I was talking to one of our customers yesterday and he mentioned that his traveling music team often visits churches that are still rocking the old school overhead transparency projectors! This may sound funny, but I kind of miss those days. Back then the most technical thing to know was that to move the lyrics up you had to pull the page down. And if the bulb burned out you could make a quick trip to Radio Shack for a replacement at a cost of under $10.
But then I got to thinking about how the use of old technology can potentially create a disconnect with a younger demographic. So my question is this. Is what we project in our church services accurately representing our church culture? I’m not saying that in order to be relevant you have to have the most cutting edge technology. In fact, implementing technology for the mere sake of having cool technology will more often backfire than be helpful. I had a friend once describe church media like ketchup. If it’s not used correctly it can be a put-off. “I like ketchup on my fries, but not in my Coke,” he explained. What a great analogy.
With this concept in mind, let’s look at what we are communicating on our screens. A simple example would be using media that’s disconnected with the lyrics on the screen. Once I was leading a worship rehearsal and we were singing the song “Let It Rain”. At one point I turned to look at the projection screen and there were the lyrics of the song with an image of a flower behind it. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes and made a comment to the media tech about finding a more appropriate background – perhaps one with rain or water. At the end of the day, is the background really a big deal? In my humble opinion, if it distracts the people from worshiping, then yes.
Now, let’s take that same thought process a step further. At my church we have a “Traditions” service that specifically caters to the older folks. In that service we intentionally keep the house lights brighter, the music is quieter, and the graphics on the screen are simple. In our main service we have the lights down, the stage is bright and colorful, and we use plenty of video. It would be inappropriate for me to use the same media format for the older saints than it would be the millennials that make up the main service congregation.
So my challenge to you would be to look at your media through the lens of the message you are trying to share and the audience you are communicating to. The way you present your message is just as important as the message itself. If you’re singing traditional songs and you use hymnals, then using video backgrounds may not be appropriate. Conversely, if you are singing modern worship choruses and you’re still using an overhead transparency projector, what message are you sending about the relevance of your ministry?