Religious laggards

So why hasn’t every small-town church, diminishing congregation, suffering masjid or dismayed parishioner flocked to Facebook?

If social media has the potential to save a dying religious audience, why hasn’t every single religious organization reached 1,000 tweets, created a blogging position on their church board or engaged their community with a powerful digital presence?

rogers curve

Photo credit:  The Fertile Unknown

This, my friends, is what is referred to as Roger’s adoption curve.

According to Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory, diffusion is “the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.”  This theory was made popular by Rogers’ book, Diffusion of Innovations, which was first published in 1962.  On its fifth edition now, the book is still a popular tool for communications professionals, scholars and professors today.

Simply put, innovation must be widely adopted to sustain.

Roger’s adoption curve illustrates the rate at which people typically adopt new technology.  Each of the five categories has its own personality profile.


Photo credit:  The Fertile Unknown

Innovators are typically people that create ideas for new technology or are eager to buy and utilize the latest gadgets (such as Google glass), while most people fall under the early and late majority.

Churches are notorious for being late adopters and laggards.  If you know the characteristics of these groups, it makes senses.  Religious organizations like rules, are creatures of habit, averse to change, value tradition, are sometimes suspicious of new innovations and feel threatened by the “new.”

This blog encourages religious institutions to take advantage of the free and powerful opportunities social media provides, but this will still leave them in the laggard’s category.  The rest of the world is already using social media—in fact, it’s an integral part of the lives of most of the population.  According to the Pew Research Center, as of May 2013, 72 percent of adults online use social networking sites.

What would benefit religious groups in the future would be to become part of the early adopters’ group—to be a “ahead of the curve” as they say.

Churches, mosques, temples, etc. could really gain recognition for being innovators and for truly leading the way in the world instead of dragging behind the times.

I think Edwin Land (yes, the guy who invented the Polaroid camera) sums it up best.

“It’s not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas.”






2 thoughts on “Religious laggards

  1. aaaaaargh

    A small point and then a bigger one. First, credits for images should be visually distinct (different font, italic, etc.) so it’s clear they’re not main text. Second, embedding charts from elsewhere is a problem. A chart is not clip art. It is a designed thing requiring research and development. You’re using a significant piece of someone’s work, and even though you’re giving credit, it’s pretty problematic. Far better to make your own, or just report (and cite) the numbers, or go without. We’ll discuss further in class this week.

  2. samanthacart Post author

    Roger’s adoption curve is widely accessible. I found tons of different charts depicting the same thing, which is why I didn’t think twice about using it. Do you think I should remove it from this post or are you referring to the descriptive chart?


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