It might surprise you to discover that the one spot you thought would be off limits for using your smartphone is fast becoming one of the biggest embracers of technology.
LowCountry Community Church in Bluffton and the church it launched a few years ago, Hilton Head Island Community Church, are both utilizing technology on Sunday morning and throughout the week to reach out to new and existing churchgoers in a way they say makes perfect sense in today’s technology- driven world.
The theology hasn’t changed, but the method of delivery is staying current, relevant and relational, according to LowCountry’s lead pastor, Jeff Cranston. Using technology to deliver the church’s message seems to be working. LowCountry Community Church was recently named one of the fastest growing churches in North America. This Christmas, the church expects to see more than 3,000 people at its multiple Christmas Eve services.
How’s technology being used in church these days? It’s not uncommon to hear LowCountry’s progressive pastors ask churchgoers to get out their Bibles or mobile devices to reference a verse in church. Free Bible apps are readily available online and easily downloadable.
The traditional church bulletin is also becoming a thing of the past. At Hilton Head Community Church, you can follow along with the message using the church’s new app, which includes all the message notes and Bible references in real time. And on Sunday mornings, lead pastor Todd Cullen isn’t reading from a traditional Bible as he preaches; he’s using his iPad instead.
Want to sign up for a church event or check your child in at the children’s ministry program? It can all be done via smartphone, or via iPads that are available in the lobby at LowCountry Community Church.
With the vast majority of Americans glued to their cellphones, these pastors believe using technology helps them meet people where they are and how they communicate every day. Both say that the Christmas season is a particularly important time to reach out in a relevant way since for some, Christmas and Easter may be their only exposure to church for the year. “It’s the time of year when people are searching for something meaningful,” Cullen said. Both he and Cranston noted the holiday season is a time when people are tuned in to family and connecting, and that technology can make it easier. Both churches are also very active on Facebook and other social media in an effort to reach the community.
Out of town, or nursing a sick child at home on Sunday morning? Not a problem at LowCountry Community Church, where the three Sunday morning services are live-streamed via the church’s website and are available online throughout the week.
There’s virtually no area of church activity that’s untouched by technology these days, even when it comes to giving and missions work. Donations can be made via the churches’ websites and mobile apps, and Cullen notes his church has even Skyped with missionaries on the other side of the world.
Both are quick to note that technology doesn’t change the message of Christ they’re called to convey, it merely changes the method by which it’s delivered.
These two churches are on the cutting edge of church technology in the Lowcountry, but both pastors agree churches in many larger metropolitan areas have embraced technology, as can be seen in congregations in Atlanta or in Charleston, where mega-churches like Seacoast Church or Andy Stanley’s North Point Community Church live-stream Sunday morning messages onto realistic, life-size video screens at multiple campuses.
When asked whether he thinks church is getting “too convenient” with the ability to watch church live online from home, Cranston is quick to point out that live-streaming a service doesn’t take the place of a real connection with real people in a church community. “It’s a gateway for some people, and one that can make them more comfortable with church,” he said. “The goal is always to bring them into the church community and connecting with others through life groups and other activities.”
If you’re wondering where to head to church this Christmas season, the answer may be as close as your smartphone or tablet. Two devices you won’t have to leave behind on Sunday morning for these two progressive Lowcountry churches.
For more information on Christmas services and other church information, check out LowCountry Community Church at www.lowcountrycc.org/ and Hilton Head Community Church at www.hiltonheadcc.org. You can also download their apps online or go to their Facebook and Twitter pages.