I just finished reading a book synopsis on a flight to the deep South. Sheena Ivengar’s Art of Choosing provided me some grist to grind as I secret-shopped a mid-sized church in Texas (with an average worship attendance of around 300). Although this church hosted both traditional and contemporary worship services, I noticed in both services a few people using tablets and smart phones throughout worship. Although the presence of these devices hardly surprised me, I couldn’t help being amused because there was nothing in the worship service that would have invited their use. In other words, these folks were keeping themselves occupied (ostensibly multi-tasking) while the rest of the service rolled on around them.

In Ivengar’s book, she cites a number of studies that indicate our near-genetic need for choice and for active participation in our environments. In my experience, few Western worship services offer more than a modicum of participation opportunities. In fact, as I’ve pointed out in the past, our modern worship services are modeled more on the Old Testament paradigm than on anything that resembles the New Testament church. Keep in mind that the New Testament church didn’t host worship services that were anything like what passes for worship services today. There was no proclamation (preaching) to the believers in the NT… preaching was limited to pre-Christians. Those who were in the fold participated in dialog (conversation) around the faith. I’ll not go into more detail about the differences except to point out that in the Old Testament, the worship was generally led by a few who served up front while the congregation passively looked on … sure, they participated in signing and in bringing their offerings, but that was pretty much it. The professionals pretty much handled everything else. Sound familiar?

The worship service I visited could easily have created opportunities for those with smart phones, tablets, netbooks, and even laptops to interact with the service and those around them by providing live links to additional resources, a moderated chat room for questions and feedback, and so on.

Ivengar reminds us that we have an innate need to participate and the digital age has provided us with exceptional tools to facilitate that participation. So, what are we waiting for?

How do you enable your church’s congregation to get involved digitally with your church services? What are some ways you can provide even more interaction opportunities? Share your thoughts and ideas in the Comments section below.