Web pages. Some surveys of Internet sites have used random page generators to mimic a random sample of pages. But such generators cannot limit the pages it produces to any specific type of page, so that method was not suitable for this study.

The framework for identifying Christian congregation Web sites was drawn from the Web sites of Christian denominations with over 1 million members, as reported in the 2000 edition of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Many, but not all of these sites provided links to the sites of member congregations. Sites of non-denominational congregations, as well as congregations whose denominations did not provide congregational links, were drawn from the generic portal Yahoo and the Christian portal Goshen. Jewish congregations were drawn from umbrella sites for Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Judaism; we could not find a similar resource for Orthodox Judaism.

We could not find sufficient numbers of Islamic or Buddhist congregational sites to include in this study, but we hope to incorporate them into future surveys.

Thus, congregations in these religions, denominations, and branches were solicited:

  • Jewish – Conservative
  • Jewish – Reform
  • Jewish – Reconstructionist
  • Unitarian
  • Roman Catholic
  • Southern Baptist
  • United Methodist
  • The Church of God in Christ
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Presbyterian USA
  • Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
  • Assemblies of God
  • African Methodist Episcopalian (AME)
  • Episcopal
  • Greek Orthodox
  • American Baptist Churches USA
  • Pentecostal Assembly of the World
  • United Church of Christ
  • AME Zion

These sites provided listings for about 20,000 congregations. Invitations to participate in the survey were emailed to only 12,000 because many URLs were old, domains that once served congregations had changed to new uses, or the sites did not contain an email address. This last consideration may in particular have skewed the sample toward wealthier congregations, as many of the sites that used free web space and design services did not have email addresses.