At churches all across the country, the entire order of service now appears only on screens at the front of the sanctuary, not on paper bulletins.
The conventional wisdom is that this transfer from paper to screen has been a life-saver for pastors and secretaries who no longer need to print bulletins, and a case could be made that screens serve as savers because they reduce the amount of paper and ink and other natural resources that fill our landfills and contaminate our earth.
But what I have encountered in worship many times is that screens can often be a distraction to our experience of worship. When the person at the controls of the screen does not flip to the next screen fast enough, I become annoyed. When the words that appear on the projection do not match the words or the information that a pastor is discussing, I start to get agitated. And when the screen just goes blank, I find I am confused about what to do.
The reliance on the screen is a dependence on humanity in many ways. And humans inevitably are not going to run the screens flawlessly, often due to circumstances beyond their control. “Garbage in, garbage out!“ my dad said once after a major flub on the screen at his church that most likely came about because someone earlier entered incorrect information.
In many ways the drawbacks of screens in church is a sign of the human condition literally writ large. Our sin is so often on full display for all to see and it leaves us and those around us feeling uncomfortable, annoyed and confused.
But we should not allow the fallibility of the screens in church to affect our focus on God and our lifting up of praise and gratitude to him in word and song and Scripture.
Screens in services, as I see it, are here to stay and we must learn to work with them and not let them be the center of our attention. God is the center, so any time we feel ourselves making the screen the center, we need to move our attention to the cross of Christ on the altar and keep our eyes on him, regardless of what malfunction the screen may be having.
One blessing that I have seen with screens is that it does force people to look up. And when you look up, you are more able to see the people around you and to see the images of the Lord all around you—the candles, the baptismal font, the communion rail, the pulpit.
So no matter how you feel about screens, keep looking up in church, look with love to others and keep the Lord in your sights.
What are your thoughts about the use of screens in worship and what can Creative Communications offer to make the use of screens effective and reverent?