Audience Participation

This weekend we got to use technology in a pretty cool way to engage with our congregation. One of the things Upper Room is known for is our experiential style of worship. Almost every week, we have some type of activity that allows the congregation to engage in the teaching they have just heard. Sometimes it's reflective, other times it's very active. We've put giant calendars on stage and asked people to commit to having a difficult conversation by a certain date. We've asked people to write on walls, pick up stones with a new name, even bring items in to sell on ebay to raise money for Heal Africa. This week was about celebrating our experiential nature.

We set 3 laptops up around our worship space. During the message, we encouraged people to go to a laptop and "blog" about a particular experiential that impacted their lives. Our web guru, also a Mike, designed a simple form on our web site that would take their entries and pass it to a database on the server via php. The form had a prompt question, and a text box sized to limit the length of the entries (we weren't looking for a novella, just a few thoughts).

Once the person hit submit, they received a confirmation that their message was sent, and 5 seconds later, the page refreshed (Mike B.--you're good!). Our Creative Director, Craig, sat in the service with his laptop checking the database via our website admin page (which was also custom designed in large part by Mike B.). As the posts came in, he chose the posts that fit the topic the most closely, and instant messaged them to me via Google Chat. I then took the copy and pasted it into a Keynote presentation. I had build at template that would display the words using the typewriter effect. I adjusted the timing based on a simple 3.5 seconds per line timing that we determined was about the right speed.

During the message, I was receiving the IMs and building the Keynote presentation (which actually resided on our iMac running ProPresenter), while our presentation tech followed our pastor with sermon slides in ProPresenter. Near the end of the message, I saved the Keynote and closed it. During the prayer, we took all lights to black, went to black in ProPresenter and flipped to Keynote. The first slide was black there, too, so the change was seamless if anyone was peeking. We then ran the "blog posts" from Keynote in order to take advantage of the typewriter effect.

At the end of this section, we went back to black, returned to ProPresenter and wrapped up the evening. It was pretty neat to see how people have been impacted by the experientials, and very cool to have their comments on the screen just minutes after they wrote them. Of course, we couldn't have pulled it off were it not for our great Tech Team (props to Jeff, Ronica, Erik & Les). They truly rocked it tonight and brought their A-game. I've always said that one of my goals is to work myself out of a job in the tech booth. I love seeing volunteers so good at what they do that I can concentrate on other activities while they make the service happen with very little input from me. And I love being able to use technology to engage with our congregation in creative ways. That's what we did this weekend… how about you?