Worship Media Arts

Big Ideas, How-To, and Articles on Worship, Media and the Arts

Subject to Change: One Pastor’s Story of Adding Digital Media to Worship at 2 Different Churches

“I don’t come to church to watch TV!” snapped a board member the night Bill made a short presentation on the use of digital media in worship to his church leadership.

In every story of introducing Change in worship–“change” usually seems to come with a capital C?Äîthere are going to be some challenges. For some local churches, change is more difficult than for others. For Bill, the challenge was in developing like-minded lay leadership. He knew it was vital to having any success with implementing digital media in worship. To achieve this goal, he also knew that the perceptions of choice and ownership were crucial.

His strategy that night was to sidestep the issue of Change by avoiding the word altogether. In a presentation, he told his neighborhood congregation that if they “wanted to maintain their visibility in a changing culture, they would need to add video projection capabilities to the sanctuary.” While many tend to resist change, he says, most are open to adding something.

After his initial presentation, Myers didn’t bring up the matter again. Four months went by. Then, one night in a board meeting, someone said, “Bill, we think we need to start talking about adding video projection to worship.”

Again, he responded with choice and ownership, quickly outlining a proposal with three elements, at a total cost of $18,000, then leaving the decision to them.

The church accepted all three.

The Rev. William Myers, a United Methodist pastor in Michigan, knows a little about introducing change. Bill has taken two churches outside the usual contemporary model and brought them into the digital age through a deft combination of political, technical and creative skill. Some people experience difficulty getting one “contemporary” church to use digital media effectively. Bill has done it at two “traditional” churches, both of which would be considered a challenge to most. In the process, he is destroying the old perception that it takes a large, wealthy, suburban church to “do media.”

The three-part system Bill proposed:

?Ä¢ A single 1500 ANSI lumen projector accepts an XGA signal from a Macintosh G4 computer. The projection screen is motorized and is always retracted when not in use. The Macintosh uses Grass Roots Software’s SundayPlus in the dual-monitor mode with two 17″ CRTs monitors in the booth.
?Ä¢ For production concerns, Formac Studio’s $300 TVR converts analog video to DV streams, which are then captured using either iMovie or Final Cut Pro, for use in SundayPlus.
?Ä¢ A Sony pan-tilt-zoom remotely-controlled camera, placed on a beam about 10 feet in front of the chancel, projects events within the service that are difficult for some members of the congregation to see, such as the children’s message, baptisms, solos, etc.
?Ä¢ The video and audio are run through an RF modulator ($20) so a TV signal can be sent to the nursery.
?Ä¢ A small mixer sends audio from the computer/DVD/VCR setup to the sanctuary’s main audio mixer board.

The total cost of this system, at $15,000, came in well under Bill’s proposal.

Even though he’s a self-proclaimed “techie masquerading as a pastor,” Bill doesn’t lead his churches into digital media out of his own passions and hobbies. He does it out of a passion to proclaim the Gospel.

He says, “Gone are the days when people received their information, or participated in worship, primarily through the written word. Not only is the visual medium becoming primary for many people, it also allows for more versatility and creativity. The concept Midnight Oil teaches about ?Äòredeeming the culture’ is key to this point.”

By referencing Midnight Oil, Bill is referring to the equipping part of our ministry. Bill hosted our one-day seminar Digital Storytellers at his current pastoral appointment. The seminar, which emphasizes using digital media to connect people to the Gospel story in ways that make sense for our present digital culture, affirmed for Bill many of the things he was already doing.

—–

“We have it figured out where the screen goes!” whispered a trustee in his ear the night Rev. Bill Myers was introduced to his second congregation. After accepting a new charge, Bill was relieved to find his new lay leadership to be more like-minded. However, he soon discovered that the second church had its own set of challenges. The problems now weren’t with vision, but with money.

The congregation, which was founded in 1833, worships in a 1907 structure in downtown Battle Creek, Michigan. The roof needed repairs, the telephone lines were decrepit, the sprinkler system wasn’t functioning, the fire marshal had just informed the church to add more emergency lighting, and the congregation wanted A/C in the sanctuary. Not to mention his parsonage needed work.

Into this environment Bill wanted to spend money on digital media in worship. To make matters more difficult, because of the sanctuary’s oval shape and recent restoration, care was needed to create not one but two screens, and to integrate the technology so that it was not obtrusive to the classic architecture.

2 Comments so far »

  1. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on March 29, 2006 @ 9:23 pm

    What do you think? Leave a message if you have something to say about this article. No registration is required to post a comment, but we will moderate for spam and obscene language, so your comment will be delayed in posting until we clear it.

  2. Cindi said,

    Wrote on May 13, 2006 @ 9:20 pm

    I say, “Amen”! We took a mainline denomination church with 40 members and little money and over the course of a couple years have added digital media to our service. It has added a new excitement and energy to a congregation that felt defeated, but now everyone feels like they can invite people because they are excited about what is happening. We borrowed basic equipment to start. When it wasn’t available, the congregation was so disappointed that it wasn’t long until they found the money to buy their own, so they would never be without. We are seeing new people, including unchurched people.

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