by Bryan Hudson
Churches in the USA have a wide disparity in areas of equipment, hardware/software and technical expertise. On the high end of this curve are large, mainly suburban churches that have the foresight, financial resources and personnel expertise to stay on top of trends and ahead of the curve in relation to tech and new media. On the lower end of the curve are urban churches, some with large congregations, that tend to operate 3-8 years behind current media technology trends.
Indicators of operating on the lower-end of the tech curve include: 1) Reliance on older computers and operating systems such as Windows 2000, XP and Vista, or Mac OS 10.5 or older. 2) Use of DVD recorders 3) Non-digital audio recording 4) Low bandwidth Internet connections 5) Lack of adoption of social media. The useful life of mission-critical computers is 3-5 years. Gear such as audio consoles and amplifiers have a longer useful life, so long as needs don’t change dramatically. Microphones and speakers also do not maintain high quality forever.
My predictions of church technology trends for 2012 are related mainly to urban-based churches with which I mostly relate and serve:
1. Emergence of greater interest in high quality media and commitment to excellence. Dark images, poorly designed graphics, video that is shaky and poor sounding is all-too-common in urban churches. This will change, when the excellence currently demanded in singing and musicianship are applied to media production and deployment.
2. Increased adoption of Apple products in support of media and new media.Windows-based products are capable, but many churches/pastors settle for low-end PC’s that lack the power, media-related software, ease-of-use, and support that comes with all new Macs.
3. Media departments will make the switch to digital video and audio gear. This trend has already emerged since the death of cassettes and VHS video. Digital audio consoles are replacing analog consoles. Even CD-Recorders have given way to direct digital recordings.
4. DVD/CD sales will decline in favor of paid digital downloads and flash media.
5. Adobe Flash "eye candy" will become obsolete on websites. With the wider adoption of HTML5 and the announcement in 2011 that Adobe will no longer develop mobile Flash for devices such as Android, Flash-dependent websites will soon be obsolete. As more users access websites using their mobile devices, rather than desktop computers, leaving Flash behind is one of the best strategies for accessibility and speed. On the desktop, Flash-enabled “eye-candy”, with objects sliding around and flipping has become less important than quick access to information and desired content.
6. iPhone/ Android compatibility will drive web development decisions. If your website and content cannot be easily accessed on mobile devices, you are forfeiting a growing, and prosperous, segment of your audience. Work with designers/developers who understand the mobile space.
7. Digital signage will be in greater demand in churches. LCD and plasma screens are the new “placards” and “vinyl banners” of the 21st Century. Systems for creating and updating digital sign content have become easier, more affordable and have remote capability. In 2011, Apple Stores replaced printed signs with iPads for product information.
8. YouTube will find greater adoption since that they've removed time limits. In 2011, YouTube removed the 15 minute limit on video uploads and allowed greater control for embedding. 2012 will see an explosion of YouTube enabled adoption. With this increased “free” capability will certainly come advertising, which is Google’s primary business.
9. Pastors/Churches will continue to be oversold on near-obsolete tech gear and waste money buying unnecessary hardware/software. Products such as small-business servers, analog-based video switchers, video streaming, and overly-complex software will continue to be sold to churches and especially pastors who are more impressed than informed. It is important not to default to DIY or LDDI (“Do-If-Yourself” or “Let Deacon Do It”) solutions that all but guarantee low quality results. If is also important to make wise investments in gear and expertise.
10. In 2011 great numbers of pastors bought iPads for study, research, reading, and preaching. in 2012 they will learn how to use them, along with laptops, in more productive ways.
~ Bryan Hudson