Do you have the feeling that parishioners just aren’t connecting with church services and activities as deeply as they had in the past? If so, you may be right.
As a nation, our attention spans have been shrinking for more than a decade—most radically so with our young people.
The generation of men and women born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, often called the Millennials, is tech-savvy and steeped in the culture of online and social media. Supersaturated with information from their earliest days in school, Millennials are dedicated online sharers and multitaskers.
Don’t let this intimate connection with technology intimidate you—this is an amazing opportunity for churches to create stronger, more committed relationships with the Millennial generation and those that follow.
Church and the second screen.
Everywhere from the bathroom to the boardroom, people take us on journeys through their lives and experiences, sharing those things that are important, interesting and sometimes just playful. Most of these interactions are taking place on what’s called the “second screen.”
Simply put, if you’re watching TV while using your smartphone, the phone is like an additional monitor—a second screen.
For example, while watching the TV show Elementary, you really like the way the plot is unfolding, so you tweet a comment to #elementary. Or maybe you were watching the Super Bowl and a particular play just blew your mind—so you checked @SuperBowl or one of the team Instagram accounts for photos and video replays.
Yet even with technology integrated into almost every other aspect of our lives, many people are forced to turn it off in church. This is partly due to the feeling that it’s inappropriate to use mobile tech in church. Whether churches like it or not, someone just posted an Instagram video of the worship team singing their favorite song and someone else joined the #churchflow currently trending on Twitter.
More to the point, we’re not using our mobile technology at church because church marketers don’t have mobile strategy in mind. Instead of ignoring trends, why not focus on them and leverage that overwhelming need to share into an effective mobile strategy?
The “teaching moment.”
Remember when you could raise your hand and ask questions in class? Live tweeting during service could serve as a way to answer questions and foster the kind of give-and-take that engages the audience and brings the message home.
This works equally well for a live or delayed experience. As an example, check out the Elevation Church, which broadcasts services online on elevationnetwork.com and live tweets with users.
Thinking a bit further out of the box, how about a mobile app that provides rich contextual support for sermons and classes? This could be maps of ancient locations, religious artwork or even current events that tie into a lesson.
Perhaps you haven’t got the resources to create a mobile app. But even a minimal relationship between the message and the second screen has the potential to pack a powerful impact and greatly enhance the experience—and the understanding—of parishioners.
If you’re not using social media to reach out on behalf of those in need, you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity. Using hashtags creates a trail for users to follow, then find and follow other people using the same hashtag while making connections. Instagram creates interest in church doings, while Facebook “likes” spread the word.
Creating hashtags for Twitter, creating live Instagram feeds and posting on Facebook are great ways to find volunteers, build engagement in church projects and create a discussion around events of local importance.
In short, the second screen is far from a distraction in church. It’s a pathway to increased understanding, richer relationships and a stronger church community.
Who knows? It might just be the answer to your prayers.