Houses of worship of all sizes and memberships now use digital signage platforms and in-building and exterior networks to broadcast sermons, event schedules, inspirational messages and more. It is a sign of the times (no pun intended) that clergy and their lay communities have come together to find a way to bridge the gap between church and culture.
To attract younger congregants, update the look and feel of the church, communicate more information more efficiently, and get in sync with congregant life styles of today, many churches have recognized that they need to invest in technology that will help them modernize not just the church, but the way their message is delivered.
Digital signage networks (DSN’s) can deliver multiple messages more efficiently than traditional static signage, tastefully incorporating the décor of the church while updating the look and feel as well. Since 80% of congregants spend only two hours inside the church on average, it’s important to deliver as much information as effectively as possible. Digital signage is dynamic, which means that content can communicate multiple messages from sermon schedules and topics to fellowship, fundraisers, mission trips, events, food drives and any good news or community happenings. Content delivery is also timely and can be adjusted daily, weekly, or from one service to the next because it is controlled centrally and easy to update.
In addition to disseminating information, DSN’s can be used in gift/book shops to announce promotions or to simulcast services throughout the facility or to remote facilities. That means that during holiday times when main chapels have overflowed to auxiliary worship areas, everyone can view and participate in the service from anywhere in the facility or from remote locations. Exterior signage can also become dynamic replacing existing static signs to make community outreach more dynamic, display service schedules, inspirational messages, or event information.
Churches are also beginning to use interactive technologies to produce revenues for tithing, (episodic or recurring gifts), or to raise funds for capital campaigns, mission trips and general funds. Recognizing that younger and older parishioners alike have become more comfortable employing debit cards than carrying cash or checks, some churches have begun employing tithing kiosks that allow donations through an ATM machine via debit cards. Many believe that these changes are necessary, not just to accommodate today’s life styles, but also to remove barriers to communication and acceptance with the younger generation, which is the future of the faithful. That cultural acceptance is displayed not only in the way we dress and the style of music, but also in the content and delivery of messages and in how donations are collected.
Once a church has made the decision to modernize its approach, there are four key issues to be considered: Software, hardware, sign placement and content delivery.
Choice of software is altogether dependent upon the flexibility, size and complexity of the information to be disseminated, and whether or not the content should be set up to be managed by a volunteer or staff member in-house or remotely, the latter of which is far more convenient than having to physically return to the facility to put up or discard static signs. There are also vendors who, for a fee, will manage the entire process. The cost of hardware depends upon the number of panels required for installation throughout the facility and the type of panels selected. For instance, some organizations elect to begin with less costly CRT (tube) screens and then plan to upgrade to the more popular flat LCD or plasma screen technology at a later date. The good news is that the cost of the flat screen alternatives is dropping and becoming more affordable, so it is worth quoting before making a purchase decision.
Sign placement is important and can allow an organization to grab the attention of parishioners in high traffic areas: as they enter and exit the building, in queued areas such as food lines, adjacent to the library, or existing information areas, or in places where people tend to congregate socially.
Content is key. Having effective content that is relevant to congregants and changes, re-freshed as needed, is important to get and keep people’s attention so they will refer to the signage regularly. Again, there are various software programs and content providers who can help professionally manage the process or it can be done in-house by staff or volunteers who are somewhat program savvy. Many programs today are very user-friendly and can be set up to be managed in-house without much trouble.
There is also an opportunity for congregations to take a “crash course” on the new technology, speak with vendors and see real life applications all in one place. On May 16-17th congregational representatives can attend the Digital Signage Expo (formerly Digital Retailing Expo) at Navy Pier Convention Center in Chicago.
In this way congregational representatives can see first hand how the new technologies work, how they are integrated into different public environments, and have the opportunity to ask questions and attend workshops.