Technology becoming more important for worship

Give me that new-time religion.

According to a 2010 Faith Communities Today national survey of 11,077 congregations, Internet technologies are being employed by a large majority of churches, especially mega-churches, or those having 2,000 members or more. The use of email by religious groups has more than doubled from a decade ago, rising from 35 to 90 percent. Use of websites rose from 33 to 69 percent in the same time period.

Nevertheless, many churches with smaller congregations are also embracing new technologies. First Baptist Church of New Carlisle, with 200 active members, has both a website and a Facebook page. Sometime after 2006, major changes began happening during Sunday services.

“Our senior pastor began to incorporate multimedia into his sermons, an outline in a PowerPoint form, video clips, and using audiovisual,” said FBC Associate Pastor Jeff Christmas. “He received lots of positive feedback for doing that.”

That church’s longtime senior pastor, Rick Shoemaker, passed away two months ago, and they used technology for a 2013 Christmas Eve tribute.

“He had written ‘A New View of Christmas,’ and we had five of the scenes on video, with the last scene live,” said Christmas, who was 14 years old when Shoemaker began as pastor at FBC.

There is a Church Media U seminar scheduled at Crown Plaza in Dayton this March 27. Christmas attended an earlier Media U seminar in Indianapolis in 2006.

“Our church was pretty much traditional rural church and we hadn’t been using multimedia at all at that point,” he said. “It was an excellent introduction to the topic for us at the time. We ended up purchasing a projector system for worship lyrics and videoclips.”

The church also provides Sunday sermon audio messages that congregants can download, organized by date.

“Occasionally we have videos available if there is a children’s program,” said Christmas.

These are some of the topics that this one-day church media seminar covers: maximizing technology in your ministry, video projectors and hardware, presentation software, media design/fonts/layouts, enhancing worship with media, video recording/streaming, video camera systems, using Facebook and YouTube, and environmental projection.

There are three presenters involved in these seminars:

Darren MacDonald of Shepherd Multimedia, has 20 years of experience in the technology industry. He has personally designed thousands of church projection systems. He’s known as a “tech-geek,” but one with the sensitivity not to make it too overwhelming for volunteers to master.

Camron Ware, founder of Visual Worshiper, who guides and mentors churches through what technology means for today’s congregations. He is a freelance lighting designer and VJ who likes to create authentic, transformational and engaging worship experiences.

Josh Lyon, operations manager and co-owner of Shift Worship. He creates visual media and short films for churches. He mentors church professionals to use technology to tell stories, not just embellish worship services. He stresses illustrating truth, inspiring praise and motivating action.

“The seminar was straightforward and easy to understand, with knowledgeable leaders,” said David Steffee, a past tech volunteer at First Church of the Nazarene in Springfield, who has attended two Church Media U seminars.

Registration for this one-day seminar is 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., with the seminar scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Individual consultations follow the last presentation. Those looking for help with specific challenges regarding their sanctuary or meeting space should bring blueprints, diagrams and pictures of their facility.

In that same study, Faith Communities Today found that “roughly 50 percent of faith communities with major tech use indicated a lot of their members are involved in bringing others into the congregation.” Additionally, “congregations with a greater use of technology, especially when combined with electronic instruments and projection screens, are more likely to describe their worship as innovative, joyful, thought-provoking and inspirational.”

“It was really the most informative seminar I’ve been to,” said Christmas. “The presenters were excellent and the individual attention was great, both at the seminar and after.”

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