By: Nate Ragan
This article takes an in-depth look at two main questions about church presentation software: 1) PPT/Keynote vs. ministry presentation software and 2) various on-screen text display issues.
Why ministry presentation software?
In a world that provides the option of some type of pre-installed presentation software with virtually every computer you buy, why in the world would you choose to spend your money on software built for ministries? The answer comes down to two basic concepts: content and presentation style.
In addition to the seamless playback of image, video, DVD, and most every multimedia format available, ministry presentation software supports two integral types of content: song lyrics and Bibles. Although it may not seem to be that unique at first glance, these two types of content are both stored and presented in a relational format.
We realize that songs and Bible verses are made up of multiple stanzas, pages, verses, and chapters, and while all performing separately, they're all one cohesive unit and should be treated as such (see 1 Corinthians 12 for more on that.) This means that instead of being stand-alone song slides that happen to be placed next to one another in a presentation, they can be presented, edited, and recalled as a single unit. Likewise, Bible passages can be recalled by chapter/verse or keyword in multiple translations, and can be displayed verse-by-verse or in a paragraph format.
While most business and classroom presentations are performed in a strict linear order with a single presenter and a single audience group, worship services commonly have minor (or major!) changes in the presentation order and have multiple audience groups, both on- and off-stage. Ministry presentation software gives freedom to not only present the various elements in a non-linear order, but also to create or edit elements of the presentation while it's in progress. In addition, most ministry presentation software provides two audience displays: one for the main audience and a separate, teleprompter-style display for your on-stage team.
Why does my visual worship leader break most capitalization, punctuation, and phrasing rules?
If you've been sitting in the middle of a service and suddenly realize the visual worship leader is wreaking havoc on common capitalization and phrasing rules, you're not alone.
Many of those in charge of getting song lyrics to the screen have begun taking creative license with common rules we all learned in English class. While these changes may be disturbing to the eye at first glance, upon a closer look, we see that they are theologically sound, in line with modern poetic form and help us digest the depth of ideas presented in the song lyrics.
The most obvious "new rule" of song lyric display takes issue with the capitalization of proper nouns. Taking a lesson from John 3:30, where John tells us that "He must increase, but I must decrease," visual worship leaders have begun not only capitalizing all references to God (Ancient One, Beautiful One, the Maker, the Good Shepherd, etc), but also using the lower-case " i" in reference to ourselves. This is not only a concrete reminder of the relationship between God and man, but may also lend more practical help when singing songs with only pronoun references to God ("i will sing of Your great love") or songs written from God's perspective ("when you pass through the waters, I will be with you.")
The second new rule of song lyric display is most commonly associated with modern poetry and changes the use of capitalization with phrases. While most traditional poetry capitalizes the first word in each line or phrase, modern poets and worship VJs have begun to remove the capital letters. Because we're generally using such large font sizes for on-screen display, most phrases cannot fit onto one line and we're stuck with every other line of text being capitalized. Removing the capital letters gives the entire text block a smoother shape and makes the text easier to read. In addition, removing the phrase-based capitalization further ensures that our John 3:30 rule is even more pronounced.
The final new rule concerns the amount of text being displayed on-screen at one time. While this rule can have many components that dictate the end result, such as background graphic/video content and font size, we'll look specifically at the division of phrases within multiple on-screen pages of a song. A good starting place is the number of lines of text on a single page. As a rule, I generally use 2 to 4 lines of text, with a maximum of 5 if the timing and phrasing of a lyric demands it.
From this starting point, I'll ask two questions in order to determine where page breaks should occur. Based on the tempo of the song, is there too little or too much text on the screen to give the congregation time to focus on a specific phrase? If the lyrics are repetitive, does the repetition need to be shown on screen all at once? After answering those questions, your final mission is to get the text on-screen without the congregation becoming nervous about what lyrics are coming up next.
Like many creative components of worship, there are many different styles and methods used by visual worship leaders to create an engaging experience for the worshippers in their congregation. I encourage you to wrestle with these new rules and examine what the on-screen text in your local community of believers is saying to those who worship with you on a weekly basis.
Nate Ragan is the director of marketing at MediaComplete, creators of MediaShout presentation software, www.mediacomplete.com.