• Project Summary

    This research project investigates the role technology has played in churches during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ways digital media use shapes worship, outreach, and community-building. It also explores how technology engagement informs congregations’ social and theological outlook of congregations during this time. By analyzing a variety of data and narratives from church leaders and congregations, the project seeks to map how and why various digital media technologies and strategies were implemented by these churches to serve their communities. It will also consider what role technology might need to play in a post-pandemic congregational landscape.


    Key issues to be studied include:

    • the intentions and beliefs underlying church leaders’ technological choices during the pandemic, 
    • the impact of technology implementation on worship services and church ministry, and 
    • the immediate and long-term social and theological effects of these choices on congregations.
  • Project Stages

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    Stage 1:


    Studying Church Leaders Negotiations with Digital Technology

    Research in stage one focused on data provided by the Center for Congregations associated with its “Connect Through Tech” grant program, which funded 2700 churches in the state of Indiana to purchase technology resources in 2020 & 2021 to help facilitate the move of congregations during the pandemic from traditional to online services. This stage centers on analyzing themes from a series of “Tech Talks” sessions facilitated by the Center staff for congregational leaders who received grants. Here discussion was focused on the technology challenges and opportunities experienced by church staff in making a shift from traditional to online church. This research began in February 2021 and wrapped up in September 2021. Findings from this state appear in Report 1 which was completed in November 2021.

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    Stage 2:


    Narratives of Churches on the Relationship between Technology and the Church

    In stage two of the project, we engage in a detailed content analysis of grant applications and final reports collected by the Center for Congregation through their “Connect Through Tech” grant program. This data focuses on how churches understand the internet and digital technology, as well as discussions of the mission and work of the church and its perceived relationship to technology. We do this by comparing descriptions of these topics starting with those presented at the beginning of the grant period and the Covid-19 pandemic, through applications to the CTT grant program received in May 2020. These are in contrast to responses appearing in the final reports received from congregations between May to August 2021, detailing how technology funds were used and the impact they had on church outreach and ministry. This content and thematic analysis began in May 2021 and is currently ongoing through early 2022.

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    Stage 3:


    Long-Term Sociological & Theological Impacts of Technology Integration on Pastors & Congregations

    The final stage of the research project involves a survey of churches involved in the Connection through Technology Grant program to see where they are at in their uses and perceptions of technology three years after the start of the pandemic. Here we consider the long-term impact technology choices are having on congregational vitality and mission. This research began in late 2022 and was completed in Oct 2023.

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    This project is overseen by the Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies (NMRDC) and a research team, under the direction of Dr. Heidi A Campbell, professor of Communication and Presidential Impact Fellow at Texas A&M University. NMRDC is a collaboration of scholars and students exploring topics and questions emerging in the growing area of Digital Religion studies, which investigates who online and offline religious practices, beliefs, and communities interact in contemporary society. For more information about the research team members see the research Team page.

  • Funding & Support

    Lilly Endowment Inc.

    A private philanthropic foundation


    This research project is made possible by generous funding from the Lilly Endowment for Religion

    Center for Congregations

    Helping congregations find and use resources


    This research study is also supported by the Center of Congregations based in Indianapolis. The Center seeks to serve congregations throughout the state of Indiana by offering free consultations, educational events, and grants to help support and advance their work and ministry in a variety of areas. Research data for stages one and two of the project was provided by the Center’s “Connecting through Tech” grant program.