Walking the line between nerd and cool.


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.