Another great guest post in the Rookie Pastor Paternity Leave series.
When I worked as the Director of Media and Communications for a church, our leadership asked me, other staff, and a few church members to create a new service targeted at a younger demographic. We knew from the outset that interactivity within a digital realm could be a key component in helping to draw in new members whose fingers were more apt to be wrapped around a cellphone instead of a Bible. To that end, we incorporated a few of the following free online resources that you may find useful in a wide variety of venues, from large worship services to small bible studies.
PollEverywhere is a text-messaging based live polling system that’s perfect for churches. You can create multiple choice polls or free answer questions. Their free option allows for 40 responses per poll, but you’re allowed more if you upgrade. The brilliance of this system is that anyone with a cellphone can text in their answer, just like you’d vote for the next American Idol. Answers then instantly appear on your screens, whether through the PollEverywhere website or via PowerPoint or Keynote slides. Bar charts and percentages update live in front of the whole room, adding tension and a sense of surprise when the group’s answers appear.
We used PollEverywhere for everything from ridiculous ice-breaker questions (What’s the worst present you’ve ever received?) to biblical trivia (How many books are in the Bible?) to gauging the room’s spiritual climate (On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the closest you’ve ever felt to God, where are you right now?). We found this to be a quick way to engage the audience and foster a sense of intimacy even among the 100s in attendance.
From the generous tech gurus at LifeChurch.TV, YouVersion Live Events offers a plethora of options for mobile users, like the ability to:
- follow message outlines on your phone
- read along with the relevant Scripture
- view expanded Scripture sections
- vote on polls
- ask anonymous questions about the message
- give an offering via Paypal
- request prayer
- listen to audio
- watch video
- link to other websites
- share the event via Twitter or Facebook
Note that this is not a downloadable app, so any web-enabled device can access a live event. In order to set up a Live Event, you’ll have to register with YouVersion, then set up a new group. However, end users of Live Events do not have to register with the site. They’ll simply go to a specific URL at the time of your event. Setting up the events is drag-and-drop easy as these tutorial videos attest. The best way to see if this might be useful for you is to sign up, dig in, and promote the URL to your attenders.
A number of solutions exist that can help you display tweets on a large screen, like ParaTweet, TweetWall Pro, or Refyner, but those tools have costs that could be prohibitive for a ministry on a budget. Twitterfall is a completely free web-based solution that displays a waterfall of live tweets. Tell your attenders to use a specific hashtag (and make sure it’s very unique), then type that hashtag into the “searches” section on Twitterfall. Click “Presentation Mode” on the right side of the screen, then pop your browser onto your main screens and you’ll have a live twitter feed during your next service. While Twitterfall doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the other paid solutions, it can’t be beat in terms of ease of setup and cost.
Two Suggestions for These Three Ideas
Don’t use all three of these resources at the same service or bible study. You’ll overwhelm and ultimately distract your audience. Figure out which one best works with your audience, your prep time, and your technical ability, then give it a try for a month to see if it might help your people engage more deeply with the Word and your church.
Lastly, never forget that the most interactive of worship services are those that go beyond virtual relationships. Use these online resources to help people connect to the message and to each other, but never let them supplant the types of real relationships that should always be forming within the church.
Are you familiar with these services? Have you tried incorporating similar digital interactivity into your worship services or bible studies? How has that worked for you? Or, what do you think are the pros and cons to using such online services while at church?