One of the great joys I have every week is getting to serve in church. It is something that I look forward to every Sunday. I am so blessed to be a part of a church that places such a big emphasis on worship and making it as impactful as possible. As the self-entitled “Director of Worship Production,” J my job is to help create the optimal worship environment.
One of the great things about the church staff at NVC is that they constantly strive to make our Sunday services as high quality as possible. My area of service plays a big part in making this happen. We want to give God our best every day, and Sunday is sometimes the only chance we can get to impact people. Therefore, high quality worship is extremely important to New Vintage Church. Everything from lighting and temperature to the music and the sermon are used to create the highest quality worship service we possibly can.
A few words about this series I am doing: I am writing this for a few reasons. One is because I feel that this is a vital part of worship and can really be an effective tool in creating the optimal environment for worship. Second is because I want to share some of my thoughts and techniques about production so others can use them in their services as well. And finally, I am still new to this area of ministry and would like feedback on some of your thoughts on this topic.
Visual Production: Giving Vision to Music
One of my favorite things about my ministry is the visual production aspect. I love taking music and putting vision to it. The way I do this is through the worship slides I create on a weekly basis. For me, this is such a huge part of what I do because everyone sees it, and I take a lot of pride in how it looks on the screen.
NVC uses a program called Pro Presenter. It is a wonderful tool for worship. It allows for motion backgrounds, which can really add a lot to the music side of worship. I prefer motion backgrounds because it adds depth to the slides and also adds some fluidity to the worship.
Once I figure out what songs Peter wants to do that week, I get to work on creating the slides. Depending on what songs we are singing and if we have done them before can play a big part on how long it takes. First thing I do is decide how I want to break up the lyrics on each slide. I like minimal lyrics because I feel that having too many words on one slide can look cluttered. I always go through and make sure that there are no misspellings and that they are in the correct order. I also try and go to rehearsal so that I can make sure that the worship minister and I are on the same page.
Another big part of the slides is the background. I always try to match a background to the song style. If we are singing a reflective hymn about the death of Christ, I would want to put a slower motion loop, probably with a cross design. If we are singing something fast paced and energetic, I will probably choose something brighter and faster as a background. To me, the background is very important to the flow of the song. A lot of people are visually stimulated, and therefore the backgrounds can help create the right mood for a certain song.
Once I have edited the slides and chosen backgrounds, I will practice moving through the slides to ensure that it flows well. I check to make sure that the lyrics flow from slide to slide and that I don’t have awkward breaks in the lyrics. I make sure that they are visible with the background, adding any shadows or outlines to make them stand out. I also make sure that I have blank slides in places where there are instrumental breaks. This creates a feeling of unity with the music and the slides, and can really add a lot to the service. I also study the music to make sure I know the flow of the song and also points where the worship leader might add an additional chorus or verse. This way, I am prepared in case he decides to sing the chorus of “How Great is Our God” one more time.
Although I don’t do it very often, I love when I get the chance to run the slides. Usually someone else does it because I am singing or up on stage with the band, but occasionally I get the chance to run the show. This, to me, is one of the most important jobs on Sunday. If not done correctly, it can be very distracting and can take away from the worship experience. Here are a few pointers if you get the chance to run the slides:
Stay focused on what you are doing.
I can’t tell you how easy it is to get distracted when running the show. People think we just press a button, but there is so much more to it than that. Everyone notices when a slide doesn’t change with the music. My job is for you to not even notice my job. That is when I know I did well.
Timing is everything.
When it comes to slides, timing is so important. You have to know where you are in the song and on the slides. I have to keep my eye on the slides so that I don’t change too quickly or too late. If I’m too early, then the words just sit there, and the flow with the music is altered. If I’m too late, then people who don’t know the words won’t be able to sing the next part of the song, therefore creating a lag and frustrating visitors who may have never heard that song before.
My advice is this: (and I made it rhyme) learn the flow of the song and sing along. I always try and change the slides right before the last word on the current slide is sung. This might need to be altered for a slower or faster song, but if you sing along, it’s hard to go wrong. (Another rhyme)
I always try and stay a step ahead of the band. I usually will have a blank slide in the beginning of each song during the instrumental introduction. This allows for transition and unity between slides and music. I will watch the worship minister’s face to see when he might come it. For the most part, I wait for the breath. He will usually take a deep breath before he sings the first word, and that is when I change the slide. This way, the slide seems to breathe with him.
Once again, the reason behind all of this preparation is to create a feeling of unity between what you are hearing and what you are seeing. This way, you can experience the joy of worship through multiple senses.
Tomorrow, I will be discussing pre-service preparation, including lighting, set-up, practice run, video prep, pre-service music selection, and visual adjustments. Please feel free to comment or use any advice here. We are all here to win as many people for Christ as possible, and whatever tools I can share or you can share will bring us closer to our goal of reaching those who are lost.