Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Technology and Preaching

In class today we had lively discussion about technology's role in preaching. One student, a youth pastor, (very gifted in creating short movies), reflected on how churches have changed perceptions of technology over the last ten years. From being dazzled that a preacher was actually using power-point and video clips, hearers now focus more on substance. The wow factor has gone, and the quality question is now being asked! He claimed that technology is particularly "embedded" in young people's experience so that they take it for granted, and look through it for content.

Overall, the class believed that preachers should use technology, especially when others (in teams) can help develop content for Sunday worship, But, they warned...
- using powerpoint to throw yet more words at the congregation, rather complement words by images;
- allowing powerful movie clips to overshadow preachers' words;
- becoming predictable by e.g. using a movie clip every Sunday;
- devoting more time to technology style than biblical content;
- thinking slick technology can compensate for sloppy preaching.

Calling preachers and listeners: Have you had good experiences of preaching and technology, or would you add to these warnings?


Anonymous said...

What you're talking about in preaching was true in education 15 years ago when Apple started pushing student projects as "the new way" of learning. A number of us suggested to the Apple representative that what was being learned was how to put together an electronic project, not greater understanding of the subject of teh presentation. They had no reply.

I find it extremely distracting to see a powerpoint behind a preacher during a sermon. I think primarily because it is either too cluttered with far too much content or it is making use of images that just prompt my brain to go into associations of the image that have nothing to do with the sermon.

I understand that it is the rule to make use of powerpoint now in almost every setting and I am not suggesting that we should ban it during sermons. That would be too simplistic. What I would suggest to any preacher are these two ideas.

Less is more. The most effective powerpoints are those that hit one idea very hard on any slide.

If people leave after listening to you and can't tell someone else in a sentence or two what the point was then I fear we've not done our job. Clear slides can help in that reinforcement.

Let the people take it home. Make sure your powerpoint is on the web. Let them review and contemplate over it and pray on it not just on Sunday.

wsuriano said...

I agree with anonymous. We lawyers have gone through a similar learning curve on the use of technology. You can end up with juries that just want to watch the slick graphics on a television screen rather than listening to the compelling story being told. The use of technology needs to be purposeful, not just there because it can be done. Does it support rather than detract? I agree that, in almost every case, this means that less is better.

dawneen said...

Judicious use of DVDs to give testimonies or tell a story of some sort can be benefitial, but I never like power point presentations during a sermon. I feel like I'm at a business meeting and I do not focus on the spoken word nearly as much. Being open to using all manner of medium (song, dance, art, technology, etc.) to bring across your point is a good idea because the variety keeps things fresh. But the bulk of your message needs to be painting the pictures you want them to remember with scripture and your words, stories or parables of your own i.e. a young boy promised a soccer ball that is unbelievably disappointed when it does not arrive and learns people do not always keep promises (thankfully God does keep his promises). Many people have told me that your story stuck with them and its meaning too.

Michael Pugh said...

I've always been impressed to see churches integrate video and multimedia content. It reinforces for me, a guy in his early 30s, that the church is with it.

Yes, the pitfalls of powepoint can bring a sermon down, just like it can bring down any gathering. But if used smartly, it can keep listeners focused or evoke a mood.

Your student's first point about complimenting spoken words with images on screen is spot-on.

Technology is very much embedded in young people's lives. But that's why I believe it's important to use it! It's effective to speak to people in their language, and incorporating new media into sermons is doing just that.

Dawneen said...

I do agree with Mike. Judicious use is the key; using technology to emphasis and highlight points or focus the congregation's attention with a different medium can, if done well, be very useful. For me, overuse of powerpoint is the part that distracts from the message. What constitutes overuse is where you need to use discretion. Nice to meet you and Genevieve on Sunday Mike!!