Walking the line between nerd and cool.

Why We Do It

Anatomy of a Worship Slide

I read an article today about projecting content (lyrics, readings, etc.) during worship. It had some tips to help projected content be more helpful for worshipers. I was pleased to see that our system passes the test for all of their tips, but the article got me thinking about what we’re doing with projection.

One of the first things I did when I switched into my current position was overhaul the projection system. At the time, we only projected lyrics to songs and each song was made up of an entirely different set of images, with little consistency from slide to slide. While I liked the additional art involved in the old style, I often felt that it was more distracting than helpful. Text would start at different positions on the screen, which makes it harder to track when flipping through multiple slides in the presentation. More problematic was that the design time it took to make each song was too high to sustain, especially once we started to project the entire service and move away from paper bulletins.

So I set to work designing a new system for projection. My guiding principles were:

  1. Readability is job 1. Moving to a paperless worship service meant the slides had to be readable above all else. After researching online, white text on darker backgrounds would result in the highest readability we could obtain. After our new projection system was installed, I invited some of our older members to do a readability test for font sizes to determine a minimum font size. Our standard is 32pt Calibri, 4 points above the minimum depth. Stand/Sit rubrics, Scripture references and service notes are 28pt.
  2. We can’t abandon the art. White text on black is the most readable combination, but I’m not sure it’s the best solution if we want to draw people into worship. Artwork and content are locked in a complex dance routine. After some trial designs, i decided to reserve the top 80% of the slide for content, and let the artwork reside in the bottom 20%.
  3. Design tells our story. Our three core story statements would influence the design so that the slides emphasize and reinforce who we believe God has called us to be at First Trinity. The primary story statement that I chose to focus on with the slide design was “Rooted and Relevant.” We have deep historical roots, but relevant expressions of faith. The primary font on the slides is Exocet Heavy, an “old” looking font based on ancient Greek and Roman design. Behind it sits the King & Queen, a more modern script, but with hints of old England calligraphy. The text show what part of the service we’re currently in, and matches the single page Order of Service that people receive in worship. The background has a rock texture applied to it, a nod to the solid foundation of God’s Word that our worship is based on.
  4. Icons and color amplify the mood. Behind the fonts sit black graphics with a soft light filter to allow the background to show through. The images are meant to help reinforce and teach what the various parts of the service are all about. They are subtle clues to the purpose of this section of the service. Times of song and celebration include people in celebratory poses. Prayer has a person on bowed down on their knees before God, illustrating our humble hearts in prayer. The Agnus Dei (Latin for “Lamb of God”) has a lamb in the background, a reminder of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Confession and Absolution have a hill with three crosses, a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. When possible, I chose traditional, liturgical colors. Confession/Absolution are purple, the color for Lent, a season of repentance. Scripture, Creeds and Baptism are blue, the color of life-giving water. The Lord’s Supper is brown, the color of a rich loaf of bread, fresh from the oven. Sometimes there wasn’t an obvious color, so I just chose something that worked.
  5. Sustainability and Speed. The slides have to be easy to create once in PowerPoint. With the use of master slides and formatting in PowerPoint, I’m able to convert the contemporary service (4-5 pages of printed text) into PowerPoint in under 45 minutes (assuming I get that long without distractions). Because verbiage changes from week-to-week, very few slides are reused. The design had to accommodate this.

Worship Planning Process

On an email list I participate in for DCEs, someone recently sent an email looking for ideas on themes to use in Worship for Lent. I thought it might be helpful to document our worship planning process as a resource for others working in this area. Here are some of the things we do as part of creating a meaningful worship experience each weekend at First Trinity:

We’re much smarter and creative together. Myself, Pastor Chuck (Senior Pastor), Sue Brese (Traditional Worship Director) and Jubal Myer (Contemporary Worship Director) meet twice a month usually to brainstorm ideas. I lead the meeting and we spend time:

