Using audience response in engaging youth

By Mike Broderick

Saddleback Church, like most congregations, uses audio/visual equipment to enhance services as well as capture teachings and send video to other campuses. Increasingly technology is finding its way from the pulpit to youth ministry too. With youth demographics experiencing nearly every facet of life in Web 2.0 — from the classroom to the playground — why not integrate similar technology into youth worship experiences?

High School Pastor Josh Griffin leads a staff of six full-time employees, three interns and 100 volunteers who dedicate time to assisting Saddleback’s younger community. His enthusiasm for innovative teaching methods brought him to integrate response technology into his ministry, and the ministry prides itself on creative and relevant means to convey Bible teachings to its students.

With an audience that has seen incredible growth in the past year, Josh works at capturing and keeping the attention of his students. He uses tools such as audience response in order to maintain focus and direction.

Chaos with previous system

Previously, the ministry adopted a response system designed solely for classroom environments that used infrared technology. Utilizing infrared equipment — the same technology television remotes employ — often required students to run up to receivers to ensure responses were submitted. With a group of hundreds of high school age students, the system was less reliable and created more chaos than it was worth.

During one of the weekend services, Griffin and his team hosted a “choose your own adventure” series. The program allowed youth to decide on different aspects of the service — from the opening song to the topic of discussion, and everything in-between. Griffin originally wanted to incorporate a response system where the audience could easily vote with the press of a button without having to leave their seats.

He’s now using Turning Technologies’ flagship product TurningPoint, interactive PowerPoint software, and radio-frequency, credit-card size ResponseCard keypads, provided by Interactive Church Resources. Every aspect of the service during the “choose your own adventure” series was determined by the students. The system created an interactive environment and offered insight into a typically uncommunicative audience.

“Often times in youth ministry we talk to students,” Griffin says. “It’s not often that we get to hear from them. One of the fun things we were able to use the ResponseCards for is to create a very specific message based on what they wanted to hear and what they’re interested in. We used the results from surveys during the message to tailor the content to what they were struggling with and what they were dealing with.”

Used in training sessions

The audience response system was also used during several training sessions and conferences. First considered as a way to inject humor into his messages, Griffin quickly discovered that it was capable of collecting hard data as well. When more than 1,000 people joined him for a youth ministry training conference, he inserted a few ice breaker questions to relax and allow the audience to become familiar with the technology.

When he posed the question, “What method of transportation did you use to get here?” he was surprised the find that most participants had driven. By inserting a quick, on-the-fly question slide, he was able to find out how many miles the majority had driven. The answers to those two questions altered the way the conference was marketed and communicated to participants, making it a worthwhile tool in several situations.

Griffin and his youth ministry team have had great success with audience response in a variety of environments. On Saddleback’s campus alone, four different buildings have accommodated the system flawlessly and without any problems. He hopes to continue to use the system in a fun, interactive manner and also apply anonymous polling to uncover real problems that students may feel uncomfortable disclosing.

Mike Broderick is CEO, Turning Technologies, Youngstown, OH. []


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