Poll: How Does Your Church Manage Their Bulletins/Worship Folders

Bulletins are pretty much a staple at most every church.  They are the gateway to your church’s information, branding, and so much more.  It is a handheld central hub that your church gives to just about every person that walks through the door.  What you place in their hands says a lot about your church; design, information, quality, and more all represent an impression of who you are, what you believe, and the direction you are heading.  So my question is what does your church do to manage, prepare, print, and so forth your bulletins/worship folders.  I am shocked to see the lack of really good bulletin/worship folder resources online – mostly bad shells, clunky designs and formatting and so on but to have a custom template/shell can turn into a rather hefty price tag.  Fill out the poll if you will and also feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, past experiences in the comments below.  Also if you choose “Other” from the poll please elaborate in the comment box below.

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The Ghost of Lyric Presentation Past, Present and Future

Some of you may remember the implementation of worship lyric presentation as it happened from hymn books to the current video projection.  While not terribly old yet, I too remember the beginnings of the process. After moving from hymn books to chorus books (those little books with just the words to more “contemporary” choruses printed in them) to overhead projectors and clear plastic lyric sheets, to powerpoint and beyond.  Man those were the days leading worship with a wonderful volunteer crouching or sitting next to an overhead projector switching the clear plastic sheets on which someone had copied verses and choruses and all the wonderful call and response parts that formerly resided in neatly bound books.  The only control you had over the look was to use neat fonts like comic sans to give it that cool and modern look – oh yeah you know you used it don’t lie.  If you were hip enough to be able to afford color ink that would print onto these clear plastic sheets you could change the color between bridge and chorus.  Or maybe you hand drew each one which was really the only way to create anything unique and visually interesting for more than a few seconds.

The church quickly began to employ the power of computers and powerpoint to give life and color to the lyrics and backgrounds for really the first time.  It wasn’t long before the desire for a more spontaneous approach to the order in which lyrics were displayed (more non-linear rather than a set linear order and structure) and you saw the creation of certain plugins which led to basically the worship presentation choices we have today.  We seem to now sit in a world of almost endless possibilities as far as how we display and present lyrics for the congregation to read in order to participate in worship.  We currently employ the use of the recent phenomena of song tracks which give motion not only to the backgrounds but the lyrics as well.  We’ve come a long long way from overhead projectors and clear plastic sheets.  But where do we go from here?  How in the world is there anything left to add to the way we present our worship lyrics (which also begs the question as to why employ these current and future technologies and ideas – but thats for another post)?

I was watching and episode from ChurchMediaDesign.tv on the Hologram Church.  Now granted that particular episode had nothing really related to presentation of worship lyrics per say but I think it did without even knowing it.  The episode focused on a new technology that allowed for venue churches to move from showing the pastor on a large screen to employing hologram technology to make it appear as if the pastor is standing on the stage.  Basically moving a video feed of a pastor from two-dimensions to three-dimensions.  Know my personal opinion on that idea is mixed.  I mean I get it but as of right now it compares similar to the new advent of 3D movies that really just create a little bit more depth of field than the regular 2D version.  I personally don’t see much difference in the two movies and would rather save my money than have minimal depth of field effect.  Just the same I am not sure how different a 3D version of a TIVOed pastor would be from the 2D version but do understand the idea visually of looking at a Pastor that appears to be walking around on the stage in front of me versus a large screen where it is obvious that he is being piped in from somewhere else (once again that is a topic for further discussion at another time).

Here is how I foresee the technology being utilized by the church in the near or distant future as cost is the determining factor of time.  Imagine seeing Fee take the stage and as they lead in worship the lyrics appear to be onstage with them, appearing to physically take up stage space.  Imagine Fee being able to interact with those 3D and moving lyrics by walking in-between them, around them, and through them.  Imagine those lyrics moving, changing, morphing, and becoming like set pieces that add to the worship experience.  Imagine Chris Tomlin singing a song with the African Children’s Choir who appear to be on stage with him and the lyrics they are singing.  I think the possibilities of this hologram technology have many  more applications that just a virtually present pastor.  Drama set pieces, three dimensional backdrops, sermon illustrations that interact with the preacher, the Gorillaz leading worship (ok a bit of a stretch but they are one of the pioneering groups of this technology), the sun rising behind 3D lyrics, 3D environmental projection and so many more applications that the future church can run with and employ to share God’s love in a new and powerful manner.

