Churches Embrace Technology to Enhance Services

( [email protected] ) May 18, 2004 08:37 AM EDT

As churches are becoming more tech-savvy, traditional ways are being “upgraded” to provide services enhanced with the latest technology in efforts to bring in more believers and to draw in the crowds that would otherwise not attend traditional church gatherings.

One such church is Littleton Church of Christ in Denver, Colorado. Like many churches across the country, the congregation is testing out new ways of enhancing service through technology.

The church as re-wired its intercom system to bring in a teleconference interview with a Sept. 11 survivor and has shown clips from the move “Braveheart.”

Beginning in the 1980’s, churches began to move away from traditional services, incorporating pop-culture into praise music to compete with other churches in calling in attendees. Technology has become the new playing field for the church competitions.

"As soon as churches move beyond a screen for lyrics, it creates some divisiveness," said Quentin Schultze, a professor of communication at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the keynote speaker Saturday at a conference in Denver that will help congregations integrate new technology into worship.

The cost of equipment has gotten so low today that many congregations are experimenting, said Schultze, author of the recently released "High-Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely."

Schultze said many traditions are committed to at least PowerPoint presentations in worship - the Roman Catholic Church discourages innovations in the Mass and is lagging behind the most.

Increasingly, churches are using technology beyond flashing Bible verses, song lyrics and sermon messages onto projection screens.

More churches are using projection screens for more than simply flashing Bible verses, song lyrics, and sermon messages and are beginning to show documentaries of mission trips, and some are screening home videos of newly baptized members, Schultze said.

One outgrowth of such efforts is a greater integration of visuals into worship as a whole, Schultze said, such as the re-emergence of liturgical dance. Many congregations at the forefront of visually rich worship are geared toward young adults.

But churches like Peace Lutheran Church in Arvada who appeal to older generations, are also hopping on the band-wagon. After opening a new 750-seat sanctuary last month, it installed two large projection screens so "people are able to look up more than down," said the Rev. John Larson, an associate pastor.

The family life minister of Littleton Church of Christ, Joe Burns commenting on the church’s embracing of technology said, “We’re trying to meet people where they're at and introduce spiritual things to them in the world they're in," Burns said. "We don't feel like we're compromising the word of God."