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The Advantages, Challenges and Prospects of (ICT) in the Catholic Church in Nigeria

Updated on April 2, 2018
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ICT AND THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA

1.0 Introduction.

Christianity has heralded a phase of religion that thrives on mission i.e. a mission to evangelize and propagate the message of Christ to the walls of the earth. Each day, the wheel of progress continues to turn bringing about significant changes in human endeavours. Man, the rational animal on the face of the earth, has from unsophisticated methods of communication developed highly sophisticated ways of propagating the Good News and this has brought about what we call Information Communication Technology (ICT) hence, changing the way we engage with people and understand our world.

It is quite pertinent to note that we now do things differently than we were doing a few years ago like in the 1930s, 1940s and this rapid change has continued to date. It has affected our cultures, economies, and political activities, religious and general wellbeing. Like other realms of society that are responding to these transformations in order to gain stability and overcome daunting challenges brought by new technology, Christianity is believed to follow this path. A number of Christian churches have reviewed their strategy of mission by taking advantage of the ICTs to transmit the word of God to people who are yet to embrace or live out the faith.

To this effect, this paper shall examine and analyze the approaches to the use of ICTs in the Catholic Church in Nigeria. Addendum to this, the advantages, challenges and prospects of ICT shall also be discussed and afterwards the conclusion.

2.0 Clarification of Terms.

Information: Information refers to the knowledge obtained from reading, investigation, study or research.[1] The tools to transmit information are the telephone, television and radio etc. We need information to make decisions and to predict the future. For example, scientists can detect the formation of a tsunami using the latest technology and warn the public to avoid disasters in the affected area.

Communication: Communication is an act of transmitting messages. It is a process whereby information is exchanged between individuals using symbols, signs or verbal interactions.[2] Previously, people communicated through sign or symbols, performing drama and poetry. With the advent of technology, these older forms of communication are less utilized as compared to the use of the internet, email or video conferencing.

Technology: Technology is the use of scientific knowledge, experience and resources to create processes and products that fulfill human needs.[3] It is pertinent to note that technology is vital in communication.

3.0 Information Communication Technology (ICT).

ICT is defined as the combination of informatics technology with other, related technologies, specifically communication technology.[4] ICT is a technology that supports activities involving information. Such activities include gathering, processing, storing and presenting data. Increasingly these activities also involve collaboration and communication. Chowdhury (2002, p.23) writes that ICTs encompass technologies that can process different kinds of information (voice, video, audio, text and data) and facilitate different forms of communications among human agents, among humans and information systems, and among information systems. They are about capturing, storing, processing, sharing, displaying, protecting, and managing information.[5] Duncombe and Heeks (1999, p.128) simplify the definition by describing ICT as an “electronic means of capturing, processing, storing and disseminating information”.[6] Information and communication Technology (ICT) has become, within a very short time, one of the basic building blocks of modern society. Many countries now regard understanding ICT and mastering the basic skills and concepts of ICT as part of the core of education, alongside reading, writing and numeracy.[7]

4.0 The Place of ICT in the Catholic Church in Nigeria.

The word church means assembly. The Greek word ‘Ekklesia’ refers to any assembly, local bodies of believers.[8] The church is a covenant community whose members are responsible to edify one another.[9] The church is meant to set the right pace for everything, including the use of technology for God’s divine purpose. More so, information sharing is the vehicle to fulfilling the church mandate of propagating the gospel, and to be effective in the dissemination of information requires the knowledge and resources available for the job to be done. Before the hubbub of 21st century technology, church ministry was well managed with a strategy of Pastor-Member relationship. Church leaders used the pulpit, accurately in effectively relating with, managing, and leading their congregation. But today, there have been radical changes in the above strategy due to the unprecedented impact of ICT. New technologies are not only changing our way of communicating, but are a pedestal to living through a period of vast transformation. In the last two decades, there has been adoption of ICT in contemporary church communication for growth with varying levels of adoption across countries and church groups. [10] The activities and management of the church in this new age of globalization is so huge and important for the church to take a close look of happening around with the lens of fulfilling the great commission. The church cannot pretend to wait to see the outcome before steps are taken to get on board since sharing of information is vital to its expansion. Pope John Paul II once said “We are called to use science and technology in a full and constructive way, while recognizing that the findings of science always have to be evaluated in the light of centrality of the human person, of the common good and of the inner purpose of creation.”[11]