How do you see this hologram technology being used by the church?  Does this seem too “out there” (remember drums seemed that way at one time as well)?  If not hologram lyrics, where to you see worship lyric presentation going in future?  Comment below.

Easter Production Script: Centurion

We are drawing close to our Easter production: Redemption.  We decided to add in videos telling the story of the crucifixion from different perspectives at the cross.  And as much as we shouldn’t let time be a factor when telling the story of Easter, we had to do our best to limit these video stories to around 2:00 min.  There are many details of the story that are unfortunately lost due to time but we hope to keep the main point and keep the story moving through as we share these powerful stories.

This is one of four scripts we wrote to use: The Centurion.

There was a Centurion present the day of the crucifixion of Jesus.
He was normally one of Caesars elite guards but on this day was to oversee the crucifixion of two common criminals
and Jesus the Nazarene, King of Jews.
The Centurion was close enough that day to hear the sound of the hammer hitting the large square nails that pierced through his hands.
He stood by and watched as the cross was raised and placed into the ground.
He was witness as others took his legs and bent them in such a way so that the nail would pierce through both of his feet.
As he stood by and watched this man gasp for air and struggle to breathe he heard these words uttered “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.”
Dark clouds began to fill the sky and block out the remaining daylight
and the air grew cold and before the Centurion knew it, it was pitch black… and silent…
Beneath his feet the ground began to shake and heave so much that it knocked him to his knees.
As he crawled in the darkness he found the cross on which Jesus hung and even though the ground everywhere was shaking the ground at the foot of the cross was solid.
He felt the wooden splinters on the side of his face as he looked up and felt drops of blood fall upon him – and he felt safe.
Through the darkness he heard the man cry out: “It is finished”
And at that moment the Centurion who has been part of countless crucifixions before cried out from the foot of the cross:
Surely this man is the Son of God.

COMPUTER DOWN!!!!!

Ok so press the panic button! No really, do it! Yeah, go, break the glass and press it!!!! This is not a drill (insert your best surrealist René Magritte comment here)!  My Computer is not resonding!!!

Today started with that annoying buzz of my alarm clock followed by aches and pains familiar to the flu – great.  So after waking up to find my body feeling as if I had been run over by an 18 wheeler while being punched in the gut by a gang of porcupine ninjas (don’t worry the truck took a few of them out as well), I arrive at my office to find a unresponsive computer holding all of my files for our upcoming Easter production – of course today is backup day for my apple time machine but if the computer won’t start, you can’t back it up.  So like any other computer addicted Apple fanatic I begin to curse the computer and want with every fiber of my being to cry out to the heavens as I reenact the best scene from the movie Office Space, WHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  But I calm myself by thinking that God may smite me or at least banish me to the 5th or 6th layer of hell for speaking so ill of an mac (I mean remember last time someone took a chunk out of an apple).  I even call the Benny Hinn Ministries hotline for help – I am currently on hold listening to some pretty nice muzak.

After I had some time to enjoy Kenny G ish renditions of popular and beloved Christian Pop music I began to think about the sparrows and the lilies of the field.  And in my frantic state of disbelief that God could forsake my beloved Apple Computer I come across some scribble that I wrote through the whole planning of our Easter production.  It read, God’s Love and Grace is larger and greater than any multimedia presentation could ever present.  I had to sit back and remember that even though I have large plans for how I want this to work out, God’s plan may be something greater.  I don’t know how I will proceed from here but I know that I am stronger than any attack from Satan if I am resting in the hands of the Father.  Not my will Lord, but Yours be done.

Now I have to go wash my hands as I just wrote this whole thing on a PC. ugk!

Creating Worship Space with Light: History Sets a Precedent

I love new ideas brought into worship. If you have paid attention to the evolution of visual media in the modern church you can see a very cool worship experience emerging. You probably remember the days of overhead projectors and clear lyric sheets. And you probably were overjoyed when powerpoint slides made their way into the realm of worship. A recent phenomenon has begun to emerge in churches around the world, and that is visual worship in and of itself – moving lyrics that make powerpoint look like overhead projectors with colored markers, environmental projection, and more to the point of visual worshippers creating a kind of sub culture within the church.

Surprisingly I believe that these are not new events but ones stemmed out of a long tradition of visual aids in worship. From the cloister of Cluny (not to be confused with the cloister of Clooney – devoted to a handsome earthly being not a all powerful heavenly one) who used ornate decorations to draw the worshippers attention towards the heavens, to the dual of the iconoclasts and iconodules over pictures and art being used as “visual worship” in a sense, to architecture itself designed as an aid to worship. Visual worship is a great new creative aspect of modern worship that has historic roots in church history.