  • Picking Series Themes: We look at what other churches are doing online. Life Church and David Choate at Table Rock Fellowship have been big inspirations for us in particular. We brainstorm ideas as we browse through what they’ve done. Sometimes we use their concepts and create our own sermon titles/artwork, other times we use most of their concepts/titles. Life Church grants the rights to their artwork, so we end up using a lot of it. David’s material is more brainstorm fodder for us. We try to pay attention to the rhythm of the year and pick topics that apply. For example, our current series for the start of the new year is titled MOVE and focuses on becoming more spiritually fit at a time when people are making New Year’s resolutions.
  • Refining Sermon Titles/Themes: Pastor usually has in his mind what he wants to talk about, but we refine it with him and settle on three readings for the service/sermon to be based around. We also come up with some main ideas to help plan the worship service without having a complete sermon outline to work from.
  • Refine Artwork Concepts: I usually pitch multiple concepts to the group and we talk about them. Later I develop samples using images from iStockPhoto.com or other “Open Source” sources that we’re legally allowed to use. These are circulated among staff in the building and further refined before settling on a final graphic for the series. This gets used as a title slide, the background for the Bible verses in worship, on our sermon outlines if possible and on the website as a promotion on the front page and a banner on the series page, linked from our “Listen” section.

In addition to this group, we also bring together a larger group of staff before and after the Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons to talk about the theme and get all our ducks in a row. This process includes:

  • Brainstorming: We review notes from the previous year and decide what elements we want to keep and what new things we want to try this year. This might include new altar decoration ideas, new traffic flow patterns (like adding a Communion station to the loft for Easter Sunday) and the scheduling/training of volunteers.
  • Deadlines: During the busy seasons, we have a lot more going on and need to allow more time for bulletin production and distribution of music/scripts/etc. This means more deadlines to ensure everything gets done. We set deadlines for finding and training volunteers. Deadlines for getting content to Dona for print layout. Deadlines for sermon outlines. If it needs to get done, it gets a deadline date.
  • Review: Afterwards, we meet to review the season that was. We debrief what went right and what could be improved next year. Our awesome office manager Kathy Figini records all this and starts the process again the following year. If we had any new ideas to try for the following year, or things we should do away with, we record them so we’ll remember later.

I was talking this week with Bekah and Kathy about how the sermon series and even individual titles stand out to me more now than they used to. I never could have told you what topics we covered a year ago in worship, but now I can probably rattle off at least half of the themes, if not 70 or 80%. I think the more cohesive theme packages we’ve been developing have helped with retention. Or maybe it’s just because I work so much more with these areas now. Or maybe it’s both.

To First Trinity readers: What would help you connect more with God in worship? What kinds of series would you like to see in the future?

For everyone: What worship planning processes have you used in your church? Or what topics have you seen that really struck you and meaningful? If you have a link to your church’s sermon archive, let me have it.

Share your thoughts in the comments.


Announcements or Newsletters?

One of the tips from Erik Ticen, our awesome communications consultant at Vaughn Street that helped us analyze and improve our communication strategy, suggested we try to capitalize more on our weekend worship folder. Each weekend, 425 people get a copy, each week, plus some at some special services. We’ve always used the worship folder as an announcements sheet, primarily focusing on what’s coming up with the occasional story about what happened thrown in. In light of people not knowing what’s going on, what if we started treating the announcements as a form of story telling?

Starting this weekend and going through the the MOVE sermon series, we’re trying something different on the front page of the announcements. I’ll be writing an article, almost as if it were a paper version of a blog, highlighting some of the goings on that you can find inside the announcements. It’s less informational (though there’s certainly some in there) and more relational (kind of like a friend sharing what’s happening in their life). It invites people to engage more with the content, while also acting as a summary page, highlighting what you’ll find inside.

Let me know what you think about it in the comments, our through the First Trinity Feedback page. If you just can’t wait to see what I wrote, you can always sneak a peak by downloading the upcoming announcements page. It kinda feels like traveling forward in time when you do. Sadly, you only get that feeling on Friday afternoon before it becomes the present again.


