My basketball coach in high school, Jim Swan, used to say “Live by the jump shot, die by the jump shot” meaning when your shot was on you did really well, when you were off, things were not going so well.
The same can be said for technology in the church. Live by technology, die by technology. I am a huge fan of leveraging technology to present the Gospel and believe the church throughout the ages has leveraged technology to present the Gospel. However, while technology can be a wonderful tool, it can also be dangerous. There is nothing worse than buying a piece of technology for a bunch of money and having it sit in a closet. Or, there is nothing worse than the computer freezing in the middle of a video in the midst of a message. And, no matter how well we prepared and how many times we have tested technology it will fail from time to time. This truth does not negate the need to do all in our power to ensure the technology complements the Gospel message not interrupts it.
To this end here are six tips to leverage technology in the local church.
- Buy decent technology. Don’t always default to the cheapest piece of equipment. This is not to say you have the buy the most expensive. Buy for value, not for cheapness.
- Buy what you need in the way of technology, not what you saw some other church utilizes. For example, most churches do not need camera magnification up on the screen of a live feed of the pastor or band. People can easily see these persons in most churches. You are not the Crystal Cathedral or Willow Creek. Save your money.
- Test your videos before every service. There is nothing worse than a video that freezes, only downloaded half way, or one that skips because the computer is running slow. Test them. Every single on of them.
- Test all your mics before the service. Batteries are cheap, replace the battery in wireless mics every service. Not much worse than a mic on someone that won’t work or the terrible noise of feedback to from worshiping God.
- If you use lights, test your lighting. Know at what points they are to change or come in or go out and the colors needed.
- Ensure the worship leader actually runs through the lyrics quickly before worship even if they were the ones who put it all together. Things change during rehearsal or on Sunday morning. All the lyrics should be on the screen.
What am I missing? What other things do we need to do so that we can leverage technology for the Gospel?
There are many important questions to ask when designing or revamping a church website. One question that is central to the design process has to do with the intended audience. Is the site designed for those who already attend the church to gather information about stuff going on inside the church? Or, is the site designed for the guest who is looking for a church to attend who has come to gather some information anonymously before coming to the church?
A church website designed for insiders is full of information. It looks like the Yahoo search page. It is busy. It is filled with insider lingo and with items a guest really doesn’t care much about discovering. There is a list of small groups or Sunday School classes and their location. There is an announcement that the men are selling BBQ dinners or the women’s group is collecting pennies for Guatemala.
A church website designed for the guest is simple in design. It is minimalistic. It looks more like the Google search page instead of the Yahoo search page. It has large conspicuous buttons that say something like “New Here?” or, “Guest” or some other indication that lets someone know if they click here then they will learn more such as where to park, how to dress, what the worship is like, etc.
Even still, some websites are designed as both/and. They are for both the guest and the member. These websites might have multiple buttons. Maybe an “I’m New Here” and an “Already Attend” button on the homepage. This is the hardest of the websites to create and maintain because it is like blended worship, you have just enough of the “other” to make people mad.
In the end, my choice has always fallen on the side of leaning toward designing a website with the guest in mind. I think it is OK to have some church happenings listed as it shows what the church is involved in and shows the church is active and vibrant. Again, it is a matter of balance with the balance leaning toward those whom Jesus loves that are not there yet. Committed followers of Jesus can find information elsewhere and be inconvenienced and make the sacrifice. After all, it is the least a follower of Jesus can sacrifice when they consider the cost of the cross.
How is your church website designed- for the guest, for the member or for both?
If your church has a Facebook Page then one way to increase your engagement with persons and get more “likes” is to include a Facebook Like Box on your website.
What is a Facebook Like Box? A Facebook Like Box is a small box usually placed in the upper right hand corner of a website that visitors to the website can click on to “like” that organization’s Facebook page. Simply by clicking the Facebook Like Box on the website the “like” registers on the organization’s Facebook page and the visitor to the website never has to go to Facebook and thus never leaves the organization’s website.
The Facebook Like Box can be set up in a few different formats according to your preference for color, size and layout. You can also direct it to show the Facebook friends of your visitor who have already liked the organization’s page. If none of their friends have liked the page it will just show the profile pictures of others who have liked your Facebook page.