However, a discourse on the place of ICT in the Catholic Church seems inexhaustible due to the dynamic trends in technology that arise daily because the place of ICT in the Catholic Church is somewhat wide. Some of the areas where ICT can be practically seen are:

Church Branding: The concept of branding is the use of distinctive means to make customers associate a specific product with a specific company or manufacturer. Today, church ministry has evolved to a brand. This in the most scintillating manner, was made possible via technology especially Internet Technology which comprises Social Media e.g. Facebook, Google plus, Skype; Emailing e.g. Yahoomail, Googlemail; Internet/Satellite/ Local Television Ministries via Youtube, Podcasts.[12]

Church Mass/Service: Modern technology has emerged to enhance the worship experience of the congregation in the celebration of the holy mass/church service. Media telecasting equipment’s are been used in Churches now. A viable example is that of St. Kizito Catholic Church, Iju, Lagos[13] which makes use of Projectors, Digital Sound Recording systems for televising masses. In addition, Projectors, giant Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screens, High Definition Cameras, Digital Sound Recording equipment’s, LCD Digital Podiums/Pulpits are been used today in most of the Catholic Churches in Nigeria which enhances pastoral teachings. Modern musical instruments built with top-notch technology, modern beautiful and electrifying lighting systems whose ambience can make a sorrowful soul suddenly smile, now abound in churches and worship centres all over the world.[14]

Church Security Systems: Nowadays, “Safety First” has become a common clichés as the threats to life and properties increase on a daily basis in a somewhat wicked world. The use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Hackett Mental Detectors, Mobile security communication gadgets, electrical barb-wired fencing and well-trained security/bomb defusing experts have been extended from Banks, Embassies, Government establishments and multi-national corporate offices to the church. [15] In the Archdiocese of Lagos, the Man of Order and Discipline Movement[16] do ensure that security is of utmost concern. Parishes like Saint John Igando, Lagos and Holy Family Catholic Church, Badagry, Lagos employ the services of these trained security personnel to ensuring peaceful and habitable environment during masses.

Church Data Storage: Anywhere people are gathered, data (records) must be kept. The era of file folders, file index, file storage units/lockers are gradually disappearing. Every detail are now being stored electronically, hence the use of technology to enhance data storage in church ministry is not overemphasized. Hewlett Packard (HP), Pillar Data Systems, Samsung Storage Technology and Oracle Incorporated have spent millions of dollars in years of research which have resulted in building complex and highly secured Cloud Data Storage facilities for multinational companies, governments, religious institutions all over the world. Storing membership data in the most electronically organized manner can help church leaders become more intimate with their members and this trend can enhance church leaders-members intimacy as churches can send customized birthdays/anniversaries wishes, upcoming events, prophetic prayers, job offers etc. to members and even nonmembers alike, just with a click within few seconds.

Furthermore, members who require some form of help e.g. jobs, financial, marital, and educational, housing/accommodation, relationship, etc. can be easily identified via accurate data supplied by such members.[17]

5.0 Advantages of ICT in the Catholic Church in Nigeria.

“Communication in and by the Church is essentially communication of the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is the proclamation of the Gospel as a prophetic, liberating word to the men and women of our times; it is testimony, in the face of a radical secularization, to divine truth and to the transcendent destiny of the human person; it is witness given in solidarity with all believers against conflict and division, to justice and communication among peoples, nations, and cultures”.[18] The advantages of ICT in the Church cannot be overemphasized as we have been able to see practical ways by which ICT can be helpful in the Church. The use of ICT is relevant to many activities and programs of the Church— evangelization, including both re-evangelization and new evangelization, catechesis and other kinds of education, news and information, apologetics, governance and administration, and some forms of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. Although the virtual reality of cyberspace cannot substitute for real interpersonal community, the incarnational reality of the sacraments and the liturgy, or the immediate and direct proclamation of the gospel, it can complement them, attract people to a fuller experience of the life of faith, and enrich the religious lives of users. It also provides the Church with a means for communicating with particular groups—young people and young adults, the elderly and home-bound, persons living in remote areas, the members of other religious bodies—who otherwise may be difficult to reach.[19] In line with this, the advantages of ICT in the Catholic Church in Nigeria shall be outlined and discussed.

