I'm taking an online course right now through Pittsburgh Seminary about using digital media in worship services. Thankfully, I am at a church that uses projectors in all three of our worship services. But this is the first church I have served that has the capability to use digital media throughout the service, so I am taking this course to become more fluent with images and video in worship.
I just finished writing a response for the class and wanted to share a slightly edited version of it here as well.
"This is a conversation I have been in countless times:
Person A asserts that we need more current music or media in worship to reach younger generations.
Person B responds that they know someone who is young who doesn't like <insert new thing here> and prefers <insert traditional thing here>.
Person C says they know someone young like that too.
Persons B and C see no need to change and go back to their congregations where 80% (or more) of the people in the worship services are above 65.
So often in these conversation people use anecdotal evidence to say why these "sweeping generalizations" about younger generations and media are wrong. In my experience, almost all of these anecdotal examples are only anecdotal and never represent the general trends and demographics.
"There are many 30 year olds that like contemporary worship, and many who don’t." I would bet a large sum of money that there are more 30 year olds that like contemporary worship then there are 30 year olds that like traditional worship. And that's not even getting into the fact that most contemporary worship services aren't that contemporary anymore.
The need for digital media and updated music especially applies to people who have never been to church. Your typical unchurched younger generation member is going to feel very strange in a traditional service with a pipe organ, "thee and thou" hymns, and talking head liturgy. But if the service is styled in the media and music they experience every day their barrier to entry will be much lower.
Are we going to lose younger generations without digital media in worship? This won't be the only cause, but it will be a big part of it. Just look at churches that use digital media regularly in their church life, vs. those that don't. The demographics speak for themselves. We've already lost a generation or two, in part because we haven't changed our traditional worship services significantly in decades.
I'm looking at "The Worship Book" right now, which was published in 1970. This was the worship guidebook for Presbyterian congregation. The order of worship, liturgy, and music suggested is nearly identical to what the majority of Presbyterian churches use today. Worship hasn't changed significantly in over 40 years. The large majority of young people aren't watching movies or shows, listening to music, reading books, engaging in pasttimes, or doing much else that was popular in 1970. So why do we think that a church service from 1970 will appeal to them?