"What is television going to look like in 60 years?" This was the question posed by TV Guide to experts in the field of broadcasting. Some of the responses gave me dreams of cool futuristic TVs. One response stated that wearable TVs were coming. One said that we would one day be able to paint our televisions onto any surface desired. V. Michael Bove is the director of the consumer electronics program at MIT's Media Lab. He stated that in the future companies would make peripheral television. Imagine watching a crime drama when out of the corner of your left eye you see the criminal sneaking-up behind the victim. It startles you. Or imagine watching a field scene and seeing birds fly by you on your left and right and then in front of you and then behind you. This goes beyond 3D to create an immersive experience. Your entertainment will not only be in front of you, but to your right and left, while the sound will surround.
Brian Johnson, resident futurist at Intel, said, "It will be in the hands of young storytellers to use the new technologies to tell a fundamentally different story." Traditionally, preaching has been a one person monologue delivered from the front of the room to a room of observers. What happens when the audience begins to expect a more immersive experience? How could the church prepare to deliver the message of the Gospel with more immersive technology? At this point, we can dream and think with vision about the future.
First, begin to think of preaching as multi-dimensional. Create an atmosphere for your message rather than just a printed word. Creating an atmosphere can be done in many ways. If you have access to multiple video projectors think about not just giving a front-projection, but also on the sides. An outdoor scene can be created with sound effects that would help the student engage with the narrative on a deeper level.
Try doing a drama that involves characters sitting among students or coming from behind them. (Note: Do not attempt the surprise Anti-Christ's soldiers, Terrorists, or crazy homeless guy busting-in to martyr everyone. It will not end well.) Imagine students' heads popping-up to attention as they wonder who's talking and who is next.
Have a student stand to read the night's Scripture from among the group rather than from the front so that the Word of God resonates in a different way. Responsive reading can accomplish this as well. The leader reads a part of the Scripture and the students speak the next part back to him or her. Try placing your worship team singers around the youth room instead of just in the front.
This one is a pretty basic, traditional idea, but can create an immersive experience. Ask leaders to vocally affirm the message. For some it may be an "amen," while for others it may be a quieter "that's good." The students will hear the voices of the witnesses to truth.
Everyone expects the pulpit to be in the front of the room. What if the speaker was in the back or side of the room and the Scripture or presentation on the screen was the focal point. Or imagine telling a story while students act out the story on one side of the platform.
Finally, think about the intangible. I believe in an immersive experience culture, the church has the opportunity to introduce students to the Holy Spirit. He can offer an experience disconnected from technology. Camps and retreats which place an emphasis on nature, and disconnecting from ever present technology to connect with the Holy Spirit could become even more valuable and unique.
Peripheral vision is our side view. It allows us to see things that are out of normal focus and allows us to fully enter into a context. Perhaps a new way of communicating will allow your students to hear, see and experience something different and lead them to think, pray and be transformed.
Follow Garland on Twitter: @gowensby