With digital signage becoming more and more visible in church settings, many media ministers are looking for relatively easy and economical ways to experiment with the new tools...and AV integrators are moving to meet that need.
The costs of hardware, network connectivity, content creation, storage, distribution, and all the effort required to keep things fresh can add up to a serious deterrent for many churches that don’t already have thriving media programs. But there are alternatives.
Market Specific Advertising in West Palm Beach, Fla., for example, offers churches a way to roll out as much digital signage as they want, and put as little or as much of their own effort into it as they can spare. Company President Terrence Tuck says churches even have the option to simply outsource the entire operation to MSA.
In this scenario, MSA provides the hardware, connections, and content for a signage operation that can generate revenue for the church as well as providing a communications tool. The “secret,” if that’s the word, is advertising—a concept that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever glanced at the small-space display ads that have long graced the typical printed parish bulletin.
“We’ve incorporated advertising into it,” Tuck says, “which a lot of churches don’t know how to do.”
It’s critical, of course, to keep the ads limited and appropriate to a church audience. MSA has 10 church installations in the greater Palm Beach area ready to go “live” next Jan. 1 with a shared digital signage system, offering advertisers an aggregate audience that should be more attractive than any single church. Through alliances with other providers, MSA offers churches a library of public-service content such as health videos to go with the church’s own services, announcements, and other content.
The largest challenge is to make sure it looks and feels like something that belongs in a church,” Tuck says. “A lot of churches have the feeling that you’re just trying to pilfer from the congregation, and it doesn’t have any value.”
Depending on the degree of church involvement in production, revenue can be shared in different ways between MSA and the church.
A similar approach to simplifying digital signage comes from StrandVision in Eau Claire, Wis. StrandVision offers churches a subscription service that allows them to store and access content on the company’s servers and route it throughout the church facilities over existing network connections.
“A lot of times coax cable is already run,” notes Michael Strand. Churches can acquire the displays of their choice and run the system from an ordinary PC that’s probably also on the premises.
“It’s a very inexpensive way to get going in digital signage,” Strand says. “You don’t need specialized equipment, and we give them a lot of options.”
Church clients can schedule the content of their screens depending on time of day, location on campus, or other factors, and can split screens to provide simultaneous delivery of different messages—live video of the sermon, for instance, coupled with a news feed, text announcements, or other content.
Digital signage is drawing adherents in the worship community for its reach and impact. As the applications continue to expand, AV integrators also continue to innovate ways to make it easier and cheaper to get started.