In an age with more media choices than ever, American evangelicals get their news and entertainment from Christian and mainstream media. Almost all evangelical Protestants in the United States use a mix of media from Christian and traditional sources, according to a study by Infinity Concepts and Gray Matter Research.
Using the theological definition of evangelical from the National Association of Evangelicals and Lifeway Research, less than 1% say they do not use any specifically Christian media and 1% say they avoid all mainstream media, which which means that almost all American evangelicals consume a mixture of the two.
The areas in which evangelicals primarily consume Christian media are radio (60% say at least half of their radio feed is specifically Christian), podcasts (57%) and books (58%). Evangelicals say they use mainstream media more on television (73%), websites (68%), video streaming (64%) and magazines (58%).
Various evangelical subgroups are more likely to have a higher percentage of media content from Christian sources, including those with household incomes below $30,000 (48%), those with a charismatic theology (49% ), those who attend church at least once a month (42%), and those who read the Bible at least once a week (44%).
According to a Lifeway Research 2015 study, few Americans overall report regularly consuming Christian media, but most have at least occasionally watched Christian television or read a Christian book. Half of all Americans said they had watched a Christian movie in the past year.
When asked what media they use specifically for spiritual purposes — to receive Christian information, teaching, preaching, inspiration, and spiritual growth — outside of their church and the Bible, Evangelical medium uses 3.4 different media formats. Most common are print books (43%), television (38%), websites (36%), streaming video (29%), mobile apps (28%), radio broadcast (23% ) and podcasts (20%).
Although there is no significant generational divide in the overall use of Christian media versus mainstream media, various age groups are more likely to turn to certain formats for spiritual purposes. Young evangelicals are also more likely to use more formats than older evangelicals.
Evangelicals under 40 are the most likely to say they use websites (44%), streaming videos (40%), mobile apps (36%), podcasts (31%), satellite/internet radio (20%) and blogs (18%). percent) for spiritual purposes. People aged 40-54 are the age group most likely to turn to e-books (18%) and audiobooks (16%). Evangelicals between the ages of 55 and 69 are the most common users of printed books (49%), television (40%), radio (27%), CDs (12%) and DVDs (11%), along with those under 40) for spiritual purposes. Those 70 and older are the most likely to say they use print magazines (22%) or only use the Bible and church (21%).
Evangelicals 55 and older are about twice as likely as Evangelicals under 55 to use nothing at all for spiritual purposes outside of church and the Bible.
The pandemic has widened the scope of online religious services as several Lifeway Research studies found that more congregations added online services in the past two years and continued to offer them through 2022. Additionally, 45% of all Americans say they have watched at least one Christian church service during the pandemic, including 15% who normally do not show up in person, according to a September 2021 Lifeway Research Study.
Printed or digital?
When it comes to pleasure or religious study, evangelicals prefer to read it in print. If they are researching a topic or gathering news and information, they prefer to go digital, especially through a website.
According to the Gray Matter study, 65% of evangelicals say they prefer print for reading for pleasure, while 60% say print is their preference for religious study or learning. When asked about news and information, 57% want to get it from a website, while 69% say they want to look at a website when doing research.
There is a digital divide between age groups, but half of those under 40 still prefer to read for pleasure via print and 54% want to pursue religious studies or learn in the same way. Among evangelicals 70 and older, most still want to research websites (56%), while they are narrowly divided to get their news and information from print sources (46%) and websites. Web (42%).
As churches think about reaching the next generation or helping them grow spiritually, they shouldn’t assume that all young evangelicals want everything digital. Nor should they think that all the older saints in their pew don’t know how to use their computer or listen to a podcast.
Pastors and church leaders should think about those who make up their congregation. Have you noticed more people using a Bible app in the service? Would people benefit from an additional podcast to the sermon? How can we continue to provide printed materials that will engage congregants and encourage them to grow spiritually?
Churches should use multiple formats to reach members of their congregations and community with the gospel and to help them know God and His Word more deeply.