Someone asked me last week about WiFi in the church. Its a great question, and i believe that it will change the way of teaching in traditional churches over the next few years. It may also affect house churches, since much of the new growth in wifi will be in the homes.
The first church I attended with WiFi was the Gamagori Community Church in Japan, where they had me preach in 2002. The signal (coming from an apple airport like the one pictured) was all over the church but no one was on-line during the service. This will change soon. And this is how i predict it will happen:
1. A church installs a WiFi transmitter, probably because they want wireless access to the internet for their staff who are in multiple offices.
2. It gets left on during the weekend. Young people and professionals, always searching for a wifi signal, discover that they can connect during church.
BTW, i use MacStumbler while i drive – the program beeps me when i drive through a Wifi zone and it tells me all i need to know about that signal. (I only WiFi at traffic lights – never when i drive. . . . well . . not any more, anyway). I am awaiting the day when someone will invent a watch that detects WiFi.
3. During the Sunday service, people arrive early to get the best seats – those next to a power outlet. Some church members think they are taking notes from the ministers sermon. Others know better.
4. The minister decides that instead of banning wifi usage during the teaching, he (or she) should actually take advantage of the technology. The minister uploads files related to the message, creates journeys of discovery and learning for the technologically advantaged to follow (to stop them digressing from the message)
5. The minsister creates a public folder on his or her computer with resources related to the message.
6. If the WiFi warriors are too much of a distraction, a special room is created in the back. In the meantime, the techies are sharing space in the crying room or the hall way, both of which will need more power sockets. But if it is not allowed in the sanctuary, why not have a dedicated space . . and with coffee, comfortable chairs and tables. Tables will allow people to track the teaching as a group – thus preventing people going off to read movie reviews or download games.
7. The minister decides that since so many people are tracking with him in his message, he finds a way to allow the congregation to make comments, suggest links to other Bible passages, or put up prayer requests, all in real time. If powerpoint is too static, a program that allows a message to be posted to the internet and commented on would work better (a modified blog????)
8. Some of the men come back to church. They can listen to the message and do whatever they need to do online at the same time – this will include making notes, changing schedule, looking up websites. This already happens at some churches with old media – such as notebooks, journals, diaries, etc – no reason why it would not happen with new media.
9. House churches can track with other house churches in real time through video conferencing, and they can also post prayer requests and announcements for other house churches.
10. House churches within a few miles of each other can share the same signal through directional transmitters which are quite cheap.
Of course Wifi phones are already available so maybe it will not look as obtrusive as i have outlined.
All in all, traditional church gets a lot more interactive, men return, and churches become known among geeks and professionals as WiFi or non-WiFi enabled.
Guess which one I would choose?