Wireless projecting becoming easier
Video projectors and flat screen televisions are becoming as commonplace in many churches as hymnals. However, retrofitting a traditional sanctuary can be cumbersome and require stringing wires from all sorts of rafters. At the same time, churches such as First United Methodist church in Lexington, Kentucky, that are launching new worship communities often find themselves beginning these new services in multi-use rooms where a big screen/projector installation is not feasible.
Fortunately, there are solutions that can eliminate the need for cumbersome installations and allow you to run PowerPoint from your smartphone or tablet from any seat in the room.
Regardless of whether you have actual Internet access in the sanctuary, you will need to install a wireless router to allow your phone or tablet to connect to the video projector. From there, you have two great options.
If you have access to the Internet, the less expensive choice will be to purchase a Google Chromecast Streaming Media Player for about $30. This tiny stick plugs into the HDMI port on your video projector or television. It allows you to display everything from YouTube videos to video games through iOS or Android apps that support the Chromecast feature.
Besides working best with an Internet connection, the main downside to the Chromecast is that the primary way to display slides is through the not-as-full-featured and less attractive Google Slides app. Though the app gets the job done and can import PowerPoint, it lacks in ease of use and attractiveness of the finished product.
On the other end of the spectrum is Apple's Apple TV. The standard model is about $70 and has many of the same features as the Chromecast. Instead of preferring to connect to the Internet to stream your content, Apple TV either "mirrors" what is seen on the device's display or leaves the controls on the IOS device and sends a unique feed to the video projector. It will also function as a wireless second monitor from Apple computers.
Though it has one of the most attractive slide applications (Keynote), it also has a native PowerPoint app that works with Office 365 to bring the industry standard to any Apple smartphone or tablet. The downside here is that the Apple TV works exclusively on Apple devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Macintosh computers).
Apple is set to release an updated version that will have apps on the device itself that could enable users in the future to operate many of these features without access to another device.
The people of the new Offerings Community at Lexington First Church use the Apple TV and a flat screen on wheels in the front of their worship space each Sunday. The Rev. Chad Foster says it is perfect for a worshipping community "that has to pack-in and pack-out each week" as it lets them avoid the trip hazard of running long cables around the room. Since the device is so simple to use, Foster says, it "reduces the training barriers for new operators."
Anyone can run the screen using a device that has been paired with the Chromecast or Apple TV. They can sit with their family, sing in the choir or even preach. This flexibility might be what you need to jump into the digital age in worship.
If you are thinking about moving into the wireless frontier, Foster says, "It is really ideal for anyone who needs to display content. It is so easy and affordable that it can be used in any environment from a sanctuary to a small classroom to a band meeting in a home."
The Rev. Jeremy Steele is Next Generation minister at Christ United Methodist Church, Mobile, Alabama. He is also an author, blogger at jeremywords.com and a frequent contributor to MyCom, an e-newsletter published by United Methodist Communications.