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Black Churches Going High-Tech To Attract Members

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As we commemorate Black History Month, there is concern in the African American community that its older churches -- the backbone of the civil rights movement -- are losing members.

 But other black churches, many of them less than 10 years old, are attracting young people with different kinds of services and new technology, CBS 2's Jim Williams reports.

This is not your parents' church service. The songs, the clothes, the dancers are Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ, but the presentation at the New Covenant Church is why so many young people, like Takisha Wade and Torrance Barber, come here, Sunday after Sunday.

"The service really pulls in young people," Torrance said. "It's hard when you deal with the type of stuff in street, when kids get deterred so easy, but when you come here, they can really get drawn in."

It's hard to imagine that the New Life Covenant Church is only seven years old and that a mere 50 people were there on that first day. Founding Pastor John Hannah now sees thousands at each of three Sunday services.

"I think if the church is willing to come out of the four walls of the church and bring the church into the streets, then I think the church will experience major growth."

Major growth has also happened because of modern communications tools.

"We have Facebook. We Tweet," Rev. Otis Moss of Trinity United Church of Christ says.

Facebook and Twitter are as much a part of growing churches as tent revivals were years ago.

"This is a techno generation, so if we want to get this generation, you have to use their tools," Hannah said.

CBS 2 sat down with Hannah and Moss and the Rev. Jesse Knox of Good Shepherd.

Their churches are vastly different.

New Covenant and Trinity have multiple cameras and provide live feeds of their services on the Internet. They're using smart phones to connect with members. Moss plans to introduce apps to share information.

But at Good Shepherd, there are no phone apps, no cameras, no Facebook account, and few members at its Sunday service.

"The Gospel is sacred, but they way we deliver it is open," Hannah says.

Listening to his fellow ministers, Knox knows his church will have to change.

"We have to move into that direction. We're in the process of reconstructing not only our webpage, our technological capacity, so we can learn from these strong examples," Knox says.

But the reverend has a dilemma. He can embrace technology to attract young members, but radical changes in his service in music and clothes could turn off the older, conservative members who have been loyal for decades.

He says he would have to find the right moments to make subtle changes.

Check out Jim Williams' first part in this series, 'A Tale Of Two Black Churches'

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