Tools or Toys?

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

‘Tis the Season – A Letter to Pastors

I present hundreds of technology classes to thousands of musicians and technicians each year. I was pleasantly surprised last week when one of these attendees came up and thanked me after the class. His thanking me was not the surprise (thank you very much). The fact that he was the Senior Pastor of his church was.

We always encourage Pastors to attend these technology sessions, but I am aware of very few that do; which is a real shame because these are the men and women that need to understand to some degree the capabilities of the new tools being considered. They don’t need to know how to use them so much as what it is that this technology can bring to the overall vision of the church. To date, these Tools or Toys columns have been written for the Worship Leaders, Musicians and Technicians at the church in an attempt to shed some light on technology options to enhance their worship services. This holiday column is dedicated to someone completely different. The Senior Pastor.

There are unique times during the year when the world seems to pay a little more attention to Christ and the Church. One is Easter, and the other of course, is Christmas. Because of this, these two holidays offer us an opportunity to reach out to those that may not be plugged into a church, or indeed, not know Christ at all. Churches around the world will be exploring new and different ways to engage the un-churched and to take advantage of these times when the curious and the lost will turn their eyes towards us…some looking for the answers to eternity and salvation while others are simply seeking an enjoyable holiday experience. Whatever the reason, we tend to end up with new folks in our buildings during this time of the year and we all desire to reach and serve them the best we can. All of this makes these holidays an ideal time for the church to look at some new technologies that they may not currently employ.

These technologies can be as simple as adding a wireless microphone or as complex as an entire sanctuary makeover. Most churches recognize that society in general is constantly barraged by a steady stream of stimuli from any number of sources with most of it exhibiting very high production value. Even the simplest car commercial incorporates video and film technology that simply did not exist a year ago and can be extremely entertaining – even amazing – to watch. With this in mind, I want to recap in this end of year issue the whole premise of these technologies as tools and toys.

In past columns, we have examined a variety of music, audio and presentation technologies with an understanding that any one of them could be considered a tool or a toy depending on how they are approached. In our explorations, we sort of settled on a common theme that any bit of technology could be considered a tool if utilized with artistry and preparedness while technology that falls into the toy category is usually the result of utilizing something with a lack of understanding or flat out bad taste. This is why I believe that it is important for the Senior Pastor to seek some understanding of this technology as well. A Musician or sound man will attend a training seminar and come back with an understanding of a technology shaped by their real world experience. A Pastor will often look at things in the light of his or her vision for their church, and see possibilities that the musicians and technicians might not. An analogy that I sometimes make is that of a carpenter compared to a homebuilder. A carpenter may see a nail gun as a way to drive more nails with less labor.

Although this is a true observation, a builder may recognize that equipping his carpenters with nail guns will allow him to build more homes faster and at lower costs. Finishing a tract of homes by an accelerated deadline may allow him access to better finance rates or to start the next project ahead of winter storms. Big picture.

In closing, I believe it is not only your right, but your responsibility as a Senior Pastor to seek an understanding of the weapons your troops are wielding on the front line. Sometimes a technology’s tool or toy status will lie in your understanding of its abilities and encouragement of its use. Few generals are capable of doing all the things that their soldiers can do, but they will know how to use and equip them. Hats off to the Pastors who find the time in the midst of overwhelming schedules and personal commitments to explore and embrace the tools of worship.