3 Ways to Use Technology in Worship Services (and Why You Should!)
There’s plenty not to like about smartphones in church. Most every preacher has experienced a jarring ringtone at an inopportune moment in a sermon. My favorite was the time that the band AC/DC’s song Back in Black blared as I was making a point on hell. Too bad the lyrics “forget the hearse ‘cause I never die” didn’t quite fit the theology I was preaching.
Mobile technology can both interrupt and distract. Of course, the same could be said of windows (not the operating system). In Acts 20, a sleepy Eutychus falls out of a window while Paul is preaching, which was probably just as distracting as an errant smartphone ring is today. Stare out a window. Stare at a smartphone. We’ve all daydreamed a distraction. And if you’re a parent of small children, it’s probable that you—like me—handed them the muted insta-cartoon machine when their squirming started getting the attention of people three pews back.
Change Is Rarely Comfortable
The portable size and instantaneous connectivity of smartphones make them powerful devices. It was not hyperbole when Steve Jobs announced in 2007 that the iPhone would change everything; it did. Revolutionary technology is often overwhelming. The movable type printing press raised concerns about information overload. The advent of newspapers caused people to fear social isolation (much like fears about smartphones today). Radio was thought to imbalance young minds. In 2005, a study claimed email hurt IQ more than pot.
But let’s not forget that it was the printing press that began a movement to get the Bible into the hands of everyday people. Newspapers inspired church newsletters. Radio broadcasts revolutionized mission work. And ultimately smartphones will—like previous technological advances—help more than hurt.
Mobile Technology Can Enhance Worship
Let me offer three ways that smartphones can be an enhancement to – not a distraction from – worship services today.
1. Turn on Your Bible
When I started preaching over ten years ago, the phrase “turn on your Bibles” was not often heard; 25 years ago, it didn’t exist. Bible applications have now become quite popular and useful, so much so that about one in five people now use mobile technology in church. Look at smartphones as a new means of reading Scripture. If technology is going to be more invasive in your life, then it might as well include Scripture.
2. Hashtag this
The exponential rise of social media is enabled by smartphones. While some might—understandably—decry the shallowness of Instagram selfies and superficial tweets, there is another way to look at this: social media has created a new method of taking sermon notes. Congregants can now use hashtags to collaborate in taking sermon notes. In fact, when I preach, I usually place a suggested hashtag for each sermon on the screens during the service. Within seconds particular sermon points can travel from the pulpit to the ends of the earth. And, after preaching, I enjoy looking through those collective notes to see what resonated with people.
3. Open your app
One way in which the church is just beginning to realize the power of mobile technology is through applications which offer new ways of giving. These applications offer a customizable experience that is fast, simple, and secure. Biblically, giving is a spiritual discipline and an act of worship. Practically, these apps enable people to exercise the spiritual discipline of giving in new ways.
Ignoring the ubiquitous technological advance of smartphones is not helpful. People now fact-check sermons in real time (so do your homework, pastors). People read their Bibles, take notes, and give, all through smartphones. Mobile technology in church service is here to stay. Use it. Just don’t fall out of a window while listening to AC/DC in church.
Do you have other ideas on how to use mobile technology to expand worship? We’d love to learn from them; please share in the comments section below.