What the Church Can Learn from the Demise of the Print Industry


The days of people waking up to their morning coffee and opening up the morning paper are gone. I needed no further proof than when my dad recently cancelled his newspaper subscription, which was a sign to me that you can start writing the obituary for the printed newspaper (but I’m not sure where the obituary will end up when printed newspapers are gone). It’s been looming on the horizon for a long time, but the soaring popularity of Craigslist, cheaper more effective advertising with Google, and the recession that’s been going on over the past few years the death of the print industry has been significantly¬†accelerated.

A recent blog post by Sam Rainer somehow made me see a connection between the print industry and the church. Sam’s post was discussing how some churches run on a much smaller percentage of their budget devoted to staffing than what is average in American churches.¬†I’m not sure the two are related, but it kind of feels like there might be something going on in churches similar to what the newspaper and print industry has experienced over the past decade. Newspapers are dying quickly in our country as they’ve struggled to figure out how to maintain profitability when their traditional revenue sources (classified, ads, subscribers) disappear.

The church doesn’t live on advertising dollars, but it does need to re-think many things in light of how communication has changed. There are many ways for churches to cut back on traditional costs, but they would require a shift in thinking. For example, almost every church has physical offices somewhere on their property. This is what churches have always done, so it seems like it’s needed, right?

Well, in today’s broadband powered Internet age, I’m not convinced that it is. Church telephone numbers can be pointed to cell phones or services like Phonebooth or RingCentral that eliminate the need for a centralized system. Staff meetings can happen completely online through video chat services like Skype or TokBox. Starbucks can be a comfortable place for pastors to meet with church members throughout the week. There are many other ways churches could cut back on their overhead devoted to staffing, too.

The reason I see a connection between the print industry and the church is that in both instances things have become more and more decentralized and information has become more and more readily available. Pastors are no longer the only ones who have access to biblical research tools that previously only usuable by seminary graduates. Videos of sermons from outstanding preachers throughout the world are just a click away. And with the increase in the number of “internet campuses” that churches offer more and more people will be attending church in their pajamas in bed.

There’s a desperate need for churches to continue to refocus and reshape who they are and how they manage their resources. We have the most important message the world needs to hear, so we need to do whatever we can to ensure that we offer that message in as effective and efficient way possible.

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