Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sharing Content and Licenses Amongst Denominational Churches (United Methodist Church focus)


I have been using Proclaim presentation software for two years, now, and I am amazed and very appreciative of its great power and the quality of its design. It allows small churches such as the ones that I have been serving to do so much that we couldn't do otherwise!

Now comes the issue of how Proclaim might be enhanced to make small denominational churches more effective in working together. You see, as a small United Methodist Church in New England, we are surrounded by other small United Methodist Churches, each with some of the same issues when it comes to presentation automation. The first big hurdle: Having access to reliably accurate materials that reflect our denomination's music and liturgical traditions. Cokesbury does sell electronic materials in slide format, but they are awkward at best for adapting to Proclaim in their current form. This leaves typical small UMC  congregations having to create their own materials. Very often, lyrics for songs and hymns found on Proclaim databases do not match those published by the United Methodist Publishing House via Cokesbury. Often the differences are small and subtle, not easily caught even by diligent proofreaders checking slides. That takes a lot of work to correct - taking time that most small churches don't have.

So, adding a Cokesbury license for songs would be a huge plus for us UMC users. I know that this can get complicated at times, but it's worth exploring. 

The other factor for UMC churches, especially, is that we are moving towards more local/regional connexional forms of organizations - which is to say that small churches are being organized increasingly as they used to be in the early days of Methodism, like a circuit. Another word for this might be "multisite," although our traditions still vary significantly from the typical independent multisite. What this means is that it will become increasingly important for us to be able to share materials amongst independent and/or quasi-independent churches related to both ministries and messages. To share materials in Proclaim today in this scenario means either exporting or importing slides or presentations to share with other churches, or buying one license for multiple churches and someone avoiding bumping in to one another's desires for how specific slides should look, etc.CCLI licensing issues can also arise in this scenario.

It would be great to be able to share specific content amongst licensees of Proclaim, as many file-sharing services like Google Drive and Box enable already. An extra layer might be added to manage content licensing issues as required. This would allow small clusters of churches to develop materials for common mission and worship items easily, and could even help entire UMC Districts and Conferences to proclaim a common theme and purpose in worship.

I look forward to your thoughts on these ideas. I worked int the media and technology industry for about 20 years as a consultant, market researcher, and analyst for media and technology marketing, so I would be glad to have our church act as a Beta for some of these ideas as required.


John Blossom

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