OSV contributing editor Emily Stimpson reports this week on a study released last month by the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova School of Business in Villanova, Pa.
According to the study, the vast majority of parishes included in the study have woefully inadequate sites. Although most do pretty well at the basics — 96 percent list parish Mass times and 75 percent offer a link to the Sunday bulletin — few take advantage of the types of Web technology most Americans have come to expect.
For example, only 12 percent post sacramental forms on their website, and only 2 percent provide interactive forms that can be submitted online. Similarly, only 14 percent allow parishioners to sign up for events via the Web, while just over a third allow people to register at the parish online. Barely half of the parishes even have a calendar of events online.
Even fewer parishes have embraced what’s now commonly referred to as Web 2.0 — the types of interactive technology of which Pope Benedict spoke — with only 10 percent of the parishes featuring blogs and only 8 percent offering podcasts. Online Bible studies and links to good Catholic content on the Web are almost equally rare.
To Catholics of a certain age, those statistics might not seem all that troubling. But according to Eugene Gan, communications professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, they spell big trouble for the Church when it comes to young people.
“This generation expects a two-way street,” he said. “They expect interactivity. They’re not just looking for information, but also wanting to give feedback. They want to dialogue.”
Charles Zech, who directs the Center for the Study of Church Management and headed up the study, agreed.
“As a Church, we need to be concerned,” he said. “Things that most Catholics under age 40 take for granted can’t be found on parish websites. We’re not doing all we can to connect with them, and that’s a problem.”
Read the entire thing here, Don't miss the end of the article's detailed list of dos and don'ts in creating parish websites.