Most American churches today have made the transition from print to projection in their worship services (source). That is to say, when it comes to letting their congregations know what to sing, churches are relying less on the hymnal and more on technology.
Walls that were once adorned with stained glass or beautifully crafted organ pipes are now, quite literally, blank canvases that are only limited by the processing power of the computers projecting imagery onto them. Visuals that were once planned and crafted over the course of months or years by experienced hands can now be replaced by ones picked in a few minutes by a volunteer. We’re not going to debate the merit of either of those two extremes in this article, but I do want to ask an important question:
If you were asked why your church uses the worship backgrounds it chooses on any given Sunday, would you have a good answer?
The visuals we choose to accompany the words being sung are arguably as important as the instrumentation that accompanies the melody. Well-chosen worship backgrounds, just like skillfully executed musical arrangements, can have a huge impact on whether or not people connect with a song. Your visual choices (including what you choose not to use) can communicate as much about your church as whether your musicians play Hillsong, hymns, or Gospel music.
The chances are pretty good that you’re not going to be creating the worship backgrounds that your church uses from scratch, but rather, using ready-made graphics like the ones you’ll find at Igniter Media. These off-the-shelf options are designed to look good projected on a screen and to be as close to one-size-fits-all as possible.
However, choosing the right backgrounds isn’t completely foolproof. Here are four things to consider as you make these visual choices.
KNOW YOUR CHURCH’S DNA
There are a lot of variables to consider. Motion or still? Muted or colorful? Abstract geometrics or natural landscapes? The direction you choose should be informed by your church’s DNA.
What do we mean by that? Your church has a unique history and a unique demographic makeup. Understanding these are key in choosing backgrounds that will emphasize, rather than distract from, the Truth in the songs you sing to your unique church body.
If yours is a newer urban church serving mostly young adults, you might be able to push the creative envelope more than an older, more traditional church that has only recently warmed to the idea of projection at all. Likewise, the visuals you choose can communicate a lot about your church’s DNA to first-time visitors.
So how do you figure out what that DNA is? Knowing where your church has been in this realm is important, but even more important is being open to feedback and collaboration. It’s a lot of work prepping worship slides every week, but be careful not to get so invested in the direction you’re headed that you can’t change gears if people find it distracts them from worship.
KNOW YOUR SONGS
You should know the songs that you’ll be singing just about as well as the musicians playing them.
This might feel like an overstatement, but being this familiar with them will help you immensely as you are choosing how many lyrics should fit on a slide, proofing to make sure the lyrics are correct and cycling through the slides as the songs are being sung.
We’ll go into this in more depth in a later article, but some colors serve more mellow, pensive songs better and colors serve upbeat songs better. Likewise, when choosing motion worship backgrounds, you’ll find that it’s generally better to match the intensity of the motion with the tempo of the song.
KNOW YOUR SPACE
A good sound guy will move to different parts of the room to hear how the mix sounds from different vantage points. Similarly, you should know what your projected images look like from different seats in your room.
Move around. You’ll find that the experience that many worship backgrounds create is different at different places in the room.
Sit in the seat farthest away from the screens to make sure your font size is big enough to be legible. Check the seats closest to the screens to make sure the motion worship backgrounds you’re choosing aren’t completely overwhelming.
Seeking out a new perspective often reveals that you need to make small changes, and sometimes big ones—potentially even to the position of your screens or the brightness of your projectors.
KNOW YOUR TOOLS
Things are bound to go wrong, eventually. Maybe not this weekend or next, but at some point, your presentation software will glitch or your computer will freeze, and you need to be ready to quickly solve these problems as they arise. We encourage you to have a plan B in place in case something does go aloof. One thing you should definitely do is save any media you may need in a place that can be accessed by multiple people on your team. Keep your eyes open for more posts and videos from us that will help you learn the ins and outs of popular software and hardware setups, and the common questions we hear about them.
This might all sound pretty daunting, but the reality is, if you’re thinking about these things and being intentional about the choices you make, you’re already on the right path. Soon, we’ll walk through how to handle some of this stuff in more detail. In the meantime, comment below if this raises any questions for you or if you have other things you think are worth considering.
Whatever your church’s DNA is, the Igniter Media library has worship backgrounds to match it. Explore over 16,000 still and motion worship backgrounds here. While you’re at it, check out our membership options and join thousands of other churches that rely on Igniter to help with their creative media needs.