Maybe you’re at a church plant that is outgrowing its space, moving to a new location, and deciding to bring in new technology in the form of worship screens. Maybe your church building is decades old and your congregation is ready for some updates. A while back, we wrote a blog post on how to use a screen in worship without worshiping a screen—but it’s worth taking the time to consider whether adopting screens during worship is the best choice for your congregation.
Using screens during worship can be a hot topic for some people. There are plenty of churches that use screens effectively and without detracting from worship, but there are also churches that use screens for the wrong reasons or put slides together haphazardly. When a church does decide to use screens, it’s important to make sure the screens are used well, otherwise they can become a distraction. The projection needs to appear very bright and clear, and surrounding lights should not wash out the screens so worshipers do not strain to read the screens. And most importantly, the screens should not pull visual attention away from the altar and the cross on the altar because those elements are the focal point of the worship space.
Deciding What’s Best for Your Church
When deciding whether screens will be an effective tool for you, it all comes down to knowing your specific context and openly and honestly exploring the pros and cons together.
Consider the Drawbacks
As you’re evaluating your need for screens, it’s important to think and talk through some of the reasons people may say not to use them. I’ve heard people say that worship is one of the only places they can go to get away from technology and really focus their attention on worshiping God. Another reason I’ve heard is that screens can be distracting, and I think that all comes down to quality. If the slides have poor fonts, color schemes, or design, or the person running the screens is constantly on the wrong slide, people’s attention can be drawn to those mistakes rather than on worship.
Consider the Benefits
While those concerns are legitimate and should be carefully considered and addressed, I think there are just as many positive reasons to use screens, and there are many ways to effectively eliminate those distractions. If screens are used well, they can do a fantastic job of enhancing your congregation’s worship experience. One reason I love using screens is that as a parent of three toddlers, it can be hard for me to keep my place in the bulletin or hymnal while trying to keep my one-year-old son from trying to crawl under the seats in front of us and make his way up to the pastor. But if the liturgy or music is up on the screen, I simply need to glance up to catch back up. Looking up is another a benefit in my book. I love the sound of hundreds of voices coming together to sing praises to the Creator, and when people have their eyes and chins up reading from the screens, their voices project much better than they do facing down at a piece of paper or a hymnal.
My Church’s Process for Creating Worship Slides
If you decide that screens will be effective for your congregation and you move forward with them, figure out the best process for getting those slides together each week. This process will be different for each congregation, but I want to walk through how I put slides together to give an example of how you might do it as well.
Step 1: Create the Bulletin
At my congregation, we use Lutheran Service Builder to create our bulletins. Our pastors and worship arts leaders work together to piece together the liturgy and pick out music that fits the themes of the verses for the week. As we collect that information, we put it into Microsoft Teams so we can access it from our multiple church sites or homes.
Step 2: Transfer the Bulletin Info to the Slides
When all the information we need has been collected, our communications coordinator, who works on most of our print pieces, formats and designs the bulletin and sends PDF and Word versions to us all. Once I receive this from her, I pull the Word document up and begin pulling in each element of the service to a playlist in ProPresenter.
I start building my playlist in ProPresenter by searching for each element of the service in the program. We have many elements that are the same each week, so I can simply drag those into the playlist. There are other things like the readings, hymns, and prayers that change each week, so I copy those from the bulletin Word document and paste them into ProPresenter as new elements.
Step 3: Check for Errors
When copying text from a Word document into ProPresenter, the formatting often changes. If that happens, I go into the edit mode for each slide and make adjustments to make all the slides consistent. After I get all the information from the bulletin into ProPresenter, I then go through and make sure the design is all correct and not distracting in any way.
Eliminating Distractions on Slides
A good design on slides can be the difference between having screens that enhance your congregation’s worship and screens that become a major distraction. For many congregations, the thought is that it is simply good enough to have the screens and it doesn’t matter what they look like. But when I hear people talk about how they think screens are a distraction in church, the main thing I hear is that the screens just don’t look good or they are full of mistakes. While it’s true that the function of the screens should really be all that matters, it is important to think through your design to keep screens from being distracting.
Set Up a Template
Designing your slides doesn’t have to be all that challenging. There is not a lot of design I change from week to week in my slides. I change the series title slide for the sermon series we are going through, the background image, and any announcement slides we loop on the screens at the beginning and end of worship.
If you choose to use screens, there will be a bit of design work at first, but after that you should be able to reuse a lot. I wasn’t on staff at this church when the ProPresenter computer was set up, so I didn’t have to come up with all the design elements, but I’m in charge of making sure they remain consistent now.
Use Consistent Formatting
We only use one font, but we change the weight and style to make it clear what each element is. For instance, for words being read by just the pastor, we use thinner text (300 weight) and italicize it. When the congregation speaks, we use thicker text (700 weight). That way, there is clear contrast between when the pastor speaks and when the congregation speaks.
We are also consistent with text alignment. For any kind of song or music, we center align the text, whereas for any other kind of reading, we left align the text.
Use Good Contrast to Make Text Readable
We always have a title slide for the sermon series and a matching background slide. We tend to use darker backgrounds with white text, as that seems to pop a little better on our screens. You can just as well use light backgrounds with dark text, but either way, make sure there is plenty of contrast between your slide background and text, otherwise the slides will be hard to read and can become a distraction.
The last step for me is to go back through once or twice and look for any grammatical errors, as these can be some of the most distracting mistakes one can make. I recommend you make this one of your last steps as well.
Download a free worship-slide template to use at your church!