Monday, September 7, 2015

Entertainment is Not Engagement

Vapid screens in church worship and the classroom lack engagement. Dependence on projected media sabotages memory, replacing substance and form for performance and entertainment.

It's Monday, ask any contemporary worship goer what songs they sang yesterday in church. Most will not remember. If they have a favorite contemporary worship song, could they sing it completely from memory?

Young adults and teens, those for whom we have designed big screen interactions, are even worse. Most that I ask cannot even come up with a favorite church song, opting to recall popular songs from the radio.

In another blog post, Jonathan Aigner gives 15 reasons we should still be using hymnals in church. Almost all of them deal with HOW we engage the medium, not the style of music. Large visuals touch our emotions but rarely soak down to our deeper understanding. Books provide permanence in our memory. Hymnals draw congregations into active participation in ways that big screen lyrics never will.

The same problem exists in the modern classroom where screens have begun to replace textbooks. Teachers are tasked with drawing students into deeper understanding and developing critical thinking skills. Simply playing more videos will never meet the challenge. Cutesy games and edutainment have a place on the peripheral. Engaging students in tangible tasks, reading from real books and holding them accountable through written responses is the core of education.

Unfortunately, both our churches and our schools have succumbed to the glamour of big entertainment. Focus has shifted away from depth of meaning to fast paced performance. Worship songs forgo punctuation, allowing congregations to interpret meaning for themselves. Students prefer to post quick videos rather than craft a revised paper. We need greater depth and less glamour if we expect to engage the next generation and see the internalization of the content we teach.