Saturday, March 27, 2010

Screen Styles

There are many options for using screens in worship. This is a view of the front of the sanctuary of the Evangelical Center at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Notice how the screen is really fabric temporarily installed in the sanctuary. A section of the fabric has an image projected on it. Standing beneath the screen is a man signing the speaker's words so the hearing-impaired may also understand.

Many wonder how a screen might fit into very traditional church sanctuary architecture. This screen is beautifully integrated into the Gothic sanctuary of St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Dubuque, Iowa. The art or lyrics projected on the screen easily fit the worship environment. The screen is easily tucked away with the flip of two switches: one to reel the screen into its housing, and the other to pull the housing up into the ceiling.

Screens may also be used in outdoor worship spaces! Above and behind this cross-shaped wooden pulpit is a light-colored painted wooden screen of a small evangelical congregation in San Jose del Cabo in the Baja Peninsula, Mexico. Church members project hymn and song lyrics onto the screen.

Nielsen's Three Screens Report

The Nielsen Company, long known for its data on American television viewing habits, now also seeks to measure and analyze how people interact with traditional media (like television) and newer digital platforms (like mobile phones and the Internet). Nielsen issues a quarterly “Three Screens Report” regarding television, Internet, and mobile usage in the U.S. (See In its Fourth Quarter 2009 report, Nielsen noted that Americans continue to watch more TV each year. The report found that those aged 50 and older watched an average of 198 hours of television a month, nearly twice as much as children and teens, and 38% more than 18-54 year olds, percentages that continue to increase.

The report also found that people are viewing more online video than ever before, with short video, such as YouTube video clips, accounting for 83% of online video viewing. While younger adults to the age of 25 watch much more online video than older adults 65+, older adults are keeping pace with increased use of television, playback video, and Internet, with nearly twice as many people viewing as children and teens. What’s clear from the data is that all age groups within a typical congregation are expanding their use of the “three screens” technologies, and keeping track of “The Three Screens Report” is an excellent way to watch for continuing trends.

As both youth and adults increase their engagement with their “three screens” at home and on the go, will the church find ways to encourage conversations that connect biblical text and theological perspective with the content that church members experience through the stories and messages found in short video and film clips, music, and imagery?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Photography In Worship

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship recently published this article, "Photography in Worship: Picturing God’s Counterstory, Building Community" as a resource for enlivening worship with the imagery of original photography. I commend it not only because I'm interviewed in it, but because the other stories are important to know too!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Digital Natives: A Metaphor or a Reality?

Over the years I have been intrigued with the concept of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" and have written and taught about Marc Prensky's contribution to our understanding the impact of digital technologies on today’s children and youth, and how teachers (and preachers)need to find new ways to communicate with today’s “digital natives.” [See his work at]

Prensky is an educator who creates videogame-based training tools designed to teach today’s technically fluent children, youth, and young adults. In his ground-breaking article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, Prensky coins the term “digital natives” to refer to those who are natural users of computers, video games, and the Internet. Those people not born into this digital world he calls “digital immigrants.”

Although they are using much of today’s technology, digital immigrants retain an “accent” because they were born before the advent of home computers, cell phones, and the Internet. Prensky maintains that today’s educational challenge is for the
digital immigrants teaching in classrooms (and preaching in our churches) to find ways to effectively reach out to the “natives” in our midst.

At his website, Prensky offers downloadable versions of his many articles about today’s youth and how they think differently, and how their brains are changed as a result of their use of digital technologies. When navigating his website, click on “Writings” to go to a number of his free articles, including those with practical suggestions for developing effective teaching and learning strategies.

Prensky has given us a way to understand the shift that has been taking place ever since the development of the radio, the camera, the moving picture, and television: those who use these media are affected by them. He discusses how the“digital” world of technology is changing human brains. If brains are being changed, and if multiple generations of people are now shaped by electronically-delivered content, how does the church harness this force for the sake of the gospel?

In recent years there have been some studies to test this thesis. The recent March 6-12, 2010 issue of The Economist cites research that seems to minimize Prensky’s concept. It’s good to be able to read another view. I recommend this article, "The Net Generation, Unplugged" in the Economist Technology Quarterly. This report of some recent findings will at least help us be aware that no label can adequately summarize the diversity of human experience. I still am intrigued with the digital native/immigrant concept, and think the metaphor bears testing out in our worship and preaching.