The use of technology in the church continues to increase as progress is made in the area of sound, lighting and video. It seems a large majority of churches today are using video screens to project the texts of their worship songs. For the worship leader it has greatly simplified the giving of instructions during worship, making it possible for the leader to focus more on the spiritual aspect of the music in comments rather than where to find the songs (hymnal, bulletin) and exactly what will be repeated, etc.
The negative side of song text projection is that we are no longer looking at printed music as we have it in our hymnals. We are raising a generation with little or no connection to actually reading musical notation. I think we also lose a since of the poetry and syntax of the song text since we can only see one or two phrases of the song text at a time on the video screen.
Here are some thoughts on making good use of projected song texts in worship:
1. When setting up the defaults for whatever projection software you are using (PowerPoint, Mediashout, Easy Worship, etc) – keep the backgrounds to the text simple. Often the backgrounds that feature nature pictures (moving or still) overpower the song text itself. As people are worshiping they can easily be distracted away from the meaning of the song text to thinking about the picture behind the text. Sometimes the picture helps to enhance the meaning of the text – but it seems more often it can be a distraction.
2. Avoid busy backgrounds that have constantly moving colorful designs. If you are using a moving background – keep it slow and simple.
3. Consider using a simple solid color background that doesn’t change – help the people focus on the text alone. Use a background that helps the text to stand out in a bold way.
4. Use fonts for the text that are easy to read. Fancy fonts may look nice but can slow down the comprehension of the text.
5. When setting up defaults for the text itself. See how many lines of text you can project on your screen at one time- giving a sense of several phrases of the song text at once. Go in your worship center and see how it looks on the screen as you stand in the back row. Getting more lines on each slide helps with the understanding of the content of each verse.
6. Use punctuation. I know that today it seems to be the default to not use punctuation on projected song texts. (Who decided this anyway?) It seems when we are looking at slide after of slide of song texts with no punctuation that it is one more step towards the ‘dumbing down’ of the written word. Song texts are poetry – use punctuation to show the relationship of words and phrases in the line. I noticed one worship song software that will put an occassional comma in the middle of a phrase for some reason but not on ending phrases. If we want to help the worshiper to understand the song text, wouldn’t punctuation help that understanding rather than hinder?
7. When using hymn texts from a database make sure the verses match up to what you expect. Hymns often have many more verses than what we have in our hymnals and some editors put in different verses.
8. Check your song texts before Sunday morning. If you have someone else prepare your projected texts – make sure you have an opportunity to review it before the worship service. It’s pretty rare today with projection software, but make sure the words are spelled correctly. How distracting it is when the words are misspelled, or phrases are missing or verses are in the wrong order. As worship leaders we want to do everything we can possibly do to help the worshiper focus on the Lord and not on our lack of preparation.
I think the old adage of “keeping it simple” works well when it comes to preparing song texts for projection. Don’t let the technology overpower the main message.