Is a picture worth a thousand words?


If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Younger generations are visually-oriented, not text-oriented.” That’s why we have to have flashing power point slide shows in our worship services. That’s why we need to dumb down our sermons. (‘Cause the kids, they can’t understand all those big words… they need to be entertained.)

But, is this true? My daughter learned to type her name in a keyboard when she was two, way before she could write it. She loves television, but she loves books much more.

Look at the advent of the blog. Look at how much email we write, and text messages. Did former generations write that many letters? I don’t think they did.

I actually worry about those who are not as verbal in our society. I wonder if they struggle socially and professionally in a world that’s so text based.

Now, I will say, when I see an ad, I’m not reading fine print. On church websites, I don’t take in a dense ten-page history.

But, for the most part, I’m not sure that the whole text-to-image shift is true. I mean, I quit watching TV years ago. And people in their twenties generally don’t watch it as much as their parents did. 

What do you think? Is this just me being a snob? Or, have we misdiagnosed the cultural shift? Or, is it that we appreciate both–the image and the text? 

the photo’s by J.Salmoral


7 thoughts on “Is a picture worth a thousand words?

  1. I’m not sure that’s the real issue in worship. Protestant worship has been based on one way of learning: sitting and listening to a person talk about ideas/concepts/instructions or what have you. I think we’re living in a time when we’ve admitted that not everyone learns the same way, that we can add feelings and color and texture to worship and have that be enriching.
    I don’t love the screens, but if you want to use art in worship and have everyone see it, I can see a screen is more effective than a print out or photocopy or scan passed around the congregation (although I have done the latter when that was the only way I could make it happen). So I don’t think abandoning text is the issue; it’s broadening our idea of what makes our time together worship.

  2. Good point, Songbird. I completely agree. Feeling and color and texture are important to worship. I love arts in worship, and I’m always looking for ways to encourage it. I have used art on screens during worship as well.

    My concern is two-fold. First, I worry that people might think that flashing nature scenes on the screen during a hymn is what all adults under the age of forty want. That they’re too used to multi-tasking, and they have the inability to be engaged with one thing.

    Second, I’m concerned that the church might abandon the text, or at least that they might believe that’s what we want. When I’m not so sure.

  3. Well, as as someone who still has a couple years to claim the title “twenty-something,” I can say that while I appreciate visual respresentations of things and am a visual learner in certain aspects (i.e., assembly instructions), I love words. I remember the first time I realized God spoke the world into existance. How cool is that?!? He could have just thought it but he spoke it. I love that. I am also the type of person you have to physically touch in order to speak to me if I am watching a movie. I get sucked in pretty quickly. But I think that’s why it doesn’t speak to me as much…insead of stimulating my me, it takes up so much space in my head I don’t have room to interact with the ideas presented. So yeah…my parents definitely watch more TV and movies than I do which I think is kinda funny. Oh how the tables turn.

  4. incorporating visual imagery in worship doesn’t need to be about dumbing down or taking words away. kids today spend 10 times as much in front of screens as their counterparts only 40 years ago. it is not the only way the learn, but is a way they learn. if the average american watches between 6-8 hours of tv a day, i think churches need to include visual imagery in worship…it is and will be for the foreseeable future be one more learning style that people use.

    words to have power, but images do as well. the challenge for the church will be providing images that are well placed, relevant, engaging, and helpful in worship. it’s not different than trying to pick a song, affirmation of faith, or liturgy that engages people.

    the mistake churches make is not including images, it’s not taking the time to include them in a way that works.

  5. Maybe I’ve just never seen it done well…. Has anyone out there?

    We are spending more time in front of screens, in general, but younger generations are in front of computer screens, not televisions. So, is the computer about the text or the images?

  6. For me the computer is definitely about the text. The flashy images may entertain me for a little while but I always go back to the text. It’s the words that get me. It’s the way words connect people. It’s the way a conversation weaves a tapestry of community in a way that nothing else can. I am not sure that everyone is like this, but I know I am. I love photography, but give me words. Photographs capture a moment but words are living.

  7. I personally love and appreciate the images that you put on your blog. It must as long to find the correct image than to write your entry.

    I minister to people who are developmentally delayed. When our choir sings at a church, I love churches that have the liturgy on a large screen. Without that, I have to personally go to each member, find the page of the songs, find the scripture, show them the prayers in the bulletins. Doing what I do, I say, “Hurrah for the screens.”

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