In our September/October issue we briefly mentioned Park Community Church (www.parkcommunitychurch.org) as part of our “Modern Worship Spaces” article, but we still wanted to discuss the church in more detail. For the last 20 years, Park Community Church has met in more than 20 locations across the city of Chicago, including high school auditoriums, theaters, ballrooms, and hotels in order to minister to the community. Though their current worship space, a remodeled warehouseturned- church, piqued our interest, it was Park’s use of creative arts and multimedia that inspired us.
Jackson Crum – Pastor
COLLIDE: How does Park Community Church utilize multimedia in its worship services?
Crum: In recent years, multimedia has played a role in our weekend services, but only as an aid or support to our messages. We place a high value on the teaching and preaching of the gospel and use media to help support that. Whether it’s through video, music, texting, or any other new media, the goal is always to help folks focus on the message.
Texting is something we’ve utilized as a way to help our folks engage with our messages. Often, with our crowd, they come with many questions, and texting provides a way for them to engage with us and voice questions they might not have the chance to express otherwise.
We have a visual crowd, and we find that media helps connect the message. I use pictures of the biblical locations we’re talking about and use Google Maps to show the geographic locations in order to help communicate the historical authenticity of the Bible to a generation who believes the Bible is a book of fables. We also share people’s testimonies on videos we call “My Journeys” and have found them to be effective ways to tell people’s stories.
COLLIDE: What is the value and purpose for using media and design in your worship space?
Crum: Media and design are valuable to us but only if it’s helping us to communicate the gospel and helping people connect the dots. We never want to put the medium ahead of the message. We value the arts and creativity and believe the Church needs to champion and model them, not just emulate culture.
Some people are visual learners, and we’ve heard from many of our congregation who are artists that the colors, structure, and background designs our team creates make them feel like we’re thinking of them in our designing. The fact that we care about our space and beauty in all shapes and sizes speaks to our crowd.
Being that Park Community is a multi-campus church, how has media and technology aided this ministry approach?
We’re honestly still trying to figure out what the best fit for us is across all of our campuses. We are currently meeting in two locations (the Near North and Lincoln Park neighborhoods) and will soon expand to a third location in the South Loop. We’ve got a team that’s currently exploring and defining what our multi-site strategy will be. With one permanent location it makes it easy for us to do things that are more media and technology driven, but in other locations where we have to set up and tear down each week, we’re still determining what the best fit is for the use of media and technology in those locations.
Tim Schrader – Director of Communication
COLLIDE: We couldn’t help but notice your impressive website. Tell us about it and the process behind creating it.
Schraeder: Our website is a crucial component to how we communicate. Park is unique in that our average age is 29, and 60 percent of the people who attend Park are single. Being made up of a young, tech-savvy crowd, we put a lot of energy into making sure our website is accessible and up-to-date with vital information to help people connect.
We launched our website about a year ago (when we opened our building) and knew we had a great site that was simple and got the message out there. But we realized our site wasn’t adequate for the job we needed it to do after seeing how much traffic we were getting. We were driving people to our website for nearly everything after we stopped printing a weekly bulletin.
So, we found a great team of designers to work with, and they helped us think through what our site should do, functionally, and what it should look like. The end result, we believe, gives us a fresh look and drives people to content and information that’s vital for them. As for our “old” site, that’s only a year old, we’re working with our web development company, Ekklesia360 (www.ekklesia360.com), to donate it to a church plant that needs a good website.
COLLIDE: How does Park utilize social media in its ministry and communication?
Schraeder: In services texting plays a couple of different roles… we use it for people to text in questions about our messages and also have used it to take polls to get a feel for where our congregation stands on different current events or controversial issues.
We only print a bulletin once a month since a majority of our congregation is hyper-connected to the Web and social media. Throughout the week we depend on Facebook and Twitter to communicate upcoming events and opportunities for people to connect. But we also use it to see and hear what people who attend Park are talking about. Social media enables us to maintain a pulse on what people in our church are talking about and lets us know what they are thinking and how they are responding to our services. And in many cases, it has introduced us to people we had no idea attended our church.
With the launch of our new website we’ve also launched a private social network for our regular attendees with the help of the Cobblestone Community Network (www.cobblestonecn.com). Most of our 200-plus small groups have private groups on the network where they are able to communicate with each other, post prayer requests, and share a calendar. Different ministries in the church are using it to communicate news and information, and it enables us to have classifieds, job postings, a volunteer board, and other things that we wouldn’t necessarily want on a public site or on Facebook or another social network.
The key in all of this is that we’ve found a way we can best communicate with our congregation and we’ve put a lot of time and energy into ensuring we’re doing that to the best of our ability. We have a church that responds to media and technology, so we use it. For other churches that might not be the solution. It’s all about discovering who your people are, how they best communicate and receive information and creating a strategy around that. Not every church needs a killer website or Twitter, but if that’s a key way people in your church communicate then by all means you need to get involved in conversation with them where they are talking.
Jason Widney – Director of Media Arts
COLLIDE: How does Park Community Church utilize multimedia in its worship services?
Widney: We use media in many ways including sermon bumpers, testimonies, announcements, special production elements, set design, and environmental projection. We regularly change the way we include media in our services.
What is the value and purpose for using media and design in your worship space?
Media is not just about cool sets or lights. Media is a foundational element that plays a role in the messaging of the gospel by supporting the message, whether it is music or the teaching. It also gives artists and musicians in the church an outlet of expression.
COLLIDE: You’re constantly changing up your stage setup and design. Why do you feel this is important? How have people responded to this?
Widney: We change our set to assist in the support of the message and to engage people’s senses in a visual way. The response has been overwhelming. People refer to the stage designs as art and have talked about how it enhances their experience.
COLLIDE: What kind of creative team do you work with? Tell us about your creative process.
Widney: Our worship pastor, director of band development, communication director, associate director of media arts, and I meet on a weekly basis to walk through the services on a creative level. It’s a brainstorming session from which I take a few ideas to investigate and develop. I’d like to say we have all the ideas and concepts on paper, finalized weeks or months in advance, and it flows smoothly, but I often find the greatest creativity in the final hours. We are starting a new process as we prepare for Christmas by engaging three artists from our community to assist in the creative process.