Category Archives: worship leadership

Notes from Boot Camp | Visual Media

To those who attended my breakout session on visual media at the BCMD Worship Team Boot Camp on Feb. 25, thank you so much for attending! I hope the day was as much a blessing for you as it was for me. As promised, here are my notes from the session.

  1. Role of technology/Visual Media in a worship setting
    1. To create an environment
      1. Visual Worship Leaders
      2. What is a worship leader?
        1. A worship leader can’t make people worship, and it’s not our responsibility
        2. Two things we can do:
          1. We can and should respond to God with worship.
          2. We can and should speak, sing, play, create, and use technology in such a way that the people we hope to lead receive every opportunity to respond to God with worship.
      3. What is a Visual Worship Leader?
        1. Oversees, curates, prepares the visuals
        2. In a very real sense you shape the direction of the service
        3. It’s your job to help everyone know where they should be:
          1. Congregation: What words am I supposed to sing right now?
          2. Band: What words am I supposed to sing next?
          3. If you don’t go at the appropriate time, you can cause a bit of chaos
        4. At times, you have a greater influence on the environment of worship than anyone else
        5. Choices you make impact the flow and experience of the service in significant ways
        6. Be vigilant, always listening, always watching, always learning
    1. To serve the Word
      1. Four load-bearing walls of Worship Service (Constance Cherry)
        1. Gathering
        2. Word
        3. Table/Response
        4. Sending
      2. The Word is the focus – everything points to it
        1. Message over media
          1. Don’t do something just because it looks cool – does it serve the message?
          2. Example: structure visuals around the sermon
            1. We create graphics for sermon series
            2. Those inform our visuals throughout
    2. Band and pastor can’t do their job without you
    3. Not a job you can do without preparation
  2. General Pointers
    1. Backgrounds
      1. Not too many colors
      2. Not too much motion
      3. You’ve got to be willing to delete stuff that looks cool
      4. Not too many changes
        1. Every song doesn’t have to have a different background
        2. Same goes for slides in the sermon presentation.
          1. Keep the background and use foreground images
    2. Text
      1. legible
        1. common font and size for songs
        2. slightly smaller font size for message
        3. create a style that you think looks good, stand at the back and make sure you can read it.
      2. comprehensible
        1. how much is too much at one time?
          1. less is more
          2. the great serif debate (serif or sans serif)
            1. sans serif all the way baby! (it’s less cluttered and therefore easier to read in a worship setting)
          3. concise idea onscreen – not multiple ideas – specifically in the worship context
            1. I usually shoot for no more than 2-4 lines per slide in a song
            2. 4-6 lines per slide in a sermon presentation
        2. care for orphans and widows (in text)
        3. Punctuation & Phrasing
          1. relax, it’s just poetry
            1. rules of sentence structure don’t necessarily apply
            2. commas and line breaks dictate phrasing (but you don’t have to SHOW the commas)
            3. I don’t include punctuation at the end of a line except for quotes and questions
      3.  Lighting
        1. Use light to define spaces
          1. Example:
            1. Smaller lit area during preaching
            2. Larger one during music
        2. Be conscious of the emotional impact of color and light
          1. DO NOT USE RED
          2. Think about your house lights
            1. Up or down?
        3. Don’t be afraid to go black
  3.  Resources
    1.  Books
      1. An Hour on Sunday: Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder by Nancy Beach
      2. The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services by Constance Cherry
    2.  Websites
      1. visualworshiper.com – blog
      2. http://www.sundaymag.tv/lighting-color-theory/ – great article by Camron Ware about the emotional impact of color
      3. lukemcelroy.com – articles
      4. judkossum.wordpress.com – my blog
      5. Visual Media
        1. shiftworship.com
        2. twotp.com

Well, there you have it! If you have any questions, feel free to comment here.

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Worship=Life Podcast

I want to invite you to subscribe to my brand new Worship=Life podcast. Each episode, we’ll explore the nuts and bolts of worship ministry in today’s church – the technological, the visual, the musical, and the spiritual.

My goal is to help worship leaders develop their ministries, their leaders, their teams, their environments to provide the best possible opportunities for God-honoring worship in their churches. I’ll share what I’ve learned over the years, as well as what I’m in the process of learning. I’ll bring in experts to share their wisdom with you as well.

In the first episode, I begin a series on ministry structure, starting with the values our ministries embrace. Check the episode out at the link above. I’d love to get your feedback!

Relevant Worship

But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (‭John‬ ‭4‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

God is no longer concerned about the place where you worship because worship is about more than location and prescribed rituals. God seeks worshipers who will worship Him from the heart under the initiation and guidance of the Spirit as informed by Scripture. This is the only real worship.

God seeks worshipers who will genuinely worship Him in a way that is initiated, guided, and empowered by the spirit and informed by His truth, His Word. He is not concerned about worship happening in a particular location. He is not interested in worship that is simply a rote reenactment of prescribed rituals that is not done in spirit and truth. In fact, because God is spirit, there is no other way to worship Him but in spirit and truth.

God seeks worshipers. Therefore, He initiates worship. He has allowed us the honor of worshiping Him.

