The case for using media technology in church goes well beyond the "Wow" factor. In fact, using media is proven, effective way of connecting and engaging with 21st century congregants. Jeff Taylor is the media technology director at Charlotte, NC-based Christ Lutheran Church (www.christelca.org). At WFX 2013 in Dallas, Taylor led a session entitled, "Understanding and Harnessing Media to Help People Grow in Faith."
The purpose of the session wasn't to teach attendees how to use media, but why to use it. "Many churches jump right in and starting using high-tech media without asking the one question that needs to be asked: Why use media?" Taylor says. "Churches can use media to grow a person's faith," he explains. "But remember: Media is here to help enhance the message, not become the message."
Media for Content's Sake
There is no doubt that church attendance is falling nationwide. As Taylor says, "The number of Americans who don’t attend church has increased dramatically since 1991." Taylor is quick to point out, however, that the decline in church attendance does not necessarily signify a decline in spiritual matters. "Polls show Americans overwhelmingly believe in God," he says. "Just don't expect to find them in church." Given there is still an interest among Americans in spiritual matters, Taylor believes it is important for churches to focus on the content, rather than the "Wow" factor alone. "Media can enhance the worship and learning experience," Taylor restates.
According to Taylor, studies indicate 21st century audiences require supplemental effects and sounds to keep them attentive. Media shouldn't distract from the message, but it should be used to enhance it. "Media is the language of the world today. Many churches are adopting the idea of audio visual aids, including the use of sound and video clips and other tools." In order to entice audiences, these churches have moved beyond the "lecture experience" to presentations that include motion, color, sound, music, and drama.
Questions to Ask First
Before churches roll out the high-definition projectors and butt-kicker subwoofers, they should first spend some time thinking critically about their media goals. Taylor suggests churches answer these key questions before implementing a procurement, integration, or content plan:
- Can we add digital content and various media styling to our worship services without offending our core?
- How conservative do we need to be with our supplemental digital media? How much is too much?
- What type of content will we need to create and/or purchase? Illustrations? Photos? Video clips? What other media content would make sense?
- Which types of media will work best for us? What equipment types and/or software programs are required?
Three Things to Remember
Taylor says plans will fall into place for churches that keep these three principles in mind:
- Know the Congregation Each church has a different vibe and a different set of demographics. These will have to be considered. "At Christ Lutheran Church, the average age is 35," Taylor says. "This enables the tech director to use certain clips that might not be suitable for younger crowd or appreciated by an older one."
- Learn from Others Are there other churches that are doing things with media that you appreciate or admire? Consider the ways other organizations use media to help deliver messages. Emulate or take inspiration from these creative efforts.
- Remember the Message "The message should comes first," Taylor warns, "not the content being used."
Provided that churches incorporate these guidelines in to their worship, they can use media to effectively enhance the experience of their congregation and audience.
GEOFFREY OLDMIXON (www.Oldmixon.net) is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer and editor.