Where God Meets New Media

By Albert Ghim

For centuries now the church has been known as a place of serenity, peace, sanctuary. Now many churches around the world are adapting to the technology-filled worlds of their younger worshipers.

Thinking more about LED projectors and Final Cut Pro software than old wooden pews and stain-glassed windows, they organize media teams to drive the church’s mission forward.

At Promise International Fellowship in College Point, Queens, the media team consists of nearly 20 dedicated, passionate people who provide time, resources and energy to put together a media-infused Sunday service, backed by a cutting-edge Web site.

Known as PIF, the Assemblies of God church has followed different avenues to add media to the Sunday experience. One of its first moves was to dump the old over-head projectors for LCD screens. By using the projectors linked to computers, PIF has the flexibility to do more than just put up slides of song lyrics. Now videos, slide shows, even a countdown that shows how much time is left before the service begins are available.
Initially, many of the older traditionalists in the congregation questioned whether all this was really necessary. But they were told, we need to do this to attract and hold the younger generation. “The purpose of the church is not to serve tradition, but rather to serve the people and connect them to their God,” says Samuel Ha, one of the pastors at PIF.

The congregation describes itself on its Web site as “a community of multiple age groups (primarily in 20s and 30s) made up of singles, families with children, students, and men and women in various professions.”

For most people 25, Web sites like Facebook and Youtube have as much a part in their routines as brushing their teeth or eating three meals a day. Most people can’t go more than a couple hours without checking to see if a new friend has added them on Facebook.

So as part of its arsenal to relate the church to the world, PIF added a Web site that is packed with photos of recent events, weekly Sunday video announcements and video podcasts of the previous Sunday service. Site visitors can also find information on coming events and notes about the leadership of the church. The website was not only made for people who attend PIF, but also people all over the world that might be interested in the church.

Promotional videos have become a staple of weekly operations of the church. In advance of every big event, the media team makes a promo video to get people interested. In the past the church would grab a couple congregation members and come up with a little skit or play to perform in front of the church to publicize coming events. Now, it is high-tech, with room for error while recording and time to redo or fix it.

The media team feels its high-tech approach makes the church and God more relevant to its flock, as well as more welcoming to newcomers. For many first-time guests, church can be intimidating, but the bright lights, crisp screens and cutting-edge videos make people comfortable. PIF, moving beyond tradition, is seeking to do whatever it takes to stay relevant and intriguing to the world.