But many of the things that concern us in worship are not important, not even relevant. What is relevant? The Spirit, His guidance, and the Word of God as it informs our worship. We must focus on these things.

When we forget these things, we go through the motions in our worship. Those of us who are worship leaders are sometimes just trying to get through a Sunday. We get overly concerned about all the details.

But what each of us needs, regardless of our role in corporate worship – whether leader or participant – is to focus our hearts on God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When we worship privately, we must begin with a focus on God’s Word and His Spirit. It doesn’t matter where we are or who we are.

It is not in our nature to be this kind of worshiper, but His grace can change our nature.

Father, let us be the kind of worshipers You seek.

Visual Worship, Part 3 | Imagery

Lighting and visual media are incredibly useful tools in the hands of the worship leader, producer, and planner.  In part 1 of this blog series, I discussed whether or not these tools are necessary, and in part 2, I wrote about the use of lighting.  Today, I want to talk about the use of imagery in worship – both videos and stills.

For most of us (unless we’re pastoring or leading in larger facilities with a lot of projection capability), this really means presentation backgrounds – the imagery that you show behind song lyrics – with the occasional stand-alone video or still image.

Here are some best practices I’d suggest for backgrounds:

  1. Think about colors. Your service should have a color palette that is established with the use of your stage lighting and graphics. This makes for a visually cohesive whole. Here’s what I don’t mean: everything the same color. Talk about overwhelmingly monotonous! Two to three colors is best – ones that work together well.*  If it looks obnoxious to you, there’s a good chance it will look obnoxious to your congregation.  Learn about color theory if you don’t know it already.  Here’s a great article on the subject by Camron Ware of visualworshiper.com. For sermon series, I’d suggest an ongoing graphical and lighting theme to tie the whole thing together.
  2. Think simple. Stills or motion backgrounds with lots of colors can be garish and can backfire on you if you’re trying to create a cohesive theme.  Too much motion (too fast, too big) can be distracting to say the least.  Simple motion gives the feeling of energy without pulling the congregant away from the lyrics.
  3. Think abstract. With a few exceptions, I generally stay away from recognizable imagery – especially photos or live-action video.  There’s a certain cheese factor to a lot of these type of images, and something easily recognizable can be distracting. Abstract imagery gives a sense of something, a mood, without presenting an object or place to latch on to.  You really only want your congregation to latch onto the words. Close up shots of waving grass, a somewhat blurry sunset through the trees, rippling water – videos like these can be the exceptions because, though they are real things, they are presented in an abstract fashion that makes them better for background use.  A wide shot of a landscape distracts because it’s so easily recognizable.
  4. Think in stages. There are natural phases to your worship service. Use the imagery to help define those stages.** Let’s say the “gathering” (or opening or call to worship) portion of your service consists of an opening song, a welcome, and an opening prayer.  You might use the same background imagery for each of those elements, or at least stay with the same color, then shift to another color or imagery selection with the next stage of the service. Typically in our services, there will be an unbroken string of two to three songs that we will tie together visually in this way.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s helpful to you. Please feel free to leave your questions and comments. I look forward to them!

*Regarding lighting, the folks I’m addressing here are those who have very basic lighting systems. The smaller to mid-size church with a simple setup and one person overseeing the musical and visual parts of the worship ministry. Hopefully, if you have a more elaborate lighting system, you have people who really know what to do with it and can move beyond these simple uses.

*Check out Constance Cherry’s book The Worship Architect for more info on this.

Visual Worship, Part 2 | Stage Lighting

As I wrote in part 1 of this blog series, lighting and visual media are not necessities but simply useful tools. Like any tool, to get the right results, we have to use them the right way.  So here are some suggested best practices for using lighting in worship. (These are pretty general. Specifics are outside the scope of this post.)

Define Spaces

One of the most basic functions of stage lighting is to define the space. Suppose your worship venue has a massive stage/platform.  That can lead to distraction, lack of intimacy, and lack of focus.

Use your stage lighting to light only the parts of the platform where the action is happening. If it’s music time, light only the portion of the stage where your band or choir members are standing. When the preaching time comes, don’t be afraid to change the lighting to focus only on the area where the preacher is, effectively removing other parts of the stage from view.

Use the House Lights

Something else not to fear: bringing down the house lights. You have to be careful here because a worship service is a corporate activity. Bringing down the house lights can create a greater sense of intimacy (and increase your ability to define spaces on the platform), and that’s good. However, a more intimate feel can make you forget there are other people in the room.

Corporate worship does not consist of isolated acts of individuals who happen to be in the same room. It is an action of the gathered body of Christ.

Don’t be afraid to bring the house lights down, but teach your people that they come together as one body. Help them remember (or learn for the first time) what corporate worship really is. Find opportunities to bring the lights up during your service so the people can be reminded that it’s not just “Jesus and me.”

Create Transitions

Finally, use lighting to create transitions between sections of the service.  For example, we bring all the stage lights down when we move from music to preaching (except for a few in the back of the stage). This provides a cue for people to sit and makes them aware that we’re moving forward.  It has the added benefit of removing focus from some behind-the-scenes activity (like moving equipment, stands, etc., on the platform.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions on these basic tips on stage lighting in worship.