February 18, 2008

My Visit to Life-Church Online

I finally carved out some time on Sunday Morning to attend Church online at Lifechurch's online campus. As a part of our ongoing discussion about Internet Church I wanted to share my experience and then relate it a bit to the way we do worship here at Resurrection.

The interface is very clean and easy to use. It is clear to me that there was some serious interaction design thought process here, and that the "Cool Factor" was considered at least as seriously as the functionality factor. That being said, there were no technical glitches that I could discern and the technology seemed to hold up very well. While there was no way to gauge how many people were in Attendance - you could see how many people were utilizing the Interactive elements - that number seemed to hover around 300.

The First thing you do as you enter the experience is choose the worship venue you want to attend. You are then presented with an interactive interface. Here it is, during the presenation.

There are five major sections. The video section displays the live (Or i'm guessing semi-live) video feed from the location you choose - interspersed with introductions and commentary from the Internet Campus Pastor. It seems to me that the campus pastor talked at any point during the service when they might have been doing something on site that was not contextually relevant to people not attending locally. For example - they did an offering online by simply saying - now is the time for the offering - if you are on the website you can give by clicking the online giving tab, or if you are in Second Life there are places at the back of the room to give.

The Personal Notes section was pre-populated with the sermon notes and allowed you to enter and format your notes, email them, and/or print them. I found that to stay engaged in my home amidst the distractions of the television, animals, and the smell of food being cooked - I had to actively take notes.

The Friends in your row area I had some trouble with - i'm not sure how the friends system works so it was just me, and me (I started another session on a different computer so i could have a friend). I would guess that a live chat would be very cool - and obviously not something you can do in a RW church, but talking to yourself is just crazy so i didn't.

The most interesting element to me was the Interactive section - Its the box just to the right of the video player and it changed regularly in response to what was happening in the service. If the pastor asked people to raise there hands for any reason, the raise hand button would pop up and you could click it and see the number of responses. I guess thats the best way to do it - i'm always tempted to violate the heads bowed eyes closed admonision when a call to commitment is being made - mostly to see if the pastor is effective - this allows that without actually seeing the folk!! Anyway they managed to do a lot of interactive stuff that kept you clicking and engaged which I think is important for this medium.

Another cool thing is that near the end of the service they did a push that popped up a connection card (Their version of the attendance notebook). They asked you to fill it out, and if you were making a first time commitment the send you a bible and a "Getting started" package....great idea!

My impression is that, like their overall approach, they do a great job of doing things in a simple and excellent way.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Chuck for the overview. For many of us with church responsibilities...it is difficult to break away and see this experience live. This was on my to do list and your post gave me a quick intro. Thanks for taking the time.

Anonymous said...

From this post I tried out the worship, in which I went to their Tuesday evening service, and I have to say, I imagined a lot more. When I think of interactivity in a worship service, especially in one where not only is it supposed to be multi-sensory but is supposed to connect to an individual who is attending it apart from any sort of known community I get an idea of more than just clicking a button when "God is good" flashes up or "raise a hand" when the altar call is made.

I can see so much more being implemented in the interaction part, if nothing else than having a prayer forum so people could be praying for one another, or having an are posted with Christian artwork that relates to the message for those who are visual learners to ponder upon, to give two examples.

I've been increasingly interested in what exactly defines an internet campus for a while now, especially in linght of COR's thinking in building one, but this being my first experience actually at an internet campus I was extremely disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Chuck - Thanks for the overview of the experience. I hope to get to it soon.

Andrew Conard