Let’s rip off the bandaid.
Churches that do technology well get called McChurches. Churches that don’t do technology well get called Old-Fashioned.
Both insults are unfair, and are often rooted in pride or jealousy.
So, whether you’re a church with a lot of gadgets or a church that’s way more analog than digital, let’s aim for the same goal: be tasteful.
I’ve been to churches with some really neat toys that abuse them. It feels like a concert, the tech is distracting, and the production feels like an offense to the concept of stewardship. It isn’t tasteful.
I’ve also been to churches that have an old projector poorly aimed at a tragically-placed screen. In its own way, it’s distracting. It isn’t tasteful.
The amount of technology used in a church is almost completely irrelevant. What matters is how you use it. Be tasteful.
But practically speaking, what does that look like?
Here are seven church technology tips:
1) It’s all about the screens.
Whether you’re a tech-driven church with lots of projectors or a church with a minimalistic approach, where you place your screens makes a huge difference. Don’t hang them in odd places or places that frequently cause you to look away from where the worship leader or pastor are standing. Get the resolution right. If you are projecting at a 4:3 (full screen) aspect ratio, use a screen with that same ratio. If you’re projecting a 16:9 (wide screen) aspect ratio, use a 16:9 screen. Be strategic, not ultilitarian, about the placement of screens and the projection onto them. Do the work to get them right or don’t do them. A bad, distracting screen is worse than no screen.
2) Get the slides right.
Take the time to edit song lyrics. It doesn’t take long to do the work of making sure the slides have the right words in the right order. Type-A people in your church can’t focus on worship when the slides are behind, misspelled, or out-of-order. This doesn’t make them unholy, it makes them human. Slides are supposed to be aids to worship, not distractions from it. No slides are better than bad slides. If your team isn’t at the point where you can have a reliable person to make or run the slides, don’t do them.
3) Care about graphics.
Yes, it’s another point about the screens. I’ve seen large churches with a lot of screens and smaller churches with one screen make egregious design mistakes. The worst offenses are pixelated or stretched/condensed images. Whoever is responsible for creating the slides must know the resolution of your screens and make sure the images you project onto them are high resolution (LEGAL) images. If you simply download images from Google, you’re likely getting low quality image… and probably doing so illegally. There are so many great sites out there today that exist to provide high-quality, high-resolution images for free. There are also sites that do church-specific design for bargain prices. Also be sure that when you scale an image that isn’t originally formatted for your size screen (a widescreen video on a full screen projector) that you either crop it or scale it down. Images that are squished or stretched to fit are ugly and distracting.
4) Invest in the right sound equipment.
You don’t need an extremely expensive and large sound system. Depending on what your service entails, you may only need a few pieces of equipment to make things work. However, invest in equipment that makes your service as distraction-free as possible. Use a wired microphone unless you can afford a quality wireless microphone. If you’re unsure what your church really needs versus what is a want, contact me. I’d be more than happy to review your site’s tech needs to see what’s necessary and what can go on the dream list.
5) Move slow on the moving lights.
If you’re a tech-heavy church and you’ve bought some moving lights, good for you. Please don’t overuse them. Lighting can be very beneficial in helping people tune their hearts to worshipping Jesus. Certainly people can praise the Lord just as well under flourescent light as professional stage lighting, but lights can be a useful tool. But don’t go overboard on the movers. Anything with that kind of movement can become an easy destraction from the focus of the song: which is to worship Jesus. Be careful.
6) Capture effective audio.
The technology behind recording sermons is easy and cheap, but many churches don’t capture it well or make it available online. This is a bare minimum expectation (rightly or wrongly) in the American church. Truly, it isn’t difficult and can make a massive positive impact on your church as the congregation re-listens to teaching throughout the week or catches up if they were gone. The goal of the recording is to capture the audio as if the listener were there. Distraction-free audio is well-balanced and properly recorded. If you need help, contact me.
7) If you can’t do it well, don’t do it.
Great tech requires a team of knowledgeable people. Your church may have dreams about having IMAG in the service or expanding lights or adding screens, but it takes more than merely buying equipment. Whenever you add a new aspect to your church’s tech, be ready to provide additional training and add more team members to make it happen. If your church isn’t prepared to do it well, don’t do it. Technology truly can enhance worship, but it can also cause major distrations.
Remember that technology should be used tastefully in worship. Blurry images, too-frequent moving lights, wrong lyrics… all of these things are avoidable. Strive for excellence, and allow technology to help elevate your congregation’s experience of worshipping Jesus.