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The Protestant-Reformed Internet in France in 2008

The slides haven been presented at the ECIC 13 meeting in Lyon in 2008. They present the Internet activities of the French Reformed Church (Eglise Réformée de France) in 2008, provide a historical and social setting for understanding its situation, and link faith audiences and media use.

The presentation argues that churches have to understood the societal and technological background of a hyper modernised society to fully take advantage of the Internet. Today, Internet and the mobile phone fulfil a need to get orientation, from peers and the media. Here, the churches can find a place for Announcing Christ.

The presentations lists current activities of the Internet staff and its effects on the visibility of ERF church web sites.

A study of the faith audiences shows a dominance of the communications directed to the core community and the need to use the Internet to communicate with the seekers, the cultural Christians and the unbelievers. Modern communication technologies can be used to reduce the threshold sensed by seekers and the curious when seeking information and advice..

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The Protestant-Reformed Internet in France in 2008

  1. 1. The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 Challenge2.0 Church Communication and Social Networking European Christian Internet Conference XIII Lyon 13 to 16 June, 2008 Frank Thomas Équipe nationale Internet ERF 1
  2. 2. The nascent Information Society The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 Hyper-modernisation (WILLAIME) : the loss of (religious, ● political) orientations, and globalisation incite to recreate a new, patch-worked individual religiosity. The Lonely Crowd (RIESMAN): with no strong value ● orientation individuals continuously need to reassure themselves, through peer group & media. Which translates into a Connected Presence (LICOPPE) : ● Internet & mobile communications are important tools for maintaining a continuous presence of geographically distant, but socially close partners. 2
  3. 3. Communicating and trusting The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 To communicate with ● 4 strangers you need trust. Historically Protestant ● Internet use frequency DK 3 countries (violet) show S N CH higher levels of trust in A NL L 2 SF strangers which correlate B UK F D IL EIR with intense email use. P SLO I 1 ES CR PL Catholic countries (yellow) HU ● GR complement the pattern. 0 2 4 6 8 France (blue) is culturally Strength of interpersonal trust ● impregnated by Catholic Source : European Social Survey 2003 culture. 3
  4. 4. The French, Religion, and the Protestants The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 The Protestants a dispersed minority within a ● culturally Catholic society 2.2% Protestant, 69% Catholic. Concentrated in the Paris region, in Alsace. In the rest of ● France: a considerable geographical dispersion. The weight of history: ● Persecutions & secularisation ● Evangelical, pentecostal, ethnic churches prospering ● 4
  5. 5. The Église Réformée de France ERF The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 50,000 membership-dues paying households, with another  110,000 households in contact. A presbyterial-synodal church structure.  492 parishes in 8 regions, 410 pastors.  About one third of pastors has no Reformed background.  A multicultural membership : membership through family  tradition gets replaced by conversions and migrants. An over-aged, declining membership  Member of the Fédération Protestante de France  In 2007 a unification process started with (the Lutheran  church) EELF . 5
  6. 6. The ERF & Internet The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 The situation Communication, Internet : a non-issue starting to become an  issue ? 1 national, 8 regional portals, about 100 local parish web sites &  250 parishes present on the 8 regional web sites (2006). In the Paris region 56% of parishes have their own web site. In  West France about ¼ parishes. But households with children in school age, a key group for the  church, have 77% Internet penetration. 6
  7. 7. The Internet – a cultural challenge The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 “The best communication is a good sermon”.  Parishes are often inward-oriented  The Internet exposes, makes visible – but faith is to remain a  personal affair in French secular society, it is said. A text-oriented church: A history of reformed iconoclasm.  Lack of strong official support : the elites, church elder are in  general pre-Internet generation. Permanent staff restricted to theology-trained pastors :  professional expertise in Internet matters is rare. Do-It-Yourself at no cost as a standard solution for parish sites.  The best web site is not necessarily a mirror of the vertical  church structure. 7
  8. 8. Internet activities Activities The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 No overall communication strategy of the church voted by  the ERF Synod. Yearly exchange meetings at ERF level.  Training sessions at the local & regional level  Communication became part of theological cursus.  Sites,for instances,for scouts, bible study, distance education, radio  A few blogs by pastors  Wikipedia contributions by indivual pastors : important for visibility  A blog for webmasters  A trend to combine regional journals & regional portals  Internet can be part of local church growth projects  Downgrading of a regional website due to lack of interest by  parishes. 8
  9. 9. The visibility of the Protestant web The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 Google Domain links Visibility on the Internet is site type name PR Yahoo! 2007 Wikipedia DMOZ  regional web sites Est 2 144 Provence-Alpes-Corse-Côte d’Azur 3 854 an issue for some, but not SudOuest 3 349 Ouest 3 767 for all churches. Cévennes-Languedoc-Roussillon 3 4 270 Centre-Alpes-Rhône 3 1 870  Nord Normandie 3 527  The link density mirrors Région Parisienne 4 1 920   national web sites ERF (Reformed) 4 7 660   (more or less) the EELF (Lutheran) 4 1 010  EPAL (United, Alsace-Lorraine) 4   FPF (Church Federation) 5 15 000   institutional embedding. CEVAA 4 451  The visibility increased in DEFAP 5 1 110   musée virtuel du Protestantisme 5 5 090   5 35 300   recent times. parish web sites ERF Paris-Étoile 3 592  ERF Nancy 3 766  Visibility on the  Non-French EPUB (B) 2 20   Églises Wallonnes (NL) 3 118  Internet mirrors the will ProtestaNet (B) 4   ER Suisse romande (CH) 5 6 900   to announce outside the WCC-COE 6 14 000   Vatican 7 800 000   Microsoft 9 27 400 000   core community. 9
  10. 10. Faith audiences & communications media The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 Believing regular church going irregular church going no church going core community % parishes shell community % parishes Cultural Protestants Sermon 100% Electronic newsletters 63% mass media belonging Paper newsletters 98% Parish website 58% see non-believers Source: ERF-RP Paris survey 2008 Regional journal 95% Regional website 43% Church showcase 91% Seekers Cultural Protestants Non-believers % parishes individual encounters mass media mass media not belonging group meetings see non-believers Parish website 58% no data Regional website 43% Local press 52% Posters, flyers 38% A well-served core community  The individual encounters with seekers - ?  Mass media use, web use towards the shell community and the  Cultural Protestants limited, but growing Media typical for youth (SMS, IM, mobiles, email) underused 10 
  11. 11. The Demands of the Future ? The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 Reverse the downward trend in memberships and GROW,  strengthen the local communities AND evangelise Adapt the language and the communication channels to our  target populations, finish the one-fit-for all web sites Make faith content and faith communities visible on the  Internet, allow surprise contacts Reduce the high threshold for seekers, for unbelievers to  contact a parish in using distance communication : email, SMS, IM, ..., forums, web2.0 LISTEN to the questions of those outside, of those who seek  11
  12. 12. Contacts The State of the Reformed Internet in France in 2008 Eglise réformée de France ERF Internet service National church website The author Author weblog This is not an official statement of the ERF. 12