Computer-based Church Management: Church Diary e.g. accounts of banns of marriage, ordination, anniversaries; attendance Analysis and New convert follow up and membership; Church Financing Accounting; evangelical outreach and lastly virtual learning which helps in bible training and in the process of conversion of people to Christ.

Administration of Churches

Bearing in mind the above discussion in the management of the church, one can now have a broad spectrum on how Church leaders can make adequate use of the components of ICTs for proper office management, dissemination, storage and retrieving of valuable information and ideas.[20] In a formal organization, like the Catholic Church, there exist clear channels of communication systems. But for brevity, the Downward Communication shall be discussed.

This system of communication is much initiated by those in the realm of affairs like managers, Church leaders sent down to their workers (employees) or members of the Church. This in essence means a superior giving instruction orally or written to a subordinate worker(s) or Church member(s) to execute some activities, or just a feedback. It is worthy of note that this system of communication is used by Church leaders and managers of organizations for many reasons – like communication with their subordinates to feed them with some vital information, instructions, to share information, to criticize, to command and to motivate (Kelly et al, 1989:27).[21] And the major channels Church leaders (Catholics) use in downward communication include: The chain of command, bulletins, posters and bulletin boards, circulars and encyclicals, hand bills and Church periodicals, annual report from various associations and committees etc.

6.0 Challenges of ICT in the Catholic Church in Nigeria.

The myriad of problems and bottlenecks that have arisen in the provision of ICT especially in developing countries, especially Nigeria, include low tele-density, insufficient telecommunication infrastructure leading to congestion, unreliable network design, poor interconnectivity, insufficient human resources development, poor maintenance culture, vandalisation of facilities, and exorbitant/unjustifiable billings and poor recovery strategy.[22] As we enjoy the gains, positive impact of ICT, it is crucial for us to also look at the possible challenges of ICT in the Church. One of the issues prominent in the use of ICT in today’s world is the Internet. Now the question is: what are the challenges of the use of internet in the Catholic Church in Nigeria today? It is important to be clear about what is not. At a very deep level, “the world of the media can sometimes seem indifferent and even hostile to Christian faith and morality. This is partly because media culture is so deeply imbued with a typically postmodern sense that the only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths or that, if there were, they would be inaccessible to human reason and therefore irrelevant”.[23]Among the specific problems presented by the Internet is the presence of hate sites devoted to defaming and attacking religious and ethnic groups. Some of these target the Catholic Church. Like pornography and violence in the media, Internet hate sites are “reflections of the dark side of a human nature marred by sin”.[24]And while respect for free expression may require tolerating even voices of hatred up to a point, industry self-regulation—and, where required, intervention by public authority—should establish and enforce reasonable limits to what can be said. The proliferation of web sites calling themselves Catholic creates a problem of a different sort. As we have said, church-related groups should be creatively present on the Internet; and well-motivated, well-informed individuals and unofficial groups acting on their own initiative are entitled to be there as well. But it is confusing, to say the least, not to distinguish eccentric doctrinal interpretations, idiosyncratic devotional practices, and ideological advocacy bearing a ‘Catholic' label from the authentic positions of the Church.

In addition, some challenges of ICT also include: Inadequate financial resource; lack of technical know-how; electricity; limited internet access, technophobia; lack of maintenance culture; conservative nature of people; inadequate ICT infrastructures.[25] Most of the technological devices need power supply to function well. The issue of power has been a major problem in Nigeria over the years and this has affected most of the Catholic Churches in Nigeria. More so, the prices of some technologies are too expensive, that they are not affordable for some parishes. This is because most of the raw materials used for producing these technologies are imported from foreign countries, thereby resulting to increase in cost of production.

Lastly, another challenge is that of lack of maintenance culture amongst the lay faithful and priests who spearhead these catholic churches. Maintenance of some technologies that are spoilt are not repaired, instead are abandoned or thrown away.[26]

7.0 Prospects of ICT in the Catholic Church in Nigeria.

In looking at the futuristic use of ICT in the Catholic Church, it is worthy to note that an effective integration of ICT into a community of believers becomes an enabling force for sustainable development. Whether we like it or not, in the nearest future, the new ICT tools will rapidly find their ways into the Church and thereby creating a global village of worshippers. Conventional wisdom holds that the application of information and communication technologies is a good drive both in rural and urban areas towards economic, social and cultural development.[27] The potentials of ICT application can be viewed from the common terminologies that are used in almost every sector in the society. For instance, telemedicine, e-learning, tele-commuting, e-banking, are ICT applications that make it ultimately possible for developing societies. The Church cannot shy away from the fact that these ICT tools helps to improve the quality of life and worship system.

