This post is Part 2 of Bridging the Generational Technology Gaps. The first part (here) examined the different generations. In this post we’ll look at some specifics on bridging the gaps.
Before I start, it bears reminding you that there is more to targeting the generations than just tweaking your technology. And though this post is specifically on targeting the generations, I simply want to remind you that you have to rethink your complete worship strategy to reach different targets such as:
- Those who grew up in the church and those who’ve never set foot in a church
- Those who are young and those who are not so young anymore
- Those who appreciate the classics and those who disdain the classics
- Those with different learning styles
Although this post won’t deal with stylistic issues, we have resources that do (see ChurchTalk.tv and EffectiveChurch.com).
Bridging the Generations
1. Worship Technology and Bridging to the Radio Generation
The assumption here is that you have a number of radio generation worshipers in your congregation but you also have a number from a younger generation, or you have a commitment to reach younger generations.
- Technology Bridge: The addition of screen technology
- Introduction Helps: As the radio generation ages, their eyesight often fails. Introducing screen technology provides a viable alternative to large print (and the stigma of large-print).
- Objections: (A) Inability to see the musical score. (B) Covering up the cross or some other “sacred” furnishing. (C) Cost.
- Responses: (A) Only an estimated 10% of the population can read music. Those who want to see the scores can sing all or most songs from hymnals. (B) Move the furnishings or screen locations when possible. Offering to use a retractable screen is disingenuous, since reaching younger generations will demand use of the screen throughout the whole service. When it is not possible to move sacred furnishings or screen location, appeal to reaching children and grandchildren. (C) Screen technology costs have dropped drastically, though it’s rarely cheap. But the cost of not reaching younger generations is more expensive in the long run (and honestly, in the short run too). A number of denominational publishing houses have either stopped or are considering stopping the publication of hymnals. Not buying hymnals could save publishing houses and churches a lot of money.
- Technology Use: Use screen technology with words. Project lyrics and responsive readings, and outline the sermon. Ensure that the fonts and colors are easily visible and contrast well with the background. This is how most churches natively use screen technology without specific training.
2. Worship Technology and Bridging to the Image Generation
- Technology Bridge: The addition of images and video, including live camera feeds
- Introduction Helps: Make sure images complement and do not compete with the words on the screen. Use powerful images during communion, offerings, etc. Add video strategically. Make sure illustrative vids are directly and obviously related to your point. Avoid any scenes or vocabulary that could be objectionable. Use live camera feeds to project activities up front that might not be visible from the pews, such as children’s moments, baptisms, etc.
- Objections: (A) Cheesy or inappropriate videos. (B) Vanity – for example, the preacher’s face up on the screen. (C) Cost.
- Responses: (A) Introduce video a little at a time and be exceptionally judicious with your video selection. (B) Add the sermon videos to your website and point shut-ins, people who have missed a service, etc. to the site. Point out that those in the back cannot view the pastor’s facial expressions … and projected video helps. (C) What is the price for seeing your grandchildren’s faces on the screen when they’re participating in the children’s time? In addition, as stated earlier, the cost of not reaching younger generations is greater.
- Technology Use: Use screen technology with images. Move gently towards a more image-based screen presentation. Add video clips from selected movies, television, YouTube, etc. Check out SermonSpice.com. Create your own videos, particularly interviews and “commercials” using congregational talent. For more on this, see Seth Godin’s article on how not to use PowerPoint (or any other presentation software).
3. Worship Technology and Bridging to the MTV Generation
- Technology Bridge: The addition of multiple videos and a live camera feed, developing a theology of light, and some use of connectedness.
- Introduction Helps: Increase the use of video strategically. Make sure illustrative vids are directly and obviously related to the service. Use shorter clips with faster transitions. Add lighting strategically (begin by using existing lighting … as in turning it off, directing it, etc.). Invite use of texting to supplement the service.
- Objections: (A) Too much/too slick. (B) Can’t see to move around (lighting). (C) Cell phones/texting have no place in worship.
- Responses: (A) Increase the use of video judiciously. (B) Make sure there is enough ambient light. (C) The use of this technology simply acknowledges what is and what is not going away. The kids are texting anyway; why not focus that to a good use? In addition, those who don’t want to participate don’t have to (and be sure that the use doesn’t create an “in” and “out” crowd).
- Technology Use: The use of video again needs to enhance rather than detract or distract from the message. Be intentional about developing a theology of light. Use texting and interconnectivity to enhance the group experience.
4. Worship Technology and Bridging to the Digital Generation
- Technology Bridge: The addition of connectedness and networking.
- Introduction Helps: Keep it as embedded as possible.
- Objections: Technology and the Internet have no business in church.
- Responses: The use of this technology simply acknowledges what is and what is not going away. And again, those who don’t want to participate don’t have to (and be sure that the use of this technology doesn’t create an “in” and “out” crowd).
- Technology Use: Start with open access WiFi (or closed access with the login plainly available throughout worship). Get a cell phone transmission booster if necessary. Then add the use of the most current social media tools. One example is using a Twitter hashtag (do a search for #occdoc to see an example of using this technology in a worship service). Have someone “staff” a smartphone to follow the comments and respond to questions in real time. Some churches may want to display their Twitter feed, Instant Messaging feed, etc. on the screen so that the up fronters can follow it and respond. Create a Resource Page online with links to augment the sermon such as links to alternative scripture translations, hymn or song background stories, alternative views, etc.
For more detailed information, take a peek at this Church Talk episode.
Question: How do you use technology in your church services? Where do you draw the line? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section below.