By Aaron Earls
Thinking about incorporating more technology into your worship service but concerned some older members might not be on board?
Don’t worry. New research says your entire congregation—seniors included—may embrace the new technology, though some may need help along the way.
Social media and other new information technologies are not exclusively the domain of teenagers and young adults. More than half of all social network users (53 percent) are at least 35 years old, according to research from eMarketer.
Even senior citizens are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. While those 65 and older adopt technology at lower rates than younger people, they are catching up, Pew Research shows.
Today, 67 percent of seniors use the internet, up from 12 percent in 2000. Half (51 percent) have home broadband internet. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) have a smartphone. A third (34 percent) use social media. A similar number have a tablet (32 percent).
More than three-quarters of Americans 65 to 74 use the internet. Around two-thirds have broadband. More than half own a smartphone, and more than 4 in 10 use social media.
Still, many churches and ministries subscribe to what media consultant Phil Cooke calls “The Senior Myth.”
“That’s the idea that seniors aren’t tech-savvy, don’t like contemporary music or design, and generally aren’t interested in current culture,” he wrote recently.
“Don’t let nervous members of your leadership team fight against more contemporary design and new technology because they think the older audience will pack up and leave.”
Despite their growing embrace of technology, many senior citizens lack confidence when using it.
Only 26 percent say they feel very confident using a computer, smartphone or other electronics to do the things they need to do online, Pew Research shows. By contrast, 74 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds feel very confident.
When they get a new electronic device, 73 percent of Americans 65 and older say they need someone to help them set it up or show them how to use it, according to Pew Research.
This insecurity creates an opportunity for churches to help their older members and to give tech-savvy members a chance to serve.
- Talk with people inside and outside your church to learn technological questions they may have.
- Talk to those who have tech knowledge to develop ideas for service.
- Schedule a “Help Desk Night” or “Tech Saturday” where people can bring in a computer or phone and receive training from a church member.
- Set up a Skype or video training, so grandparents can better keep in touch with their children and grandchildren who live elsewhere.
These events can ease some of the intimidation seniors or other tech-challenged people feel. Opening the events to those outside the church can be a great outreach tool and an investment in the community. Training people on computers also opens more employment opportunities for them.
Having technological training on church property is a great way to provide a frequently needed resource for church members and be a good neighbor to the community.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.