According to a report by Pew Research called Digital Life in 2025, experts predict in ten years we’ll have an “ambient information environment where accessing the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily it will flow through their lives ‘like electricity.’”
Mobile, wearable, and embedded computing will be combined together in an “Internet of Things,” which will allow people to access artificial intelligence-enhanced cloud-based information storage and sharing.
Here are some of these predicted changes in technology and how they can be expected to affect churches in the years to come:
1. The Internet of Things
The Pew Research Center says, “A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment built through the continued proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, and massive data centers in a world-spanning information fabric will be known as the Internet of Things.”
For churches, this means that not having an online presence will ultimately cause them to struggle—in fact, services and sermons may all move to digital form, causing the traditional form of church to become less and less of a norm.
The Internet of Things, according to Chris Ridgeway, could affect the church in different ways—starting with location. He imagines what the church would look like with the Internet of Things “built in,” where, after installing The City on your smartphone, it can show the order of Sunday services on your phone, and even show you where your group is sitting. The system could take note of the fact that many members who have kids are on their way, and notify the children’s ministry manager that they should get some backup for child care.
In terms of what the “automated, physical ‘Internet of things’” looks like with the actual people, location sensors could let you know if a fellow friend/church member is in the same shopping center, or an alert could tell you when certain shared items or tools that are frequently borrowed amongst your church community are available.
Wearable technology, like Google Glass, could also find its place in the Internet of Things. This computer that you wear like glasses displays information similar to the way a smartphone does, and those who wear the headset communicate with the Internet through voice commands. This means that people could have access to services, sermons, meetings and members of the church community, allowing them to store, access, and share information.
Ultimately, church management software to interact with the Internet of Things, and social media presence for real estate on it won’t be just options—they will be necessities.
2. Augmented reality
Augmented reality is a live, direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data and that is perceived via portable/wearable/implantable technologies.
David Murrow, director of Church for Men, posits that in the years to come, satellite church campuses will become common—instead of one physical building that is your particular church, you will just belong to a satellite congregation. When you move towns, you can follow that satellite congregation wherever you go, still listen to the same pastor’s sermons, and still access the same services.
Murrow believes that there can be advantages to this: there will be the consistency of remaining with the same church/pastor wherever you go, the efficiency of having one communicator reach many people, and less money will be spent on the upkeep of physical buildings and more money to put into missions and service to others.
And augmented reality is what will make satellite churches more likely—for example, a person with Google Glass can be in church in Virginia and have access to the same sermon or service as someone who is sitting in church in New York. This is what will pave the way to more and more satellite churches, and to extending the reach of each church’s message as people from all different locations can tap into your church’s community and join in your mission.
3. More Digital Visibility of Marginalized Groups
According to Daren C. Brabham, a professor at the University of Southern California, “we will grow accustomed to seeing the world through multiple data layers,” which will inevitably alter many social practices.
For churches, it is possible that an increase in charitable donations will occur, since, due to everyone moving to the online world, there will be much more awareness of certain charities and what is going on in other parts of the world—people will now be “seeing” current events through the “multiple data layers” of their mobile devices and the internet.
Nicole Ellison, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, predicts: “As more of the global population comes online, there will be increased awareness of the massive disparities in access to health care, clear water, education, food, and human rights.”
Churches will need to promote these charities in their social networks and form mission groups and mission trips to help assist charitable organizations as the population shifts online and awareness increases.
With advancing mobile technology, you may see pastors in 2024 focusing more on building an online audience over actually getting people to physically come into the church. They will use mobile technology to build this online ministry with video, social media, and streaming bible studies—this online congregation may be one they never actually see, but will support their church and mission through online donations.
Church software will need to be compatible across all mobile devices so that the church can make sure that whatever mobile device a person has, their church can be accessed from it. Sermons will be streamed live from anywhere—people will participate in mission trips without being physically present—all of these things will happen as churches begin to embrace mobile technology and focus more and more on fostering their online community.
For churches, as technology improves it’s possible that the mega churches will be the ones that can adopt the most and have the most appealing communities for people—this necessary shift to the cloud and advanced integration will most likely be difficult for smaller churches to adjust to. People will then gradually move to the mega churches, while the small and mid-sized churches that can’t afford the advanced technology won’t be able to stay open.
It’s possible that churches will need fewer preachers as the emphasis will be on the quality of the sermon instead of having the preacher in the room. Small group ministry will be very important, as the worship service itself will become much less personal, and micro churches and satellite campuses will need to cooperate if they want to offer expensive programs like youth and children’s ministries in various cities.
What do you think? What are your predictions for future technology and how it will affect churches? Add them in the comments below!