Scrip Improvements, Take 2

Thanks for all the feedback on the Scrip program over the past couple days! Here’s a summary of what I heard, both online and off, from this group of readers and research in other programs:

  • Increased visibility of point-of-sale. It’s hard to find it and when you do, it’s really crowded. A sign would be helpful. Also signs to help navigate from the information center to the ministry support center.
  • Increased awareness. People forget it exists, don’t know it exists, or just plain don’t know what it is. Fliers, skits, video commercials and more are options to help here. We also want ways to easily share the information with friends/family that might be interested in partnering with us. Quick access to what’s in stock and what needs to be ordered is helpful as well.
  • Incentives. Gift card wrappers at Christmas (and possibly other times), key-chain Sharpie marker with purchases over X dollars, one entry into a drawing for a $25 gift card of your choice for every X dollars.

Today’s questions then:

  1. Check out these gift card wrappers. Most are 16 cents per wrapper when ordering 1000. At best, we can order two designs. Do we go with one more generic “A gift for you” type card, a Christmas themed one, or one of both?
  2. Here’s a flier about the Gift Card Ministry. It answers three basic questions about the program: Why, What and How. It’s intentionally emphasizing the “why” we do it and frames profits in terms of how many trips it paid for. It also draws the “why” into the “what” and the “how” using the recurring phrase “serve others in Jesus’ Name.” We do it to help students serve in Jesus’ Name and when you purchase gift cards, you serve in Jesus’ Name through us. The back side is not done yet. Any wording that’s confusing? If you can, show it to someone who’s never heard of Scrip and see what they think about it.
  3. Which incentives would get you buying cards?  Most are self-explanatory. The marker idea was so that people could have it with them to track the balance. Also, what should X be for pens and drawing entries? Markers cost around $1.20, so we’d lose money on sales of $25/50. We’d make money at $100 on all cards except Wegmans/Tims/Target where we essentially break even.

Heart of a Teacher

During the Dave Ramsey Town Hall for Hope event, he talked about what to look for in a financial advisor: one who has the heart of a teacher. If they aren’t willing to teach you about managing finances, they aren’t worth having as an advisor.

I like to think I have the heart of a teacher. I love teaching, especially in impromptu moments. During the funeral for Ken Cross yesterday, I was running sound in the media booth. Becca, one of our youth, asked if she could come sit up there with me. She joined me in the booth and started asking questions about the board.

I ran through some basic functions: mute, volume, which slider was for which microphone, etc. We started off both manning the board. I handled the Lectern/Pulpit mics and she took Pastor Carl’s. Ten minutes into the service and I had moved off to the side and she was running the show. It was fun multi-tasking for me and she had a good time learning something new.

At the heart of it, youth ministry is about discipleship. Spiritual growth is certainly a key piece, but we also like to help youth grow in other areas. We want to help nurture youth to be the young men and women God wants them to be. And it’s a joy to be a part of the process along the way.


Prayer Party

We had what we’re now calling a “Prayer Party” last night for Jennie with our youth group at church.  Here’s how the name came about:

On the way to the Lake yesterday, Kelsey was telling me about her experience at camp this year. She told me that she had mentioned some other counselors that she had been at a prayer party just before leaving for camp. The prayer party was a special gathering we had to pray for Annie as she was getting ready for her 2nd surgery.

After a little bit of ribbing and laughing, one of the other counselors asked what that meant. Kelsey told them how we get together and pray for youth who are having surgery. It usually involves goodies of some sort, gifting a blanket to the youth who is having surgery, then laying hands on and praying for them and their family.

After hearing the description, the other counselors expressed how they wished their youth group did the same thing.

It’s funny how “traditions” get started, but the Prayer Party is a fun one for us now. It’s great to see God working through them. And I imagine He might even feel like it’s a party when His kids come together to lift one another up in prayer.


Workcamp T-Shirts

Here’s our Workcamp T-Shirt for this year.  Big thanks to Randy for the design:

Workcamp T-Shirt

Our Workcamp shirts are becoming something of a spiritual memorial.  After we’re back, they remind us of the work we did in a particular city.  We can remember what God has done in the past and look forward to what He will do in the future.