There we were, the video director, the lighting designer, and the drama director all staring at the new drop covering on the back wall of our roller-skating rink turned sanctuary.
When we thought of getting a new cyclorama we dreamed about how perfect it would be to have twenty feet of clean muslin as our backdrop for graphics, images, lighting, and illustrations. But seeing it hung in its place made each of us feel uneasy.
“How does the worship team design great worship week after week?” Steve our lighting guy wondered out loud. “It takes me forever to come up with the lights for one song!”
Then the drama director chimed in, “The worship team has hundreds of years of material to draw from and all we have is a giant blank page.”
In the last fifteen years, contemporary churches like ours have transcended from projecting song lyrics on overhead projectors, to slide projectors (black background white letters) and most recently, to PowerPoint. At first PowerPoint was our answer to organizing lyrics. Then it was a year of blue backgrounds and white lettering in Helvetica before we started experimenting with different backgrounds, colors and fonts. A few years ago we started adding visual images.
It may seem overwhelming when your Pastor asks you to add visual support to his sermons. Changing from a generic template to utilizing a host of visual images in each worship song sounds good; but finding the time (not to mention the capital) to create graphics for every praise chorus may wear you out before you begin. Fear not. Help has arrived.
Until recently, graphic libraries tended to be too expensive for the average church budget. As a result, the same images were used over and over again. But visual images affect us too powerfully to succumb to such numbing repetition. We want to create a sense of continuity without creating a distraction to the congregation.
Your Library Card
Today, there are a number of companies that offer high quality, royalty free image libraries such as those we use from Digital Juice (www.digitaljuice.com) Of course, we must be concerned with novices putting the presentations together and getting mediocre results. If you’re like us at Northland Community, you have a lot of volunteers on your team. You’ll be glad to know that using these libraries is very straightforward. Importing graphics into your PowerPoint program is only a matter of pointing and clicking.
Creating your Palette
Advanced users can import images into Photoshop to create an infinite number of custom graphics. One of the greatest advantages of having a library like this is that it gives you a head start on the creative process. Quite often we begin with a stock image and then layer a few other images in varying opacities. We then add some gaussian blur, adjust hue and saturation, add some text and viola; we have a highly polished graphic.
As our church developed its media ministry, we moved from using PowerPoint during worship, to adding live cameras and image magnification. We now use an image library for full page and lower third graphics. The JPEG images that are included work exceptionally well with our Pinnacle Deko character generator. And the animations and stills work well with our Matrox Digisuite Non-linear edit system.
Sunday… is that this week?
The motto for our church staff is, ‘Yes, Virginia, Sundays come every week.’ There is nothing better than simple instructions and effective tools to make the week longer. Our worship planning meetings take place on Tuesday, rehearsals on Wednesday, Friday off, and worship services start Saturday at 5pm with the last service on Monday at 7pm. Any church that finds themselves in a ‘weekly grind’ mode can quickly deter from what God wants to do during the Sunday service. We need time to think creatively, mull over the songs, look at different images and graphics, and pour through the scripture and sermon topic – a process essential in hearing from God on how He wants to lead His people.
Finding time for creativity is a real issue for every church, so when we find something that relieves the burden of having to re-invent the weekly wheel, our team gets very excited.
Because our church is large, we determined that the most effective way to get information out was during the worship service. The solution for us was to create a pre-service announcement slide show. These looping presentations easily saved us 40 minutes on ministry and event announcements! We use PowerPoint, animation, and sometimes video. The pre-service time now remains a time of preparation for worship while disseminating information in an effective and artistic manner.
For high school and middle school ministries, keeping up with the latest technology can be a big part of your week. Every week our youth group takes the chairs and pews out of our sanctuary and turns it into a coffee house, complete with tables and games. They have their own mini-service complete with a youth group band, minister, drama and video.
During a preaching series on the book of Acts, our drama ministry provided an eight- week series using the same characters and setting. We not only created a title card for this, but we added theme music to get in and out of the dramas. Using audio and visual reinforcers helped the transition from worship to drama to sermon seamlessly.
The greatest benefit for our church has been having the tools to move beyond staring at the blank canvas to creating visuals, which move people to think beyond themselves, beyond their circumstances, to the beauty and grandeur of God.