Thoughtful Use & Non-Use of Technology

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- Mavis

I love technology. If you’re reading this blog, you may enjoy it, too. But, even though I appreciate the use of technology, I also appreciate it when people are thoughtful about its use -- or non-use.

Sometimes I hear people seeming to brag about not using technology. They might, for instance, talk about how they don’t use email or Facebook or whatever because they prefer face-to-face relationships. When I hear that kind of remark, I can’t help but feel the person is somehow implying that I, or others who enjoy those social technologies, do not value real, live relationships which, of course, is not true.

I also think that if I were a young person listening to that kind of talk, I might write the speaker off as totally irrelevant to me. I don’t think everyone needs to be a geek, or even needs to ever touch a computer if they prefer not to. I just think that it’s wisest to have an open mind about what technology can do, and to see the potential for good as well as bad -- and encourage the good.

But I digress. Where I was going with this blog is reflecting on the thoughtful use and non-use of technology. When contemplating adding technology to worship -- or any endeavor, for that matter -- it is good to think about our motives and abilities and make sure that we can use the technology in an excellent, God-pleasing way.

One example is the use of the projector and screen in a worship service. I’ve written previously about “looking good for God” with our slides. Most of that had to do with songs and readings, but slides are also often used during the sermon.

We had a pastor at our church who had the most effective sermon slides I’ve seen yet. It wasn’t that they were what you’d call pretty, or artistic, but they were effective. He used graphics and small amounts of text to convey points in his sermon. It wasn’t just fill-in-the blanks or long pieces of Scripture. He even gave his sermon text to the Power Point person with marks at each place where he wanted to slides to appear. He put a lot of thought into the slides and it showed.

Another pastor I know very thoughtfully decided not to use slides during his sermon at all. He said that we look at screens for so much of our lives he purposely wanted not to do that during his sermon. He also did not put the Scripture reading on the screen in order to encourage the congregation to read along with him from the Bible.

I appreciate the thoughtfulness of both these approaches, and that’s the point. One person decides to use a certain technology and another decides not to, and they’re both “right.” They are doing their best to figure out how to use -- or not use -- technology in an edifying way to encourage God’s people in worship.

We all have our personal preferences as far as technology in worship. It’s good, though, to listen to the thought behind it, rather than just pushing for what we may or may not like.

What about you? Have you seen some good examples of the thoughtful use -- or non-use -- of technology at your church? 

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Comments

At a recent meeting, not church related, I witnessed the interesting non-use of technology (powerpoint) by two speakers, who although they had a prepared presentation, decided not to use it, and simply spoke from some notes instead, and left off the projector and slides.  I believe they felt the engagement of the audience increased, and that the audience could live in the moment, in the sponteneity.   So I agree, that thought should be given to this, and that sometimes simply changing the pace is one of the most effective methods of relating the message.

On a side note, not technology related, but somewhat similar, is the use of "liturgy".  I am beginning to find distasteful the common practice of "readings" done by everyone in unison.   To me, it is like bad singing and bad music.   While good readings, ocassionally done, and done for effect, may be uplifting, their common overuse leads to a kind of disharmonious drone that hides rather than helps the message.   Often they are too long, and lack the sponteneity and heart-felt familiarity and sense of renewal that a unison reading should contain.   How often will congregants remember these readings or even be affected by them? 

Rather than so many of these unison readings, perhaps heartfelt "Amen!" s   or repetition of key phrases would be more useful. 

Guide

Whether or not people can read the slides also contributes to, or detracts from, effectiveness. Obviously, if slides are projected when the congregation is invited to stand, then a printed alternative needs to be provided for people who cannot stand. Also, text on the slide needs to be accessible for people with visual impairments. Dr. John Frank wrote some excellent guidelines for using technology in an accessible way.

Thanks, John and Mark. Good thoughts. And Mark, thanks for the link to the guidelines for accesiblility. Good reminder.

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