Religion plus IT equals big money and parishioners will foot the bill

You may not think of your local church as an IT hub or even a small business, but guess again! It turns out that these humble houses of the holy are expected to become a global IT spending machine over the next few years. In fact, according to a recent report, this branch of the tech economy could generate as much as 40 billion dollars by the year 2017. And, this isn't just a United States phenomenon, but a global one.

According to Asheesh Raina, principal research analyst at Gartner, "Religion has a great influence on high-growth regions such as Latin America, Africa, the Arab world and South Asia, thus compelling new entrants and incumbent IT providers to seek new opportunities with religious entities".

Developing nations are the principal driving force behind this new avenue of technology spending. That in itself may be the most surprising part of the whole report, given that North America is home to lots of technically savvy churches with social media outreach and evangelism campaigns, mobile communications trees, and even live streaming sermons for those want to stay home and watch online.

So what is driving this hidden, but growing market? Gartner cites several factors. There are, of course, the previously mentioned developing markets across the globe, but there is also the sheer commercialization of religion itself which has created new business opportunities never dreamed of in days gone by.

In days of yore, the church had the most high-tech communications and record-keeping systems available, which amounted to a little more than tower bells and scribes. Many years later, Christian churches successfully embraced the revolutionary possibilities of spreading the faith via radio broadcast, and then eventually through television. The modern communications revolution means there are plenty of churches just looking to modernize, and entrepreneurs can cater to that need with services such as digital record keeping, networking and outreach, streaming broadcast, and audio-visual production.

The church these days is as much a business as it is a lifestyle, and you would be foolish to think of it as anything else. They may not be in it for profit, but they need to generate revenue to feed their employees and ever-increasing political lobbying.

And where there's business, there's business opportunity. Churches that haven't embraced modern technology present an opportunity to entrepreneurs looking to get in on the ground floor of a lucrative tech development project.

Still, it may be disheartening for church donors to see their hard-earned money go to servers, TV-quality broadcast equipment, Web designers, and computer kiosks. Would that make you think twice about dropping those coins in the collection plate?

Photo: Lisa F. Young/shutterstock

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