Technology Can Bolster The Church – Within Limits

As a Christian community, our worship is rooted in ancient traditions, yet in an attempt to stay relevant, many churches have begun to adopt modern – and even outrageous – new practices. At Embassy Church International in Atlanta, for example, worshippers are treated to fog and aerialists, while many neighborhood churches have built up worship bands and introduced high-tech media displays. All of this has faith leaders wondering, when is it all too much?

The secret to using technology in worship settings is that less is more. Your choices should foster engagement, but technology shouldn’t be a barrier to engaging with God. It’s also beneficial if the technology serves multiple purposes in our community.

Supercharging The Sermon

Smartphones are a point of contention in many churches. They can be a distraction, ringing during prayers and interrupting the sermon, or they can supplement worship, allowing parishioners to quickly look up references or take a few notes. Regardless of how you think about smartphones in the pews, though, the reality is that everyone has them, so you might as well put them to holy use. And many churches are doing just that by adopting the YouVersion Bible app.

The YouVersion Bible app is a free digital Bible, but it’s also much more. Ministers can also use the app to share sermon notes with the congregation, helping them to engage more deeply with theological discussions, understand what the preacher is citing, and keep listeners engaged. It’s easy to lose congregants in the course of a sermon as their minds drift to less Godly topics, but worship-centered apps like YouVersion can help.

The Theater Of God

If you think about the traits of a chapel and a movie theater, it quickly becomes obvious that they have many features in common: they’re often dimly lit, have a lot of seats, a central point of focus, and a quality sound system. In fact, they’re so similar that the Redemption City and Soma City churches in Ohio hold worship in their town’s Cinemark. This is part of a national partnership with Cinemark in which churches across the country are bringing worship to the movie theater before normal Sunday showing times.

Worshipping in a movie theater isn’t for everyone, of course, but theaters themselves have become a staple of many churches and any church with an empty room or old chapel can install one. All you need are theater-quality blackout blinds or heavy shades to dim the space, a screen, and a sound system. Then your church can screen movies as part of youth or Sunday School events, host your movement choir in the space, and more. A church movie theater is really another multifunction space that can drive engagement across many different groups.

Congregations Go Online

When Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them," he probably assumed that people would gather in the same physical space. In the age of the internet, though, we also gather in digital spaces, and churches would do well to facilitate that. Even without direct church support, 25% of Americans already seek religious information online, a group that Pew refers to as Religious Surfers. They email prayer requests, download religious music, look up devotional materials, or just keep in touch with others in their church.

In fact, keeping church communities connected is one of the most powerful aspects of connecting congregations with the internet. That’s why a growing number of churches now broadcast their services online and make the videos available on demand so that homebound or traveling parishioners can still participate in worship. At large churches where there may be several different sermons on a single Sunday, this approach also allows community members to hear multiple messages but only attend one service.

Just because we live in the 21st century doesn’t mean that the church needs to adopt all of the trappings of the modern world. In fact, in many cases, it’s our responsibility to resist those very temptations. Still, when technology brings us closer to God and to each other, then it is within the mission of the church to employ it. When we gather in worship, how we choose to come together can take many different forms.

The Christian Post