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There is some discussion in our church about projecting the words to songs or scripture verses on the large overhead screen above the pulpit. There are some who say this helps engage the congregation, and other who feel that it's intrusive, distracting, and disconnects us from our hymnals and bibles. How does your congregation use projection technology, and how has that helped or hindered your worship experience?



Reaction is going to vary by individual. We started using slides in a old Kodak slide projector 10+ years ago. Some people complained about singing "off the wall" songs but most have become accustomed to it. We also project litanies, creeds & confessions, anything that the congregation needs to say or sing together will normally be projected. We also project pictures for visuals during a sermon or presentation but we normally raise the screen during the sermon to reveal the large cross on the wall behind the pastor.

Sarah, your question is one our church asked probably 20 years ago. From time to time I visit a church where there is still no projector, and it certainly makes me appreciate our projection use. We began with overheads, but I would strongly urge you to stay away from that; as it's dated technology. If you go for projection, do it with the newest and best equipment you can afford. It's actually hymnals and Bibles that keep people disconnected, with their faces pointing down, rather than up and out. Hands free worship is actually much more engaging than the nay-sayers in your congregation think. For those who want a musical score, there are several options to achieve that. (This past Sunday due to technical problems we had to use our old overhead. It was the elderly members who complained the most. They can see the projected words so much better than what's in hymnbooks.) This is a common story. Perservere!

For our congregation the challenge has turned out to be more about the influence that projection or songbooks has on song selection. Most modern songs are printed in a format that is spread over 6 pages and are arranged for a perfomer rather than for congregational singing. Our song leader & accompanyist have worked out arrangements that work well for our congregation and they would probably fit on 2 facing pages of a songbook, but it is virtually impossible for us to produce the music for these arrangements. So the result is that modern songs equal projection only.

I recognize the argument about songbooks and having heads down instead of up, but we have many worshipers who are uncomfortable looking up at a screen. I don't mean that they are people who don't like something different - I mean they are physically uncomfortable looking up at a screen to sing from. In addition, many miss the sense of "what's next" that you get with written music compared to a screen that may not change in time for the next section of the song.

Our hope was to offer written music for all songs and to project all songs so that we would include everyone, but we've basically ended up with a projection-only worship service. I believe our worship experience has suffered more than it has benefited.

Ernie, I hear your frustration. Your church's desire to be inclusive with providing written songs and projected songs for everyone is laudable, and I can appreciate the extra work involved here. It's hard to gage from your comments what kind of time you're talking about when you say your worship has suffered more than benefitted. In the 5 years we've had projection, I've come full circle on many aspects of projection. I used to lament having to close all the blinds; now I'm happiest on overcast Sundays. I used to put entire verses together so we wouldn't lose that sense of how songs and verses fit together. Now I frequently have only 4-6 lines of text up so the font size is larger and clearer. I hope in time, as your congregation becomes more accustomed to looking up at the screen, that it becomes a more positive aspect of worship. And maybe getting the people who run projection to turn slides sooner would help. Our rule of thumb is to turn at the 4th last word on the screen.

Ernie DeVries on March 5, 2011

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Wendy, we've had a projector setup for close to 10 years. It was put in place because a member donated the funds because of a feeling of "that's what people want these days". I would not say that there has ever been a real plan for using the system. It was as if just having a projector was enough, and guess what - it hasn't helped us grow or reach our community better.

We are a small church. It doesn't take much for singing to sound weak or sound wonderful based upon 3 or 4 people who are either stumbling over a song or who really "get it". I think we stumble much more often than we "soar" because of what projection only (without a music resource) lacks because it is just words. There is no sense of how a song goes, or of where it is going. When you have music available you provide a resource that can carry congregational singing.

My big thing with congregational singing is that it be done in a way that encourages enthusiastic singing by the congregation. Arrangements that are done well will do this regardless of whether there is a projector or not. Arrangements that aren't done well or aren't lead well don't get better because a projector is involved. Enthusiastic singing brings worshipers into God's presence and to me that is what worship is all about.

Sarah-I grew up singing out of a hymnal, and switched to a projector in high school. My church uses slides that have words and music, which is a great help when we are learning a new song.

If distraction is a big concern, you can start with just using it for the songs and litanies, with black slides for the inbetween times. As people adjust, if the Pastor is interested, you can add in sermon slides.

There are some things that can be rather distracting, but careful planning can help:

The slides should be checked before the service. The person who is advancing them can practice with the worship team, to make sure what they are singing matches with the slides. The person who created the slides should also give the operator and hints about timing. The worship planner at my parents' church gives them a helpful sheet of paper: there is a column with the portion of the service, and a column for what slides should be used. It's a great snapshot to reference during the service.

As Wendy's post illustrated, there must be a backup plan for when the projector fails, otherwise it is very distracting. The worship leader should not have to stop, or shout from the front. The congregation should have another source for the information. Also, there should be a person who can quietly respond to fix the problem and discreetly communicate with the Pastor if other plans need to be made--someone other than the worship leader.

Also, check to read reviews on projectors. Reading review on ProjectoReviews may be helpful or not but it will give you an overview what most users say about a particular projector.

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