Originally created 06/26/04

Churches are slow to enter Web



Lewis Memorial United Methodist Church in Evans took a giant step into cyberspace about a year ago when it began posting its weekly bulletin on the World Wide Web.

The effort saves about $100 a month in postage because the church has virtually stopped mailing bulletins. Other Augusta congregations' efforts to nudge members into the technological era have netted mixed results.

"People are so entrenched, they want to see (the bulletin) in their hands," said Henry Samples, the national sales manager for Chicago-based J.S. Paluch Co. The company publishes bulletins and other materials primarily for Catholic congregations in metropolitan areas.

Despite the Web version, Lewis Memorial still needs about 400 copies to hand to worshippers on their way into church each Sunday, said Gail Johnson, a staff member. Bulletins in Protestant churches often have an outline of the order of worship and that week's sermon. Members also use them to take notes.

"The congregation adjusted OK. They are happy that we e-mail them a reminder," she said of the weekly notice.

Lewis Memorial also posts job openings and permission slips for youth activities on the Web.

"Parents can download them and print them out. It saves them time picking up forms," Ms. Johnson said.

Members at Reid Memorial Presby-terian Church "have not paid much attention" to its efforts to go online with its newsletter, said Steve Cartin, the business manager.

Each month, the church mails out about 500 newsletters listing upcoming events. Newsletter notices alerted members to the online option over several months.

"Notify us and we will take you off the mailing list," it said. Few did.

"We have a fairly sophisticated congregation, but the number of hits we have is far below what we would expect," Mr. Cartin said.

First Presbyterian Church of Augusta, with a membership of 1,700, cut back on its mailings about two years ago.

"We just thought that it would be good stewardship," said Pam Turley, the church administrator, who added that many of the members use the Internet to communicate.

Most of them like picking up the printed bulletins on Sundays and taking them home, but the Friday Web posting allows a sneak peak at the sermon outline, she said. They want the hard copy on Sunday because "most everyone takes notes."

The Paluch Co. started a Web page division, e-Paluch.com, but there are more bulletin clients than Web site clients, Mr. Samples said.

"Web sites are relatively new things, and parishes are not noted for being the most progressive (organizations)," he said.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.