However, as noted above, the virtual reality of cyberspace has some worrisome implications for religion as well as for other areas of life. Virtual reality is no substitute for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the sacramental reality of the other sacraments, and shared worship in a flesh-and-blood human community. There are no sacraments on the Internet; and even the religious experiences possible there by the grace of God are insufficient apart from real-world interaction with other persons of faith.

Interestingly, the importance of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in management of the Church and in other areas makes a good case for urgent action by the Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria in this respect. We are today in a global village as predicted by Marshall McLuhan some decades ago and nobody can afford to be left behind.[28] While we look forward to a virtual community of believers in the Catholic Church in Nigeria, more concrete and realizable communication policy should be articulated and packaged, which will guide all the communication activities and actions of all dioceses.[29]

Lastly, a massive appeal should be made to all Catholics Agencies in and outside Nigeria for financial assistance towards realizing the communication objectives[30] and the Catholic Bishops Conference should send out promising and intelligent priests and members of the laity drawn from all the Parishes on comprehensive computer training course in a good computer school anywhere in the country. The aim is for these people to learn and come back home and train others. My concept for this is, “Training of future trainers programme.”[31]

8.0 Conclusion.

The impact of ICT cannot be overemphasized, since information is very paramount in one way or the other. While the development and use of ICT in the Catholic Church in Nigeria offer new tools for evangelism and effective management of parishes, it is puzzling to find that most of the Catholic Churches in Nigeria do not have computers in their Parish offices and houses much less cyber-cafes. A debilitating result of this has led to a derailed production of important Church documents like baptismal, birth, death, marriage certificates and many other important Church documents.[32] A possible solution to this problem lurks in the utilization of the various ICT platforms to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Hence, through the adoption of mobile phones and internet access, information will be transparent making ICT have direct positive relationship with economic growth, social and all round national development.[33]

For us to truly fulfill our task of evangelizing the world in the digital age we should not remain in the realm of social analysis but we should be involved in the social action by integrating and embracing the use of ICTs in our parishes. Lastly, adequate funding of the procurement and maintenance of ICT equipments as well as the engagement of ICT expertise should be considered.


[1] Cf. Introduction to Information and Communication Technology, accessed June 1, 2017, smkstictcd.wordpress.com/files/2009/10/notacd01.doc

[2] Cf. Introduction to Information and Communication Technology, accessed June 1, 2017, smkstictcd.wordpress.com/files/2009/10/notacd01.doc

[3] Cf. Introduction to Information and Communication Technology, accessed June 1, 2017, smkstictcd.wordpress.com/files/2009/10/notacd01.doc

[4] UNESCO, Information and Communication Technology in Education (France: Division of Higher Education UNESCO, 2002), p. 13.

[5] Cf. Chowdhury, N, “Poverty Alleviation And Information Communications Technologies,” Towards a Motif for the United Nations ICT Task Force Dec. 2000, http://www.eb2000.org/short_note_19.htm

[6] Cf. Duncombe R. & Heeks, R. (1999). Information, ICTs and small enterprise: Findings from Botswana’, IDPM Manchester Working Paper No. 7, November 1999, http://idpm.man.ac.uk/idpm/diwpf7.htm

[7]Cf. UNESCO, Information and Communication Technology in Education (France: Division of Higher Education UNESCO, 2002), p. 3.

