At Stevens Creek Community Church on Sundays, worshippers needn't search to find a hymnal on the seat back in front of them.
There haven't been any in the sanctuary for about 12 years.
Instead, massive projector screens flank the altar and lyrics scroll on the panels along with imagery to emphasize a song's meaning.
"Everything in our surroundings is video," said Todd Sturgell, the creative worship pastor at the church. "Technology is growing in leaps and bounds. If church has to keep up with that, it must change directions."
Churches moving away from hymnals is a growing phenomenon, while the familiar hardbound hymnal is becoming a thing of the past, industry experts say.
"It's just now starting in churches," spiritual music distributor James Daugherty said of the move away from hymnals. "Churches are a little behind the click of the digital age."
Though Daugherty, the owner of Gospel Tracks Publishing in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., said most of his company's sales are still in print, times are changing.
"I don't look to see (new) hymnals being around in 10 years," he said.
In addition to providing hymnals to churches, Daugherty's company creates new arrangements of songs available in the public domain in many formats. He said much of the move away from traditional hymnals has to do with the musical tastes of younger churchgoers from teens to those in their 40s.
"There are a lot of different trends," Daugherty said.
Many larger churches are moving to orchestral music and are looking for arrangements of classic hymns to fit that style, he said. Some, such as Stevens Creek, perform rock-theme praise music that is popular on Christian radio stations.
"It's becoming more of a one size doesn't fit all," he said. "(But) we still see more of the smaller churches staying with traditional hymnals."
One of the other major considerations is cost, Daugherty said.
Depending upon a church's size, for a few hundred dollars it can obtain a yearly license to perform, transmit or broadcast copyrighted music or even video through companies such as Christian Copyright Licensing International.
The licenses give churches blanket coverage to legally use copyrighted spiritual music, and the fees pay the artists and songwriters their entitled royalties.
As printing prices increase the cost to churches for restocking their sanctuaries with hymnals, the cost to obtain a copyright license and move to lyric projection or other digital products becomes more appealing, Daugherty said.
"It's going to come down to economics and economics drive the industry," he said.
Christian Copyright Licensing International represents nearly half of the estimated 300,000 churches in North America and 2,500 to 3,500 Christian artists and songwriters, said Paul Herman, a marketing manager for the company.
According to a 2006 study of its customer base, only half of Christian Copyright Licensing International's member churches reported using hymnals. Thirty percent reported performing solely Christian contemporary music; 20 percent described their music usage as traditional; and 50 percent were listed as blended.
"With anything, there is a push to more electronic and less paper," Herman said, though he dismissed the idea that hymnals will disappear altogether. "Hymnals can't be added to once they are published, but with the license churches can obtain music as it is written."
Sturgell said there are many reasons why Stevens Creek has gone without hymnals for more than a decade.
"One is just a practical reason of we believe that worship is more than just singing," he said. "Raising hands is a sign of worship, clapping; Scripture shows us different ways of worship. If you are holding a hymn book, you can't clap or hold hands."
Though Stevens Creek uses predominantly contemporary music through its license, there is a lot of spiritual value in the old hymns, he said.
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