Americans who attend church services online may be more likely to read the Bible at least once a week than those who go to in-person services, according to the findings of a survey.
The American Bible Society released the seventh chapter of its State of the Bible USA 2023report Thursday, titled “Bible Use and Technology.” The data included in the report is based on responses collected from 2,761 United States adults between Jan. 5 and 30, with a margin of error of +/-2.59 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
The latest installment of the report examines the frequency and methods of Bible use in the U.S., finding that 39% of those surveyed meet the criteria of a “Bible user,” meaning they read the Bible independently in settings other than at a large church service at least three to four times a year.
Twenty-five percent of respondents are “weekly Bible users” who consult the Bible outside of church at least once a week, with 9% using it daily. Meanwhile, 38% of U.S. adults “never” use the Bible outside of a church setting.
Broken down by denomination, Evangelical Protestants have the highest share of adherents (53%) who read the Bible at least once a week, followed by historically black Protestants (44%), mainline Protestants (36%) and Catholics (21%).
Additionally, 74% of those who attend church services primarily or equally online use the Bible at least once a week compared to just 32% of respondents who primarily go to in-person church services.
“This might seem surprising to those who see online church as a lesser experience, used by people who are less committed spiritually. We suspect that these numbers speak to the personal nature of online attendance,” the report reads. “In-person church attendance can be more social and cultural, often with an experiential flavor. Online attendance can be more about hearing about God and from God, often by oneself or
with one’s immediate family. It’s personal, as Bible reading often is.”
The report clarified that while “the question asked in our survey explicitly excludes Bible reading that’s done within a church service,” “it’s possible that the online attenders are counting the Scripture use that occurs as they follow along during their online viewing, and this might skew the data somewhat.”
When asked about their Bible use method, most Bible users (69%) consult a print Bible at least once a month, while one-half (50%) use a Bible app on at least a monthly basis. Smaller percentages of Bible users access the Bible via an internet read or search (48%), a Bible video (44%) and a Bible audio or podcast (32%).
In a statement reacting to the research, American Bible Society Chief Ministry Officer John Farquhar Plake noted, “We explored the specific technologies Americans are using to supplement their Bible study–and we discovered notable generational differences.”
Not surprisingly, accessing the Bible through an internet read or search was most commonly practiced among Generation Z, the youngest group of American adults born in 1997 or later.
Sixty-four percent of Gen-Z Bible users seek the Bible via an internet read or search at least once a month, along with 60% of millennials and 52% of those who belong to Generation X. The term “millennials” refers to adults born between 1981 and 1996, while Generation X encompasses those born between 1965 and 1980.
Baby boomers and elders, the two oldest generations of Americans, rely much less on internet reads or searches to access the Bible. The term “baby boomer” applies to adults born between 1946 and 1963, while elders include those born before 1946. Just 36% of baby boomers turn to internet reads or searches as part of their Bible use, a figure that drops in half among elders (18%).
Millennials are the most likely generation to use Bible apps (64%), while Gen Z Bible users are slightly less likely to do so (62%). Just 36% of Gen Z-ers watch Bible videos at least once a month, while only 33% use Bible audio and podcasts. Fifty-nine percent of Gen-Zers read a print Bible at least once a month, making it the third most popular method of Bible use among that age group.
“One practical application of this finding for ministry leaders looking to engage Gen Z is to recommend Bible apps and to be prepared to answer the top-searched spiritual queries from Google,” Plake added. “Sharing a video about the Bible or a podcast link will likely be much less effective. Getting specific in how we deliver ministry to different age cohorts is essential as we look to support and influence our communities for the Lord.”
Two additional installments of the State of the Bible report are slated for release in 2023. One is scheduled to be published in November, and the other is due in December. When finished, the finalized State of the Bible USA 2023 report will have nine chapters and span over 200 pages.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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