A Church Technology Prediction: Screen Reversal

Step into almost all evangelical churches and a growing percentage of mainline and Catholic churches and you will see the use of the big screen(s). Video projection has become increasingly ubiquitous in worship services in ever expanding ways: utilized for words in worship songs, responsive readings, sermon graphics, multimedia clips, etc. Consider that in a few decades the church has moved from hymns to overhead projector to video projection.

The Church has embraced the First Screen (main video screen) as a key content delivery device and atmosphere creation tool. Since then, and over about the last five years, the second screen has emerged in society and the church has begun to take notice and adapt to it in worship. Through live tweeting, YouVersion and other tools, the second screen experience is growing and will continue to grow. As it does, new tools and apps will emerge to integrate this into the worship service.

In a conversation with friends, we stumbled upon what I think will be an inevitable shift in technology usage in church over the next several years. This shift is a screen reversal. Although I think that we will still have both first and second screens, the priority of these will reverse. The handheld screens (mobile devices) that are increasingly ubiquitous will become the primary screen in the worship service, holding the place Scripture is read, responsive readings are read, participation is engaged through social network features, and words for worship are projected. The new second screen will be the large projection screen(s) that will, where needed, show the video feed, video clip, and/or create atmosphere for the room.

The initial reaction to my hypothesis will probably be disbelief and/or a fear of increased individualism as people use their individual devices. However, consider how this is less like moving forward and more like moving backwards. Just as people would use paper notebooks to take notes, printed Bibles to read, and printed hymn books to sing, the individual devices will have similar functions but would also allow for social interaction and discussion through advanced social network platforms.

In the coming years, new apps (if I could design one I would because I can see huge future potential for it) will emerge that allows for LBMDs (Locally Broadcasted Mobile Displays – A phrase I just invented) to show song lyrics, images, Bible passages, take notes, and facilitate live interaction for those in attendance physically, and in some situations, virtually online.

There are always pros and cons to every technological change. The medium is the message and all media works us over completely (combining two quotes from Marshall McLuhan ~the great Canadian media theorist). I am not arguing for or against this screen reversal or, even, discussing the impact on the worship experience (positive or negative); I am simply highlighting the shift that is on the horizon as the first and second screen switch prevalence.

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