“Who Wants to be a Millionaire” Meets Church Service through Response System Technology

( [email protected] ) Jul 29, 2004 08:50 PM EDT

Living Word Fellowship in Fort Lauderdale, FL is experimenting with an electronic audience response system in efforts create a more interactive and exciting service. The technology includes a computer, two receivers and 70 "Personal Response" keypads that service attendees can use to do more than just sit and listen.

During the sermon, attendees can punch in answers to the pastor’s questions that appear as colored bar graphs on two large screens. Although the system is still in an experimental state, the response has been very positive.

Franklin, a regular service attendee said, “I was skeptical at first; I thought it would be an intrusion on the service. Then I saw it in action. Now I take a keypad every Sunday.”

Pastor Palmisano uses the devices every week, including several questions in each sermon. The devices -- used in college lectures, management training sessions, and TV shows like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” – provide instant feedback for both the congregation and the pastor.

"My grandparents listened to radio; I grew up on TV; our kids are into computers and videos," says Palmisano. "And we all want input. I used to assume what my congregation was thinking. Now I know when I'm engaging them. You can even see everyone with a clicker lean forward intently."

In one of his sermons, Palmisano investigates family problems through the stories of the Joseph and Jacob in the book of Genesis: "While Esau was out throwing passes, Jacob was home vacuuming," he says. "But he needed his father's affection just as much. Is it possible that Jacob treated his sons the same way? Many times children have pain in their lives because they feel 1) that they don't measure up to the other children in the home; 2) that the parents are divided because of them; 3) unable to gain acceptance by one or both parents; 4) all of the above." The responses are 70 percent A.

In another part of the sermons Palmisano asks: "Do you believe that God can remedy wrongdoings in your own family?" A green bar shows a 95 percent "Yes" response.

"If you have issues in your family life that need fixing, stand up,” says Palmisano. Perhaps 100 do so and the other congregants pray with their hands stretched toward them.

Living Word is apparently the only church currently using this technology according to church expert J. Gordon Melton. "Ministers are always looking for ways to improve participation in worship. As costs become more feasible, we'll likely see more things like this," he said.