[8]Cf. Matthew 16:18 (New Jerusalem Bible)

[9]Cf. Ephesians 5:19 (New Jerusalem Bible)

[10] Cf. Bolu A. Christian. The Church in the Contemporary World: Information and Communication Technology in Church Communication for Growth: A Case Study. Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol. 4(4). Pp. 80-94, April 2012. Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/JMCS

[11] Cf. Pope John Paul II. Common Declaration, Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Venice, 2002. Accessed June 1, 2017. https://www.faithandsafety.org/technology-and-the-church#_ftnref1

[12] Cf. Imagbenikaro Goodness Osarumwense, “The Place of ICT in Church,” accessed June 1, 2017, http://idreamzmedia.com/the-place-of-i-c-t-in-church-ministry-a-must-read-gr8karo/

[13] Cf. Saint Kizito Catholic Church, Iju, Lagos, accessed June 1, 2017, http://stkizitoiju.com

[14] Cf. Imagbenikaro Goodness Osarumwense, “The Place of ICT in Church,” accessed June 1, 2017, http://idreamzmedia.com/the-place-of-i-c-t-in-church-ministry-a-must-read-gr8karo/

[15] Cf. Imagbenikaro Goodness Osarumwense, “The Place of ICT in Church,” accessed June 1, 2017, http://idreamzmedia.com/the-place-of-i-c-t-in-church-ministry-a-must-read-gr8karo/

[16] Cf. Daniel Anazia, “MOD Celebrates Founder’s Day in Style, “The Guardian Newspaper- Saturday Magazine, https://guardian.ng/features/mod-celebrates-founders-day-in-style/

[17] Cf. Imagbenikaro Goodness Osarumwense, “The Place of ICT in Church,” accessed June 1, 2017, http://idreamzmedia.com/the-place-of-i-c-t-in-church-ministry-a-must-read-gr8karo/

[18]Cf. Aetatis Novae, no. 9. in Pontifical Council for Social Communications: The Church and Internet (Vatican City, 22nd February, 2002).

[19]Cf. Pontifical Council for Social Communications: The Church and Internet (Vatican City, 22nd February, 2002).

[20] Cf. Iyere Imhoghemhe John. “Information and Communication Technologies in Management of Churches: A Study of Catholic Diocese of Idah, Kogi State.” (PG/M.A. Thesis, Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, December 2008), p.36.

[21] Cf. Kelly, L. (1989). Communication in the Workplace: A Guide to Business and

Professional Speaking. New York: Harper & Row Publishers in Iyere Imhoghemhe John. “Information and Communication Technologies in Management of Churches: A Study of Catholic Diocese of Idah, Kogi State.” (PG/M.A. Thesis, Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, December 2008), p.37.

[22] Cf. The Role and Prospect of Information and Communication Technology in National Development, International Journal of Computing Academic Research (IJCAR) ISSN 2305-9184 June 2013, pp.113-119

[23] Cf. John Paul II, Message for the 35th World Communications Day, n. 3 in Pontifical Council for Social Communications: The Church and Internet (Vatican City, 22nd February, 2002).

[24]Cf. Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media, n. 7 in Pontifical Council for Social Communications: The Church and Internet (Vatican City, 22nd February, 2002).

[25]Cf.”Challenges and Prospects of ICT Development in Nigeria,” accessed June 1, 2017, http://infotechcommunication.blogspot.com.ng/2015/11/challenges-and-prospects-of-ict.html

[26] Cf. “Challenges and Prospects of ICT Development in Nigeria,” accessed June 1, 2017, http://infotechcommunication.blogspot.com.ng/2015/11/challenges-and-prospects-of-ict.html

[27] Cf. The Role and Prospect of Information and Communication Technology in National Development, International Journal of Computing Academic Research (IJCAR) ISSN 2305-9184 June 2013, p.115.

[28] Cf. Iyere Imhoghemhe John. “Information and Communication Technologies in Management of Churches: A Study of Catholic Diocese of Idah, Kogi State.” (PG/M.A. Thesis, Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, December 2008), p.85.

[29] Cf. Iyere Imhoghemhe John, Information and Communication Technologies in Management of Churches: A Study of Catholic Diocese of Idah Kogi State, p. 86.

[30] Cf. Iyere Imhoghemhe John, Information and Communication Technologies in Management of Churches: A Study of Catholic Diocese of Idah Kogi State, p. 86.

[31] Cf. Iyere Imhoghemhe John, Information and Communication Technologies in Management of Churches: A Study of Catholic Diocese of Idah Kogi State, p. 86.

[32] .Cf. Iyere Imhoghemhe John. “Information and Communication Technologies in Management of Churches: A Study of Catholic Diocese of Idah, Kogi State.” (PG/M.A. Thesis, Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, December 2008), p.83.

[33] Cf. The Role and Prospect of Information and Communication Technology in National Development, International Journal of Computing Academic Research (IJCAR) ISSN 2305-9184 June 2013, p.119.

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