Fog machines, electric guitars, lasers, loud music, and multimedia displays that tower over an audience; these might be items you’d expect to see at a rock show. It is a growing trend now to see this kind of technology in churches.
Whether a Catholic priest is reading his sermon from an iPad or a nondenominational Christian congregation is rocking out in sanctuary designed for a full band complete with electric guitars and drum set, churches are now leaving the old fashioned ways of singing from hymnals accompanied by an organ.
Churches, like Bayside of Folsom, have become accustomed to having a full band play with fog, lights, and lasers. The music is still worship music, but much more contemporary than traditional. The contrast might be a little Lutheran church where the only technology aid might be microphones. The difference is that Bayside has about 5,000 congregation members who are between the ages of 18 and 30, while St. Mark’s Lutheran has just over 200 members, most of which are over 50.
There are a few views I’ve found on technology in churches: traditional, evolutionary, and contemporary. The most traditional views came from some catholic friends I talked to who prefer church to be “analog.” The idea of singing contemporary worship music doesn’t suit them, and they would prefer to sing traditional hymns in Latin.
I personally hold the evolutionary view, where churches can utilize technological tools, such as multimedia screens to display song lyrics. When it becomes too distracting, technology shouldn’t be used. It should enhance the message that is already inherent and not distract from the overall church experience.
Contemporary churches like Bayside draw in huge numbers and put on big shows. Many of the traditional elements of church worship are no longer present. They seek to redefine the experience.
Traditional churches are non-sustainable. They have an expiration date, the elderly will eventually die and there won’t be enough members in the churches to keep it going. In order for churches to remain alive, they are finding this need to adapt to new technology, such as singing contemporary worship music that is on Christian radio, putting lyrics up on screens, or making sermons available online for download.
Even though some of the younger generation appreciate the traditional hymns, they are also more accepting of having lyrics on a screen.
Technology in churches may be a new trend, but it is definitely going to stay. Many former conventianal churches have a traditional service and a contemporary service, one featuring hymns and the other more modern music. If churches want to stay relevant in today’s society, they need to utilize modern tools in their services.