How four AV technologies can support long-term hybrid worship
How four AV technologies can support long-term hybrid worship
Steve Milley, group manager of sales at Panasonic Connect, considers how to manage at-home and in-person worship
In 2020, many houses of worship quickly deployed tech solutions for what they thought would be a temporary phase of remote worship. Now, however, declining in-person attendance levels indicate that the demand for hybrid services could persist. Pew Research Center1 found that while 90% of congregations held in-person worship services in March 2022, only two-thirds of worshippers attended an in-person service. Further, 36%2 reported that they had attended services both in-person and remotely, hinting that a sizeable portion of the population prefers having the options presented by this hybrid model.
It can be more challenging to attract worshippers in this hybrid world. Not only do houses of worship need to encourage in-person attendance, they also need to provide engaging virtual content that creates a community for remote worshippers. According to Ministry Brands3, nearly 70% of church leaders increased their reliance on digital tools as a result of the pandemic. That trend is likely to persist. As houses of worship develop a long-term hybrid strategy, they’ll also need to carefully consider their long-term technology strategy.
Let’s take a look at four different AV solutions that should play a key role in these plans.
High-quality camera technology
Remote worshippers have a variety of options to choose from when they seek out a virtual worship service, whether it’s at their local house of worship or across the world. In order to appeal to this group, it will be important to create a unique and engaging experience for them. High-quality video content will be a key component of that experience.
Offering at-home viewers a single-angle view of the service no longer suffices. Advanced camera technology creates a dynamic experience, giving audiences a glimpse into different angles of the service as if they were present in-person. Deploying PTZ robotic/remote controlled cameras with auto-tracking technology throughout the house of worship can help production teams easily capture these multi-angle views. A production that cuts between the speaker, the stained-glass windows, the unique architectural elements of the facility and the community members present in-person will help your remote experience more closely rival your in-person one. Further, the compact size of the cameras makes them easy to fit within existing beams and pillars for a discrete appearance that won’t hinder the in-person worship experience.
Not only can these cameras help stream services for remote attendees, when paired with the right live production distribution platform, production teams can send camera footage to different displays across the worship campus. This enables services to stream to different venues, spreading out worshippers on busy holidays.
Captivating projection technology
While the right video technology will have the greatest impact on the remote worship experience, projection technology is one of the most important ways to enhance the in-person worship experience. Scholarly research4 indicates that 65% of the population is made up of visual learners. That means more than half of people retain information better when they can see it as opposed to just hearing it.
Projection technology with the right brightness and colour settings for the space can help worship leaders support their sermons with visual content. Whether it’s an image to illustrate a passage of the Bible people may not be able to visualise for themselves or some calm imagery timed to music to signify a moment of quiet contemplation, the options are endless. Adopting this strategy will be especially important to engage younger worshippers who may benefit from colourful, engaging visuals to help them understand the contents of the readings.
Projecting reading passages and song lyrics also helps ensure that everyone present in-person can follow along with the service, even if they don’t have a paper copy in front of them.
Additionally, projection technology is particularly helpful for larger sanctuaries where it may be challenging for all worshippers to have a good view of the pastor onstage. Much like attending a concert at a large music venue, cameras can capture the pastor onstage, while projectors transmit a real-time, close-up image feed, providing a more intimate viewing experience.
While you may think of digital signage as a retail application, presenting messages digitally is important in any type of community-based environment. Worship leaders can leverage digital signage as a community builder, using them as a place to share information about upcoming cake sales or donation of worship drives. Instead of relying on verbal updates at the end of a service, presenting visual reminders on a digital display can help the message stick. Data from California State University5 shows that the retention of information reinforced with visual content is 15% higher than when presented without. Worship centres can also feature announcements from community partners, whether it’s the local school or a nearby business, to highlight their presence as a community pillar.
Similarly, digital displays help worship leaders provide direction. Imagine a Christmas Eve service at a large church campus with concurrent services taking place in multiple different buildings. Instead of having volunteers spend their time guiding people, strategically placed digital signage with directions can help ensure people make it to the right place. Beyond physical directions, houses of worship can also direct people to the appropriate page numbers for readings, making sure they stay engaged in the service.
Likewise, if a church can only hold one service on a busy holiday, production teams can stream the service to different buildings across the campus with the right digital displays. This way, worshippers who prefer to come in-person can still do so, despite physical spacing restrictions.
Lastly, displays can serve as content prompters for the talent onstage. Whether it’s the pastor following his sermon or the choir following musical lyrics, displays give them the confidence they won’t miss conveying a message, song or announcement.
While visuals play an important role in boosting engagement for both at-home and in-person worshippers, engagement will be minimal if worshippers can’t hear the speaker. Many houses of worship think carefully about having the right audio solutions for musical performances, but it’s just as important to find the right microphones for your speakers based on your needs and size.
Beyond that, many houses of worship now have conference and classroom spaces where deploying the right microphones can help create a more inclusive environment where everyone can participate, regardless of whether they are at home or in-person. Staff and volunteers can conduct hybrid meetings, while remote and in-person worshippers can meet, interact and build community through activities like hybrid Bible study sessions. Taking the time to equip communal spaces like this with the right microphones and receivers, in addition to your worship halls, will support even more hybrid community building.
Embracing a new world of worship
While this new era of hybrid worship may seem intimidating for houses of worship that saw remote worship as a temporary offering, it has created opportunities to engage with existing audiences in new ways and expand to new sectors of the population.
Ultimately, successfully attracting new worshippers and engaging existing ones will depend upon a worship centre’s ability to leverage the right technology in new and engaging ways.