22 Sep, 2020 5 Ways Technology Is Changing The Church
by Suzanne Badger
Technology in 2020 is pretty much inevitable. We can’t get around it! But, it has changed the way we experience everything. You no longer have to drive to the grocery store, just order from your couch! Some of it is good, and some of it isn’t! Here are the 5 ways technology is changing the church.
1. Live Streaming & Audio/Visual Challenges
When the pandemic hit, churches all across the states were trying to find a way to make services streamable online. Some churches, while opening at a lower occupancy, continue to make the streaming available to their congregation.
“We actually have had a great response and our church has come together not only to help our other members in need but to help other people in our community,” one pastor said during announcements recently. In fact, this church does something rather remarkable. It is called “At The Movies” and every summer Brazos Fellowship is treated to a cut version of a popular movie like “Hidden Figures,” “Peanut Butter Falcon,” and “A Star is Born.” Pastor Will Lewis began doing this at his College Station, Texas church to appeal to families during the summer months when the college students are gone and the church has less of the 18-24 year old demographic.
He shows a portion of the movie and builds his Biblical message around the movie, preaching on the hard topics like self-esteem, forgiveness, and trust in relationships. The ATM series became the most popular series the church has done. It’s the one time a year where it’s completely acceptable to bring in soda and popcorn and bring a friend who won’t feel awkward about attending a church service. It brings in the seekers and the congregation members under one roof during a time that isn’t Easter or Christmas.
It’s convenient for everyone:
When the pandemic hit, and churches were closed down, the summer began to look a little different and the ATM Series had to pivot a little. Because of streaming and copyright laws the church could not do a recorded version of ATM. Therefore, they had to stream the ATM series with the movie in a live format for each of the services. The worship team for the church did their songs from the church. The messages and movies were streamed live. Because of the pandemic, the streaming service of the ATM Series was watchable for people who had left for the summer. Even with an empty building, the Brazos Fellowship staff realized their reach was broader than they thought possible.
2. Apps Transforming the Church
About 20 years ago there were a few doctors who brought their pagers and cellphones into the church out of necessity. Today, if you look out into the congregation you will see a sea of people using their phones in the middle of service. Are they reading their Bible on their smartphones, taking notes, or texting a friend? It may be hard to tell the difference, but the fact is, the Bible YouVersion App is one of the more popular apps in Christian Life. This app has all different translations of the Bible, Bible Studies/Devotions, a Live event where the church posts their notes to the sermons, and a section of the app where you can post your prayers or participate in praying with others (friends you make on the app).
3. Video Games at Church?
Of course, video games would be in the top 5 ways technology is changing the church! To be more seeker-friendly, many churches offer arcade games via the Xbox or Playstation. Walking into some youth groups, you feel the vibe of “Jesus is cool and we are too.” And while these are definitely attractors to the church, the message within the walls must not be watered down, nor should the leadership forget the power of personal connection. The Barna Group did a study and found that close personal relationships with an adult inside the church made the young adult more interested in staying as they grew.
In one church in England, a couple of years ago, the pastor set up a video game at the front of the worship center during a technology-enriched service. The game was made by Abzu and it explores the depth of the sea. The church was using this game to teach about the adventures of Jonah.
4. Church Facebook and Social Groups
Many churches use Facebook Groups as daily quick newsworthy channels. “Family supper will be spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesday, and the church basketball league will clean up the tables in the gym before practice.” In addition, if there is inclement weather, the church has been able to use social media to get the message out quicker. Some churches segment men and women’s groups to make their information tailored to their audience.
Prayer is one of the most powerful tools in the Christian life. Some churches are using WhatsApp to communicate prayer requests, others are using apps. In fact, there are several prayer apps that claim to make the practice of praying easier.
Here are 3 of them:
*Pray!: lets you set reminders to notify you of prayer requests. This is one of the apps you would use to schedule a prayer. No more telling someone you will pray and forget to do so; this allows you to get a banner at the top of your screen to remind you. It’s very user friendly and free.
*Prayer Prompter: Do you ever get distracted or have trouble concentrating when you are praying? If so, this is the app for you! It gives you prompts, suggestions on passages to read, and pray back. It is a little more difficult to navigate but still worth trying.
*Instapray: You will need to create an account. Consider the following people who are also on this app so you can pray for them. There’s a GROUP feature that allows you to create a private group and share that information with your small group, church, or family. You can set up reminders and get updates instantly. It is very user friendly. This is one of my favorite out of the 5 ways technology is changing the church!
I was involved in discussing churches sharing prayer requests via email or social media a few years ago. Someone asked whether sharing a request violated someone’s HIPPA. Many of the people involved in the conversation were involved in church leadership on a national level. The point was made that if private health information was shared out as a prayer request it could be considered as gossip. Or shared to the point that a church could be liable! The apps seem to be a way to allow people to group together and share prayer requests without involving the actual church administration.
5. Podcasts Have Altered the Church
The podcast space has taken off like gangbusters. Name a preacher you see on TV or hear on the radio and chances are they have a podcast too. In fact, there are so many Christian podcasts now that Misty Phillip formed a Christian podcasting conference called “Spark.” By the way, Misty is a great podcaster, you would be wise to check out her show, “By His Grace.” Making a list of the top 20 would take too much space.
Those are the Top 5 Ways Technology is Changing The Church
All of these wonderful tools should never take the place of real relationships. Most importantly our relationship with God. Technology may make our lives a little easier, it can also distract us from what is important.
Which reminds me, I need to go make dinner now!
Suzanne Badger is a native Texan and has worked in radio, television, and the music business.
She is a Christ-follower, autism advocate, songwriter, skincare consultant, and a classic radio enthusiast. Suzanne is happily married (for 27 years) with two children and two dogs (Brittanys).
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