In case you hadn’t noticed, the Church is changing. These changes take on forms both subtle and obvious with some of the most profound taking place in worship.
Not only are the musical styles we employ in worship changing, but the tools we use to present a Sunday morning worship service are evolving as well. One of the most exciting of these new technologies available to us is in the form of multimedia presentation.
Here we are looking specifically at the presentation of text, images and video in support of a worship service, the most obvious application being the projection of lyrics for our congregational singing. Although this concept has been around for many years, current technology is allowing us to make lyric presentation an art form and ministry unto itself offering some substantial benefits.
When we rely on hymnals in corporate singing, we tend to spend a lot of time looking down. There is a subtle but important concept of countenance involved in worship and the fact that the lyrics are up there on the screen lifts everyone’s eyes up…a very important direction when it comes to worship. Another important bonus is that not holding a hymnal frees us to express ourselves by clapping and lifting our hands. I guess a practical argument could even be made for the fact that outfitting your church with new hymnals could easily cost more than the software and equipment needed to handle lyric projection.
In the past we used overhead projectors or slide projectors to present lyrics and in a lot of ways, the overhead projector was a model for modern lyric projection. First, there was a database of songs, usually in the form of a stack of overheads that we could freely access and draw on. The person handling the overheads had the ability to repeat verses or choruses as needed simply by placing the correct sheet of lyrics on the projector. This, however, is where the similarities end. Making overheads could be time consuming and as an artistic outlet? …Not.
Another approach was the creation of 35mm slides which allowed for a great deal of artistry, but creating slides was a photographic process and far from a real time operation. It was also a step backwards in the ability to change up the order of worship or add a new song since the slide trays had to be pre loaded before the service. Beautiful content with little or no flexibility. What was needed was a means to draw upon all of our songs in real time, allowing for some dynamic artistic input as to their presentation while allowing us to change the order and repetitions as needed. Various software packages were created for just this purpose allowing us to create and draw upon a huge database of songs with the ability to both preload a song list and to pull up songs seamlessly on the fly. They also allow us a great deal of artistic input with extensive font treatments, creative backgrounds and the ability to stream videos behind our lyrics.
Another benefit of these programs is their ability to create new slides on the fly, great for last minute announcements or song additions. Most of these programs also have built in bibles allowing you to project verses in support of worship with many different translations giving us the flexibility to select the translation or language that best supports the message. Although you would probably be better served to prepare this ahead of time, an operator could conceivably pull up the verses as the pastor referenced them during his or her sermon… on the fly.
Some of you may use PowerPoint for these tasks, and although it is a very powerful software package for doing business presentations, it lacks when it comes to lyric presentation or real time interactivity. PowerPoint is by design, a linear experience with a set beginning and end. Worship on the other hand can be much more dynamic. Worship leaders may feel led to call up a song out of order or one that was not even planned for that day. PowerPoint would be inadequate in these situations due to its linear nature.
The ability to support our worship, contemporary or traditional, with lyric presentation is a powerful and valuable tool. The fact that it can be a profoundly artistic expression gives us yet another means to reach our people through what they see as well as what they hear. The emphasis here should be put on the word “artistic”. This can be a very powerful component of our worship service and should be approached with the same preparation as any other aspect of our worship offering. Remember…with great power comes great responsibility. I should write that one down.