From Bowling to Technology: How Do we Grow a Church

By Not Known

Bowling was hot in the 70s.  It was fun and challenging but most of all it was about camaraderie and having a great time.  Many bowling alleys today have folded.  But those who still bowl choose to bowl at a certain time and only with certain close friends.  Leagues are out of vogue and scrapped.  

Robert D. Putnam wrote “Bowling Alone” in 2000 and shared that among the many reasons why bowling alleys still survive is because they adapted, but  most churches are having problems surviving particularly in the West.  

“Most institutional churches still want their members to come into a building at a specific time.  They want everyone to face forward and to listen to a lecture (sermon) with no opportunity for input, comment or questions.  They want them to join and commit to the institution… and if they continue to do things the same way, ignoring the changes in how people want to connect and communicate, half of all of them may be gone in just ten years,” Robert wrote.

Others said we need to catch up with our new generation who have been brought up with new technology.  The internet and technology have certainly shaken us up in many ways.  ORPC now has our own website, and our BFA is available online.  Those who missed last Sunday’s service, may now “watch and attend” the service online along with the presentation slides.  After all, some of us, even though we might be here, “watched and attended” the service at Dunman Hall.

Technology has changed our society especially in ways we communicate and connect with one another.  But surely, the reason for a decline of a church is not due to the slowness in dealing with change in technology alone!  

Steve Hewitt started a church with four and grew it to 100 in two years.  He is a tech-savvy pastor who harnessed the use of all things digital in his church-plant project.  His members tweeted him while he preached and the tweets appeared on screen and he answered them on-the-spot.  His messages and services were streamed simultaneously.  But his church began to decline after two years.
In his evaluation, he shared that while he was making good use of technology, he was trying to direct people to “do” church in ways that were still traditional.  And even though he was missional and seeker-sensitive in His approach with the use of better tools and technology, something is still missing.

As he searched for answers, he remembered a lecture that he gave at a symposium entitled “The Personal Communication Age.”  The essence was that the way we have communicated in the past has changed.  People no longer want information from an expert, they like information from someone personal, individual, someone that doesn’t have an agenda, spin or something to market.  They don’t want to face forward and listen to one person; they want to sit in a circle, or around a table.  They want the opportunity to be a part of the conversation.  In other words, they want to be accepted as people and as persons who receive care and given the opportunity to care in return.

While we as a church needs to harness technological changes to the best we can but we must never forget that people basically still needs love from loving and caring people around them.


Peter Poon