**I met Dan back in the days of college. We have both gone our own ways, but have stayed somewhat in touch. Since he has started at the cross current church, I've been watching from afar and enjoying the work they've been doing. I enjoy seeing churches trying to communicate in new, effective ways. It can only happen from trying and Dan is doing a great job. Here's Dan!
In March of 2006, I got this crazy dream burned into my heart to start a church that was solely about reconnecting people to Jesus. I had been a youth pastor for about 6 years up until this point and just had this feeling like I wasn't aligned with who I was created to be. After getting permission to start a new church from the church I was currently at, my family and 4 other couples embarked on a journey into the abyss of the unknown. We called up SilverCity, secured the rent, bought a big sound system and started meeting! 3 years later, we have grown in every way possible and learned a whole lot of what TO do and what NOT to do.
As a church we love using technology and the implications it has on spreading the gospel in a way never done before in the history of the world. But like everything that can be used for good, it brings with it some cautions that unless headed, could lead into dangerous territory.
I took a few minutes to just think through what some of the pros and cons were when it comes to technology in the church and what our experiences with it have been. I happen to love technology so I'm biased. With that, here are some of the pros we've experienced.
Communicates the gospel to more people, faster
I think one of the biggest ways we are seeing this happen is through Facebook. We have set up a Fan Page for our church and use it as a home base for a lot of our content. Each week we put up our messages and announcements and whatever promos we have done during the week. We feed our content into the page using ping.fm. Just this September we had someone show up because they found our podcast on itunes. Oh, and I failed to mention that they moved here from Newfoundland!
Engages the community
This Christmas we are doing something called “The 12 Days of Christmas” where we elicited the participation of the community in a project that is bringing hope to those who don't have any this Christmas. Facebook was the platform we used to get the word out. Here's the promo video we made for it. It was kind of a last minute idea that was worked out in about 4 hours, from inception to completion. But we were happy with the end result and are serving a ton of people that we wouldn't have come in contact with otherwise.
Connects people in our church throughout the week rather than just once a week
Last January we stumbled on something called Unifyer. Up until this point were meeting once a week in the theatre and trying to make what we have called UnderCurrents work, which are our version of “small groups”. It's a place where the communication is decentralized and doesn't have the 'noise' of Facebook. Where before we had to rely on the bulletin to say what we needed to say and that was that, now we can update whenever we need to and everyone gets that ability. It has totally changed the way community and connection happens at our church. It's the continuation of real life friendships that happen on Sundays throughout the week.
All these pros are also accompanies by a few cons that we have encountered along the way.
Not everyone is technologically inclined
This is something that we didn't really think through that well. We made the assumption that everyone was on the net or would at least try when that isn't the case. They're not. We're still trying to figure out how to fix this. We had to ask ourselves a few questions when it came to this.
- If it's something key that if they don't get involved with they will be left out, ask yourself if you're willing to lose them over it?
- Or are you willing to put in extra work to make sure they aren't left out? Is it worth the sacrifice? Technology can become what we worship rather than Jesus
It's vital that technology remains slave to your mission, not the other way around. We love video at our church. We just got our first HD video camera in January so we've been going nuts. We wanted to be sure that we didn't get the cheapest model out there and opted for the Sony HDR-FX7 which has been pretty good. Not the best but better than the worst for sure. The challenge is that we can start to think that we wouldn't be able to communicate the gospel without a camera at least in the room. And before we know it, the camera has taken the place of Jesus.
It can turn your church into a show and remove the intimacy of just real, raw human stories.
The truth of the matter is that it's pretty easy to create a compelling story via video. There's no mess. At least on the screen there isn't (or shouldn't be!). The mess is in the production and the cutting and editing and lighting and script and everything else that goes along with it. When it comes time to put it up on the screen, it should be beautiful. Here's an example of what I'm talking about. This took a lot of work and we actually had to learn how to use After Effects to pull this off because our lighting was so hack! The challenge is that producing stories that are slick and polished can sometimes take away from the reality of what our stories are actually like...messy. Videos like this makes it easy to control the outcome. Putting a mic in someone's face doesn't. It's freaky. But sometimes the messiness of someone's story is communicated best in a messy, non polished way.
So there you have it. Some of the pros/cons of technology in our church. There's so much more but this is the gist of it. If you have some creative and inventive ways you are using it in your church, I'd love to hear from you!