Making Better Song Lyric Slides for Worship
By: Jason Moore and Len Wilson
There's nothing more tedious in media ministry than the weekly ritual of preparing song lyrics. Yet even this task that is normally given to newbie volunteers, or interns can become an important part of creative worship with a few simple rules.
1. Three to four and you'll score. One or six don't mix.
Try to keep your song lyrics slides to three to four lines per screen. If you have one or two lines, you'll turn the screen into a flipbook and create a guaranteed way for your congregation to miss half the words of the song while the operator has an ADD attack.
If you have five, six or more, you'll want to consider putting a number in the lower corner and designating someone to stand at the front and turn the screen over like a giant piece of paper, because that's what you're making it.
2. Look after widows and orphans in their distress.
Bet you didn't know there's a rule for song lyrics in the Bible. It's true. James 1:27 (NIV) says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress." You may have thought this is a call to moral purity. No, it's something much greater – don't put a single word on a separate line when preparing song lyrics!
"Widows and orphans" is a phrase in design circles that refers to those words or short phrases that are left abandoned by their surrounding paragraphs.
3. Build lyrics with some phrasing.
This is music, after all. Have you ever wondered about the best spot to insert a line break? Having musical experience helps. If you don't have a clue, go get a musician friend and ask them. Seeing the difference is easy on a famous hymn. It may not be so easy on new and obscure tunes, so pay close attention.
4. Avoid the matching game.
When thinking of images to put with song lyrics, one school of thought has said to illustrate the song. When the words don't make for good images, what do you do? The same school of thought says to go generic, such as clouds. That's boring, not to mention theologically questionable.
Instead, find a metaphorical image that matches the overall theme of the entire worship service. Use that image for the songs, which hopefully also match the theme of the entire worship service.
5. Lyrics are part of the image.
In spite of what your software might say, text is not foreground above a graphic background. It's all one image. Even with song lyrics. Why does this matter? If your mentality is that the image is just the background, then you'd have no problem letting type go where it has no business going.
Avoid covering up important elements in the graphic. Use your alignment tool to make the text wrap around the focal point, avoiding the top and bottom bars, so it becomes well-designed.
6. Be point size monogamous.
A common question is, "What point size should I make my song lyrics?" There's no wrong answer. Just pick one and stick with it. Don't give every slide its own unique type size, even if the amount of words on the screens varies.
And, don't worry if one screen, say a verse, has lots of text, while another, say a chorus, just has a little. It's okay to vary it.
Also make sure that whatever your point size is, it's readable for your sanctuary. Unfortunately, not every screen is appropriately sized for its sanctuary. It doesn't matter how cool it looks on your computer monitor if the people beyond row three can't read it.
7. It really is about the little old lady in the back.
If she can't see the words, then it doesn't matter if your last name is Scorcese. You're toast. Increase the visibility of the lyrics with such tricks as the use of strokes, outlines, and shadows.
Some worship presentation software applications have these features built in. Other do not, and that includes PowerPoint. So, if you need to, do these in a separate application such as Adobe Elements.
8. Every image has a perfect font (which probably isn't on your system yet).
Typically, a design has two fonts – a display or headline font, with lots of personality, and a copy or body font, which is a bit more buttoned-up. Most of the time, display fonts don't work very well as copy. The key is to figure out two fonts for every worship service, one of each type, that matches your theme.
Preparing song lyrics slides isn't just a job worthy of an intern. Everything on the screen in worship is important from a visual standpoint. If you can make song lyrics artistic, then you're well on your way to being a designer, and you'll make the sweet little old ladies of your church happy, too.
Jason Moore and Len Wilson are partners in Midnight Oil Productions, www.midnightoilproductions.com. Their goal is to further the vision of worship for the digital age through ideas, resources and seminars that work for churches.
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