I’m going to date myself here but when I started leading worship and helping with media at my church, a typical Sunday looked like this:
- Show up an hour before rehearsal and pick out songs. (“Let’s see… This week we’ll do Jehova Jireh, Ancient of Days, I Give You My Heart and maybe we should introduce that new song, I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever!”)
- Run-off a bunch of photocopies of chord sheets with most of the correct chords penciled in.
- Insert about 50 slides into the Kodak 4400 Carousel Slide Projector (oops, I guess we’ll have to do without the lyrics for that new song!)
- Run through the songs with just enough time to go to the bathroom before the service starts.
I wish I could say I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.
Fast forward a few years. Our new youth pastor says “why don’t we purchase a computer and projector and get with the times and use PowerPoint?” Wow, we were high tech now! Then, sometime around 2003, that same youth pastor says “you’ve got to check out this awesome presentation software. It’s called EasyWorship. You can even use video behind the lyrics to enhance the worship time.” Yep. We never looked back.
Almost 20 years later, this is what a typical Sunday…err…week looks like:
Monday: Pick out the worship set and plan the service.
Tuesday: Make some tweaks to the order of service, finalize the worship set and send out the Planning Center requests to the worship and tech team.
Wednesday: (This is where it gets fun) Head to the media booth, open EasyWorship 7 and drag the songs, graphics, videos and any content being displayed into the schedule. Go through the motion packs and drag and drop the motions that seem to fit the tempo and mood of the song.
Thursday: Mow the lawn (or shovel snow), Spend time with family.
Friday: Program lights, make sure the stage is ready for the team, and do a test run-through of lights, lyrics, presentations, and media while playing the worship set through Planning Center.
Saturday: Mow the lawn that I never got to on Thursday. Spend time with family.
SUNDAY: Drink coffee. 8 am run-through. Start the 5-minute countdown. Start the live stream. 9 am service. Drink coffee. 10:30 service. Eat lunch. Nap.
Okay, I know I said 4 tips for running effective church tech (even on a small budget), so here are those tips and a little look behind the scenes.
1. Keep it Intentional
Don’t do things just because you saw it at a conference or at another church. Do things out of vision and purpose. Ask yourself “what, why and how?” What do I want to accomplish? Why is it important? (Yes, it is important) How can I do this effectively? One of the things I’m very intentional about is our motion backgrounds and stage lighting. Those things can either cause distraction or be a powerful tool for removing distractions and helping people focus. Make sure what you are doing is achieving the latter. Don’t use fast, bright motions on slow, contemplative songs. If you’re using colored lights then make sure the colors match or complement the backgrounds you’re using. Think about how colors affect emotion. Cool. Warm. Energetic. Calming. Be intentional.
2. Keep it practical
It’s easy to look at what the “big churches” are doing and get discouraged. Don’t get discouraged. Keep looking at what the “big churches” are doing, be inspired and scale it down to what fits your resources. LED walls and moving heads are all the rage. I get it. They look awesome. We can’t afford those things right now. How can I get a similar look on a small budget? We looked at LED tape, and movement of light and textures across the stage. (We built this set for around $500 and it has been our backdrop for the last 1 ½ years)
Our monitor setup: We are running desktop, main display, foldback, and alpha. The main display goes into a splitter that sends the signal to the front projector, secondary monitor and video switcher. The video switcher goes out to our streaming device, and TVs throughout the church.
Our live stream setup: We use the Blackmagic Studio HD as our video switcher. We have the PC running the main display and alpha and a couple of cameras. This allows us to show videos and media as well as our cameras on our live stream. The alpha allows us to do lyrics over the camera feeds during worship.
Our lighting setup: Luminair app $99 on an iPad, EZ Kling controller $99, DIY LED tape setup $300. (YouTube and Google are your friends.) Inexpensive LED lights that we’ve purchased over the years.
3. Keep it updated
Seriously. Keep your computer updated. Keep your software updated. Make sure you’re using the recommended specs for what you’re doing. If you can’t afford the video card, ram, and processor required for HD video, then use still backgrounds. You want things to be reliable during the service. It can still look modern and professional. Use clean, sans serif fonts. (not comic sans) No more than 4 lines per slide. No outline. Soft shadow if you need the contrast. Remember, it’s our job to remove distractions not create them. Keep your equipment updated and keep your look updated.
4. Pass it on
Don’t just find people to push buttons. Train your volunteers. Teach them to troubleshoot. Teach them the “what”, “why” and “how”. Communicate your vision and most importantly, build healthy relationships with them.
Some of the things we’re looking to do in the near future are IMAG and syncing our lights and lyrics with our clicks. (All of which EasyWorship 7 has the ability to integrate with.)
I’ll leave you with this: Don’t make things complicated. You could have all the tools and resources in the world but if you don’t know how to use them then they do you no good. Learn how to effectively use the tools and resources you have. Sometimes that forces you to tap into a level of creativity that will give birth to all sorts of new ideas. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. If you have any specific questions about our setup, feel free to message me on FB or send me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org