A guy called the other day and said, “Hey, we’ve just switched from overhead transparencies to PowerPoint. We’re using black text on the white background.” “Stop!” I yelled over the phone. The thought of searing the congregation’s corne as with white light from the video projector was almost more than I could imagine. He explained, in calm tones, that they wanted to match the look everybody was used to from the many hours of projecting overhead transparencies. He went on to tell me that it was too hard to manage colored backgrounds in PowerPoint. With new technologies come new challenges; and new temptations. Presentation software gives us the challenge of engineering new ways to communicate, and the temptation to push it’s limits at all costs. Here are a few tips to enslave your technology.
Remember your reason for moving toward any technology-based solution. It is because of your message. John Lasseter of Pixar Studios has focused his creative teams with the phrase: “The Story Is King”. A nice reminder to those of us who handle the most incredible story in human history. Don’t be tempted to use every bell or whistle in a software package designed to fly pie charts around the screen. Leave people with the Story; it’s what paints Christ into their imaginations. Remember your calling. It might not be to learn to operate the software. You may be better equipped to lead and encourage someone else to prep and run the software. If you are the one making the recommendation for software to be run by a volunteer, I encourage you to look for a simple solution.
One objective with your volunteers is to make them feel successful enough to want to keep helping. Don’t make them learn some convoluted system with macros and hyperlinks and a thousand menu options. In the movie “The Matrix”, computer code poured over the screen in an unidentifiable garble of green data. Some interfaces look the same to the typical volunteer.
Bonus! The right words are on the screen! OK, look- you can’t expect a linear system designed to ricochet sub-points into a sales outline to be flexible enough to keep up with the Holy Spirit! There are a number of Software packages designed to give the operator control over lyrics via dual video outputs on a PC. For example, Prologue Worship Leader has broken up songs into verse and chorus buttons for mouse-click control behind the scenes. The point is look for the best way for your volunteer to send the right messages to the screen. If not white, what? Besides downloading one of MILLIONS of images available on the Internet, there are MILLIONS more available all around you.
Digital cameras allow you to snap shots of your community, or textures or scenes, whatever! If it’s flat, it can be scanned. Don’t have a scanner? Your local copy-shop does. (I’d warrant there are business persons in your church with a scanner you could use for free.) Any presentation software today that doesn’t allow you to easily import graphics or images should be converted to coffee-cup coasters. A future article will outline more on the image content side of things. Just because we’re all used to surfing the web, or browsing our email to interact with our world, we don’t have to believe that the only way to people’s hearts is through LCD projectors. Live by technology, die by technology. Since you will be faced with power hits and microphone feedback and busted projector lights and a laptop with the deer-in-the-headlights look on it’s screen, be ready to improvise.
Look hard and deep into the face of the situation during those moments. You may find something worth repeating; on purpose. For example, lighting candles is a good solution for a power outage. The next time you have to do it, ask around, it may be the most meaningful thing to happen to your fellow worshippers in the last twelve months! Using technology when it is most appropriate can be a daunting creative challenge. Remaining chained to “the way we always do it”, can be worse. If technology is king, the story lives in the dungeon. It’s your job to free it! In the words of Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, “Have fun storming the castle!”