Technology in Worship - Pros and Cons
May 1, 2012
Updated February 27, 2014
7 comments 5409 views
I would say that the majority of our worship spaces have either been built with technology in mind or have been retrofitted with technology in the past years. I would say that most of our worship attenders think that “the screen” is the ultimate use of technology. But is it wise to use technology in worship? What kinds of technology draw us into worship? When does technology detract from worship?
I read an article about churches employing new technologies in worship. The use of Wi-Fi and social media in some form has become an acceptable means to reach out to the next generation. In one church people were allowed to tweet the pastor a question and he would read the question and address it as a part of his message. Another church was able to post twitter messages on the projection system and the entire congregation was able to read the message. I also was at a concert where the performer actually used a tablet device to view the music he was performing.
But is all of this technology “stuff” good in worship? Does it loose our focus on worshipping God? What about those who plan and prepare for worship week after week? What are some of the practical and theological implications that keep us using technology in worship? '
Maybe we haven’t thought about it much, so Iet us look at some of the obvious technology devices that are used. The most popular is our audio systems. We are always looking for a better microphone, a better soundboard, a better processor, improved monitor systems. What are the pros and cons in what I consider a better toy in the toy box?
Projection/Video systems. Screens are the “hot topic” around my congregation. We do not have a screen at this point. I’m not voicing my opinion on whether a screen should be installed or not. I will gladly use it if that day comes; I am also content with not using it. I have worked with them in the past and have found great satisfaction and great frustration all in the same week. What are the pros and cons of using projection – theologically, practically, ease of use for the worshipper?
We use CD and DVD recording devices for our shut-ins and others who would like a copy of the service. We also have a secure Wi-Fi, not necessarily for implementation for the use in worship, but for the congregation to access their electronic devices (outside of worship) in the church building.
What do you use? How do you like it? List them all, software, particular devices, etc. What’s working, what’s not working?
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wondering why you say "we also have a secure Wi-Fi . . . for the congregation to access their electronic devices (outside of worship)." I love using YouVersion to look up the Bible texts on my smartphone. I can check out different translations from what's projected on the screen and from the printed Bibles.
I do also love the idea of tweeting during the service, perhaps because I've been to a lot of conferences where that's a common practice during the workshop to help people process what they are hearing and go back to it later . . . also to share insights with their followers.
Our Wi-Fi was setup for the congregation with a different purpose mind other than worship. Although, it is never disabled and so it is available during worship.
thanks for your comment.
Certainly a good post with lots of good questions for each ministry to ask itself. That said, I take a little exception to one of your sentences.
"What are the pros and cons in what I consider a better toy in the toy box?"
I do know exactly what you mean, but the use of the term 'toy' implies frivolous or unnecesarry. What we're talking about here are tools. And different tools are going to be required for different ministry situations. Not every ministry is going to want, need or even value every tool available but that does not negate the value of that same tool in a different ministry context.
Do you have a facility large enough to require audio amplification, if so then you'll need the following tools: amps, mixing board, mics, speakers.
Do you value the quality of that sound, if so then you'll probably need upgraded audio equipment, signal processors, etc.
Do you value singing new songs prior to their availability in print form for the congregation, if so then you need the ability to project words: computer, software, projector(s), screen(s).
Do you have a congregation that values the use of handheld devices for scripture, notes, twittering questions, if so you need wifi and other infrascruture.
and so on and so on...
it's all about what a congregation values and what tools are available to them to put in their toolboxes.
An interesting post. Before employing technology one should always ask, "Will this service and/or message be enhanced by the use of technology?" If technology is employed then it is essential to do it well, insuring that is accessible to all those attending. For example at Exponential last week in Orlando they employed background loops behind the music. Never use background loops! The competing images make the slides difficult to read. Their music slides were not accessible to those with vision problems.
As one who advocates for the use of technology my one axiom is: technology that distracts is worse than no technology at all.
If you are going to employ technology, you should and master Garr Reynold's PresentationZen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Berkley, CA: New Riders, 2008) before deploying it.
darwin k. glassford
calvin theological seminary
Even more critical is the enhancement of the worship experience through "sound" amplification. The volume, clarity and provision of sound for the hard of hearing. For the most part, it can't be done without quality "toys". You will be frustrated by buying cheap.
"If they can't hear it, they won't come!"
Technology in church life must allow more people to participate in worship, not fewer people. As an example of technology that cut me out, I had to quit looking at the song lyrics at a church because I grew sick to my stomach from the rapidly moving background. Here are some ideas for increasing participation: John Frank has written many excellent pieces on using technology for usability and accessibility including these two: Optimum Readability of Computer Projected, Printed, or Internet Text and Using Computers For Inclusive Worship. Also, not only should church leaders think about sound amplification, as another comment says, but also they should consider hearing loop systems which dramatically improve involvement in worship by people with properly equipped hearing aids. See A Baker’s Dozen Frequently Asked Questions about Hearing Loops. I wrote an article about churches that have used technologo to enhance participation by people with visual impairments include bulletins and newsletters in Braille, and a ministry that offers free theological books and commentaries for people with visual impairments. That article is part of an entire issue of our newsletter, Breaking Barriers, that discusses various uses of technology to enhance involvement in church life.
Don't know how I missed this entry, but I'll comment now... better late than never.
I think the bottom line is that in this new world of technology where cell phones and internet are an integral part of our western society and Mp3 players and computers are regular attachments we, as the church can use them in positive ways to engage people in ways they understand.
As a musician I am thankful for loops I can play through my computer during worship to support the music. A strong, decent quality sound system is a must in order to enhance the musical part of the worship experience that helps draw people in. If you are using cheesy, low quality equipment and have not trained sound people to mix a full band (if you have one) then people hear poor quality. And when you live in a world where people go to hear favorite bands at the local pub with a great sound system, they will notice poor quality sound and, whether we like it or not, will find that it effects how they listen and participate.
While I think we should always consider how we use technology, we should always balance it with the question, How is this helping people engage in worship in the most relevant way?
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