"Many small churches seem to believe that new tools for ministry are outside of their budget range or may not be significant for a church of their size. It may be, though, that such thinking contributes to the continued small size of some of those churches." George Barna
The blinding pace of new technologies introduced every year can challenge even the brightest and best of us. But it can also overwhelm and nearly discourage a local church.
Where does a local congregation focus their vision, their effort or their dollars in trying to stay current with technology? How do they effectively reach an increasingly mobile membership when budgets are so tight? And how can technology support the main mission — that of keeping the message of Jesus Christ front and center?
One thing is certain: If we don't do our best with the basics it's likely a waste of time and money to pursue more cutting-edge opportunities. We should strive to be well above average in two key areas of church ministry: audio/visual presentation and the church website.
Why? Because our churches should be a transparent window in representing a God of order and excellence, as well as the Lord of creativity.
Audio Visual Excellence
Most members benefit from high-level technology throughout the week, at work, home, and even in their cars.1,2 Poor quality and lowered expectations at church are an embarrassment for us all — and a turn-off for visitors.
REALITY CHECK #1: If your church's equipment is more than a decade old, it's time to consider an upgrade. The devil knows poor production quality is a distraction to the intended message. That's why so much effort is lavished on public media productions that have nothing to do with Christ. Satan wants to make it as easy as possible to choose his way. We should care as much about making it easy for people to learn about God and making a decision to follow Him.
But it takes more than good quality sound equipment. Our churches need attentive, trained audio volunteers committed to high production values — so God's presence and message come through clearly without distraction.
REALITY CHECK #2: If your church's data projector is more than six years old, it's time to replace it. More than 50 percent of your community's households now have one or more high definition television sets.3 How can we spend money on bright new visual screens at home and tolerate dim, dark images at church? We can do better by lifting Jesus up each Sabbath in bright, clear graphics.
There have been significant improvements in data projector technology during the last six years, especially in size, brightness and resolution. When pondering a new projector for your church, consider one that is able to accommodate a 16:9/10 image ratio. And, because technology moves so quickly, purchase one that's as bright as you can barely afford. It won't become obsolete so quickly.
REALITY CHECK #3: Has your platform or house lighting ever been updated? You might not think of this as "technology," but a key element to helping your church members and visitors focus on the spirit of worship is lighting — both for what happens on stage and in the congregation. Compare how you feel when you visit a church with a dark and dim platform to how you feel when you visit one that is bright. How does either affect your participation in the service?
An Up-to-date Website
Some time ago I was alone when my family was visiting other family over a weekend and I thought it would be interesting to visit another church, just for something different. So I did some Google and Bing searches for churches in the Northwest. What I found was disappointing. Some churches had the address and directions to their location but no service times listed. Others looked like they hadn't been updated in months or years.
To be effective, Web technologies must be relevant and timely. Otherwise your church is shouting to the world: "Hey, we're boring and out of date! And we really don't like visitors!" Your church's website may be the first impression you give to a potential visitor. An active, updated website may help ensure their first visit isn't their last.
Adventist churches have two inexpensive services to help them initiate a website: AdventistChurchConnect, run by the North American Division through AdventSource, and netAdventist, managed through the General Conference. Some churches, however, have apparently decided that once they set up their basic site with one of these programs, they don't need to do anything more.
Hire a graphic designer to help create a professional and pleasing look. Get feedback from church members and strangers on what would make it better. Include content that helps your website visitors get to know your church and why you meet each week. Make it quick and easy to get to the best parts, like what and when things are happening, how to contact key leaders, and audio or video recordings from past services or events.
Put your best on display for the world to see.
These recommendations are not about spending money on frills. New technologies are to our society today what the printing press was to earlier generations. Can we imagine being silent while the world moves on without God's message?
It's about staying true to the basics, in the best and brightest way, for Him!
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