Image via NAB ShowTailored to houses of worship, the audio/visual technology industry has its own niche that focuses on sound systems, projectors and lighting for religious services.
During last weekend's trip to Vegas, I crashed the NAB Show, a National Association of Broadcasters convention for digital media professionals. With the help of a map of the vast convention hall and Matt's spy skills (he was actually registered) I chatted with professionals about technology's role in the "worship experience."
As churches grow, congregations are adding energy to church services with sound systems and video projections, said Michelle Makariak of Technologies for Worship Magazine. TFWM follows the AV industry for upgrades that will work best in churches.
It's not just megachurches who are eyeing projection systems and flashy lighting, she said. Even smaller churches are upgrading so worship bands sound better and pastors can record sermons to post online. At the conference, businesses offered projection systems for worship lyrics, acoustics installation, portable stages and lighting concepts.
Churches are also looking for ways to communicate outside the walls of the church. They're talking about establishing successful blogs and using "virtual churches" to reach congregants around the world.
Streaming Church is a Web portal that allows churches to post videos of services, provides chat rooms for congregants attending from home and keeps track of visitors around the country. President Steve Lacy said Streaming Church is designed to ease people into new churches and keep them connected outside Sunday services.
"Those who are intimidated might be more willing to check it out online before going through the doors not knowing what to expect," he said.
Online, people can watch services, chat, follow the pastors on sites like Twitter and even donate money with the click of a button. If they like what they see, hopefully they will attend the church regularly in person, he said.
"We don't want them spending most of their time online, unless they can't physically be there," he said.
Some of Streaming Church's U.S. clients have used the platform to reach African communities, who set up outdoor churches and follow the streaming services with the help of a projector and computer monitor.
“It’s still about getting people together,” he said.