Technology in ministry

Bill LaneConnected

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I live just north of Silicon Valley, the heart of technological development. Technology changes almost daily but in the church, we change our technology at a very slow pace and often fall way behind. The use of newer technology changes how people connect with the world and each other. It even changes how we learn. Three areas in the church that technology could enhance are education, worship and evangelism.

Although technology has already entered into Bible studies and meeting spaces, many churches are still behind. While churches used film strips and videos to enhance lessons years ago, little has been done to change the way we they are shown. Most churches have not upgraded to Blu-ray players, plasma screens, or WiFi in classrooms. And upgrades are often to a noisy video projector with a laptop connected to it. In many colleges today smart whiteboards have replaced chalkboards. These smartboards display notes, images, video clips, and save what is written on them to be recalled or printed later. Teachers can log on to any board and bring up their presentation and notes. Possibilities in churches are just as great. Imagine, no more need to set up and move equipment. How about doing away with recorders and big Post-it© notes? The result would be a more interactive and dynamic presentation.

Churches would do well to follow the example of colleges today who are using online and webcast courses. We can modify and simplify this technology to meet our needs for teaching the Gospel. With a webcam and Internet connection, you can tune in live to the classroom and even interact with each other. Parents would not need to get a babysitter to participate in an evening adult education class. It is very easy to make DVDs so a Bible study can be recorded and sent to those who cannot attend the classes or need to make-up a lesson.

In the past 10 years, as video projectors became widely available, churches have struggled to use them effectively. One reason is where to put them. We do not want to ruin the look of the sanctuary, and there are often lighting issues to overcome. My church’s answer was plasma screens. They are bright and mounted on swirl stands, which are easy to move and see. Video clips also project much brighter and clearer than on most other projectors.

Another big change in duplication has been the transition from cassette tapes to digital recording. About three years ago, we stopped recording our worship services on cassette tapes and switched to digital. We use a small simple data recorder with UBS connector to transfer the data to a computer. With a digital recording, we make CDs, sermon podcasts, and archive the services. The CDs are burned on a bulk CD/DVD burner/printer, which gives our CDs and DVDs a nice look that includes our name and logo.

Other technological enhancements in worship are live streaming, QR codes, and tablet control for music and/or projections. Look for one of the several sites where you can live stream your worship service for free. This is a great outreach to persons who are shut-in, family and friends who cannot attend a memorial service and new people in the community who want to check out your worship service.

Another new technology that could enhance the ministry of the church is QR codes that are like barcodes. Using a smartphone or a tablet, you scan the QR code and it connects you to simple information, such as phone numbers or a Website address. Imagine placing the QR in your narthex with the message, “Scan to download today’s bulletin.” Worshipers could use their tablets and smartphones, be paperless and take the bulletin home on their devices.

Technology can also assist when we are short-handed in worship. If a band member is missing, plug the tablet with the Band-in-Hand app into your mixing board. It allows you to select the songs and the missing instrument. Then you are ready to play and sing with a full band sound. If there is no one to work the computer for the projected material, get one of several remote presentation apps. For example, the Media Shout software has an app so you can view and control the program from your tablet.

Use technology as a tool for evangelism. Think outside the box about outreach ministries. You could hide a geocache or deploy Munzee outside your church. Geocaching is an electronic treasure hunting game using GPS. Munzee is a QR scavenger hunt using smartphones. This would lead people to your church property and maybe entice them to check out the Sunday worship service. How about putting a QR code on the marquee to connect people to your Website? You could build a “Wherigo” cartridge that told about the history and programs of your church as people walked around the building. “Where You Go” is a free app for loading a “whereigo” cartridge on your smartphone from the “wherigo” website. You could make your own church app with a direct link to your church website, church calendar, daily or weekly devotion, and anything else you choose. In addition to websites and Facebook pages, churches should explore ways to post videos on YouTube, like sermon starters, announcements, and Bible study introductions.

We are called daily to spread the gospel into the world, a world with newer and rapidly changing technology. We should find ways to use this new technology in education, worship, and evangelism. God blesses us with wonderful gifts of technology and can help us in our ministry. I challenge you to explore how technology can help your church reach the world with the good news.

Bill Lane serves as associate pastor for Community Presbyterian Church in Vallejo, CA. His primary responsibility is youth and children’s ministry. Bill has been working with children and youth and their families for over 20 years. He has led many workshops and been the speaker a several events in the area of Christian education, with an emphasis on community building, youth, children and family ministry, and games and recreation. Bill is also a tech geek. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, kayaking, Dutch oven cooking, playing board games and geocaching.