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Some churches invest in projection technology, only to realize it isn’t practical to use in their worship space or with their planning resources. Photo by Chad Kirchoff, Pexels.

Photo by Chad Kirchoff, Pexels

Overcoming the 6 reasons churches don’t use projection in worship (Part One)


By the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards and Darby Jones

Use of projected images and lyrics during worship is growing. However, some churches invest in projection technology, only to realize it isn’t practical to use in their worship space or with their planning resourcesConsider these points before diving in.

1. Large flat screens simply won’t fit. 
Seventy-five percent of United Methodist churches have fewer than 100 people in attendance on an average weekend, according to 2009 figures from the General Council on Finance and Administration. Many church buildings do not have enough space for large flat screens. Others were not designed to accommodate projection.  

If space is tight, consider installing a screen that hangs from the ceiling and has vertical drop/rise features. Some screens come with sliding brackets to allow versatile horizontal positioning.

2. Ambient light creates glare on the screen.
Ambient light can make seeing projected images difficult. LCD and LED flat panels often lack sufficient contrast to compete. Consider installing sliding curtains to lighten or darken the room as needed.

3. Part-singing is lost.
Some argue that projected lyrics will lead to a lack of harmony because people do not see the notes. However, the vast majority of the congregation does not use or need the music notes. Most pay attention to the words alone.

4. Projection costs more than anticipated.
Consider all of the equipment and software needed:

  • Projector(s), screens or flat panels
  • Additional lenses (frequently needed and often more expensive than the projector)
  • Professional installation
  • Computers
  • Presentation software (You can find free alternatives. See resources below.)
  • Annual licensing fees to reproduce copyrighted materials on the screen (a significant and necessary expense)
  • Replacement costs (Bulbs last about two years and can cost several hundred dollars each. LCD and LED flat panels last three to five years.)

If you anticipate these costs and using projection still makes sense, then go forth. However, don’t buy used or lower-end projectors and flat panels. Technology becomes outdated quickly. Old equipment will lack the output necessary to work well in most worship spaces. Cheaper systems will inevitably cost more in the end.

5. Projection can cause burnout.
Adding projected visuals to your service will require you to create a worship or music planning team to avoid worship leader burnout.

Once projection is professionally installed, the technology requires both creative and technically savvy people to make it work well. Poor execution will only create distraction during worship.

Unfortunately, creative design responsibilities often fall on the pastor or worship leader. The risk is that it's time consuming to hunt for photos and artwork, time that can take away from sermon or music preparation. The presentation elements may look great, but spiritual depth can suffer.

A worship planning team is necessary to avoid worship leader burnout and to let everyone do his or her best in carrying out specific responsibilities. The team should include pastors, musicians, graphic artists, video experts, techies and others. That means pastors and musicians cannot plan everything alone and expect a satisfactory outcome. It won't happen. You need a coordinated team and lots of advance planning.

6. Projection is just one piece of the puzzle.
Projection is best seen as one of many possible venues for visual expression, rather than the primary focal point or driver for worship planning. 

Until you are ready for projection, enhance the service with other visuals such as  banners, paraments, commissioned art, wall paintings, statuary, sculpture, dance, clergy vestments, acolytes and choirs, stained glass or curtains, candles, processional crosses, fine furniture (table and font), pottery or silver chalices and patens, flying processional doves and creative worship-space arrangements.

I’ve thought it through and projection still makes sense.
Great, remember these tips:

  • Invest in a new system that works optimally in your setting.
  • Pay for professional installation and training on the system and the software.
  • Create a worship planning team.

Remember, projection does not negate the use of hymnals. Use both strategically. Hymnals last much longer; projected lyrics let you use new songs or music not included in the hymnal – as well as enhance the words with well-placed video and graphics.

Free song projection programs
Hundreds of song-projection programs exist; however, many aren’t that great for the money. Here are five free candidates. Easyslides seem to have an edge, if you research user reviews.

Professional presentation software:

In Part Two, we will discuss some of the creative hurdles worship teams might encounter. If you don’t want to cause distraction during worship, learning about this technology is crucial.

Darby Jones, was Email Marketing Manager at United Methodist Communications. The Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards served as Director of Worship Resources and Leadership Ministries at the General Board of Discipleship.