There are at least three clear advantages to using the Facebook Like Box Widget.
- Persons do not have to leave your page to like your Facebook page. Why give Facebook more visitors (they have enough already) and why tempt your website visitor to be allured away to Facebook quickly forgetting your site.
- By including the Facebook Like Box Widget on your site you will enhance your credibility through social proof. Persons will perhaps see they have friends who have liked your page and they will be more apt to like your page.
- You will increase the number of likes for your Facebook page thereby increasing the level of engagement with members and potential guests at your church.
To learn more about the Facebook Like Box Widget or to download it for your WordPress site then go here.
When technology is done well in a worship setting it can enhance a worshiper’s experience of God. When technology is not done well it can distract. One way to enhance instead of distract is to ensure you have great worship slides Here are six ways for making your worship slides great.
- Make them bright and crisp. Ensure the slides created are appropriate colors with the text color easy to read on the background color. Think about font choice as well. Now is probably not the time to be experimenting with new fonts with scripts. Equipment wise- make sure your projector is throwing off enough lumens that your picture is crisp. Make the investment in a good projector, it will be worth it.
- Make them visible. While churches are sometimes limited by the constraints of church architecture, do your best to make your slides visible. A center screen is best or two side screens. Make the screens large enough. Ensure when everyone stands up to sing the persons in the back can still see the screen.
- Limit the words. Less is more when it comes to the number of words on a screen. When less words are used the font can be bigger. The rule of thumb I have tried to stick by is no more than four lines per slide.
- Limit the busyness. Adding pictures to slides with text can be effective but be certain to not make it too busy. Again, less is more here. Think about how hard it is to read text on a slide when the background is a bustling city scape. If you must use such a background experiment with making it transparent.
- Ensure slides have meaning. Don’t just have slides to have slides but ensure they have a purpose and meaning. Too many slides and people stop paying attention. Do you really need to tell people every part of the service they are experiencing?
- Preparation is key. As the saying goes, “Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.” Whatever presentation software you utilize ensure your slides are in the correct order. Check the timings. Look them over for silly spelling errors. In short, when it comes to these slides give God your best not your rushed.
What might you add to the list above?
By and large technology is a gift to the church and the church should redeem technology in every way it can to present the unchanging good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and hungry world. Like most gifts, however, technology can be a double edged sword.
When I played basketball in high school my coach used to say “Live by the jump shot. Die by the jump shot.” What he meant was that when your jump shot was “on” and you were making shots that was great, but when your jump shot was “off” and you were missing shots it would kill you. The same can be said about technology in the church. Technology utilized to present the gospel can enhance such a presentation or it can detract.
A well thought out, planned and selected video can be a great set up for a message or a great illustration within a message. Using a html newsletter can help facilitate communication in the church. Having a Facebook page and regularly updating it can keep people feeling connected to your church. These are all good things.
And then there is the other side. A video that is choppy or stops takes away attention from the message. A website that has not been updated since 1998 and still plays midi files says this church does not care to keep up with the times. Song lyrics projected on a wall through PowerPoint with only a white background with black words says worship is not important enough to prepare for. Terrible!
In my experience there are two major ingredients for redeeming technology for the sake of the missional mandate of the church.
1. Do technology with excellence particularly with the creation and use of technology. Technology is like utilizing drama in the church, if you are not going to do it well don’t do it at all. Do the very best you can creating slides, websites and electronic newsletters. Do the very best you can connecting technology to what you are doing in worship so that it enhances worship as opposed to just putting up a video to be “cool.”
2. A related ingredient to redeeming technology is to prepare well. Run your video through before the service to make sure it’s working right. Look over your slides for silly errors. Make sure items are appearing on your newsletter as they should. Look- Hey Jack!- all who have used technology know that no matter how much you prepare things will go wrong that are beyond our control. That is part of the risk of using technology. But if you can do all in your power to adequately prepare you will minimize those times.
God forbid it that the gift of technology would hamper the presentation of the gospel.
Where have you seen technology used well, or not so well, in the church?