In our continuing quest to do all we can to foster GREAT congregational singing in our churches, I want to bring up another thing we can do to help us reach our goal. I realize that the use of slides to project song lyrics is still very controversial in some circles. And yet, it seems to be a trend that is not going away any time soon. The use of lyric slides began with the best of intentions, I feel. Worship leaders wanted to present some of the newer music being written to their congregations without waiting for them to appear in written collections (new hymnals, praise song collections, etc.). Also, in churches where more demonstrative worship was the norm (raising of hands, clapping, waving of banners, etc.), it was helpful to have the song lyrics projected. Try holding a hymnal and clapping at the same time. You get my point.
So, for the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you are in a church where song slides are being used. Now let’s work on making sure those slides are the very best they can be – and, that they actually HELP those in the congregation be able to sing along with the worship team. What are some best practices in creating effective slides?
- Have good color contrast between words and background. Solid backgrounds usually work best, as nature scenes or other designs can sometimes make it difficult to read the words. Very subtle designs might work, but clarity of the lyrics needs to be the supreme consideration. I favor a dark blue background with white letters, but other dark colors for the background would work as well, I’m sure. Blending with the color scheme of the sanctuary or worship space might also be considered. I was once at a conference in a large hall where the song lyrics were projected over a live video of the worship band, which was leading the singing. I was sequentially distracted first by the guitar player, then the drummer and the keyboard player in turn. Needless to say, it was a good thing I knew the song!
- Use a font that is large enough and plain enough for everyone (seniors included) to be able to read easily.
- Indicate solos or instrumental interludes on the slide. Then indicate when the congregation is to join in again. That way, there are no “accidental soloists” in the congregation, heartily singing out in the middle of a guitar solo or trying to sing a duet with your soloist!
- Select a GREAT operator for your projection system! Make certain that the person responsible for changing the slides during the service is NOT easily distracted!! How many times have we been in situations where the slide doesn’t change, but the song moves on. We’re stuck – having no idea what to sing next! Believe me, not just anyone can do this task! The slide needs to change BEFORE the last line of the previous slide is finished being sung. Someone who can concentrate ONLY on this task and who has a good sense of when to change the slide needs to be operating the system!
- If possible, include a melody line of the song printed out on the slide. This greatly assists in the learning of new songs. And while I realize that not everyone reads music, enough do. And those people will sing out with more confidence in the congregation and lead others who may not read music. And even if some don’t read music, they will eventually get used to going higher in their voice when the little black dots (notes) go higher on the staff. And they’ll come to understand how long to hold notes by their color and configuration. I find that so many of the songs being written currently have very unusual melodic rhythms. Even as a trained musician, I often find it difficult to anticipate when to sing the next word – sometimes the emphasis is misplaced (another of my pet peeves!) on a conjunction or other secondary part of speech, rather than the most important, meaningful words in the phrase. And just to be fair, this is also a problem with some traditional hymns! Having a printed melody line on the slides will go a long way toward improving the participation of those in your congregation.
Hopefully, some of these tips will assist you in the use of slides in your musical worship and take you further down the road to GREAT congregational singing!
Joyfully serving Him,
Director of Music and Ministries