Creating worship space became an important element in Christianity as it continued to spread.  During the Medieval period, especially with Gothic architecture, we can see special attention being paid the creation of worship space.  As Robert A. Scott points out, “The Gothic cathedral was intended as a space where people could get a taste of heaven.”[1] It is important to note how this was achieved, as again, it sets precedence for the use of film or visual mediums in worship.

The entire structure of Gothic architecture was centered on medieval theology.  The buildings were to “mirror” heaven as the theologians imagined it.  From the layout of the building – often cross-shaped – to the verticality of the structure – intended to raise the worshippers’ eyes towards heaven – every part of the building was intended to aid in worship; it was a “monument in applied theology.”   All this considered, the most important feature of Gothic architecture, was light.  Light was so important because in medieval theology “light was the principal and best means by which humans could know [God].”[2] As Robert A. Scott continues; “In essence, new structures and forms were invented to solve problems created by theological purposes.”[3] This is extremely important to note, the needs of the worshipping community gave rise to new technology.

With such an emphasis on light, medieval architecture quickly incorporated the developing art form of stained glass windows.  Stained glass windows allowed plenty of light to enter the worship space, as well as act as a specific work of art to aid the worshipper.  As technology improved, the quality of the “stained glass”[4] art did as well.  These windows used color and shape to present theology, doctrine, biblical stories, lives of the saints and more.  In fact they were sermons, which “reached the heart through the eyes instead of entering at the ears.”[5] Originally intended for the illiterate members of the congregation, the windows became important works of art for everyone who saw them.

In stained glass, light shines across colored frames in order to tell a story, edify, serve as homily, and act as visual sermons.  In much the same way, in film and visual mediums, light shines through colored frames, to tell a story.  Film and visual mediums, when employed correctly can achieve the same effect and serve the same function in worship as stained glass windows.  With the emergence of newer and newer technology (digital projectors, screens, HDTV, computers, and more) film can be used in conjunction with the architecture to create a modern worship space with traditional ties.  The argument for visual worship then is not a new one but rather one with historical precedence.

Check out worshipvj.com for more modern examples of visual worship.


[1] Robert A. Scott, The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003).121

[2] Robert A. Scott, The Gothic Enterprise, 131.

[3] Robert A. Scott, The Gothic Enterprise, 132.

[4] The term is a misnomer, as stained glass is only one of the glasses so employed. It is more the result of a process than a glass per se, as it is produced by painting upon any glass, clear or colored.  Nevertheless, although the word stained-glass is inaccurately used, usage has so fixed its erroneous meaning in the public mind that in all probability it will continue for all time to be applied in naming colored windows and their glass.

[5] Caryl Coleman, “Stained Glass.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 7 Apr. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14241a.htm>.

5 Reasons Worship Bands Should Use Click Tracks

We started about 2 years ago to shift towards utilizing click tracks in our worship services.  It started during rehearsals for an Easter production and has been a staple ever since.  I have to admit it hasn’t been the easiest transition for us to make but looking back, it has been one of the best moves we have made as a worship band.  The click track is a humbling beast that makes the best musicians feel like rookies at times.  I remember sitting at my piano as a kid with that wooden triangle of doom clicking at me as I practiced for my recital.  We have not always had the greatest success with the click but it has become a comforting friend more than the nagging foe it use to be.  I have come to love the many benefits of playing with a click track.

5 Reasons Why Worship Bands Should Use Click Tracks

  1. It keeps the band together.  Worship bands – ususally – do not have the opportunity to play together as much as they might like.  And we all know the more you play together the tighter the band is.  But the click track can help this problem.  For the same reason a click i used in the studio, one should be used live.  If someone is slightly in front of or behind the beat, it can muddy up the mix – and remember a better mix starts at the stage.
  2. It controls the tempo.  You may say duh! That would be the definition of a click track.  But when a band becomes very familiar with a particular song, they can easily speed up the tempo of that song.  It can become less of a challenge or boring when you are so familiar with a song.  But after watching performances where tempo felt right, it was clear that it was way too fast. Remember the congregation, they need to be able to be comfortable with the song.
  3. The advent of Visual Worship.  As visual worship becomes more and more prevalent in churches, bands will need to be able to meet the call of technology.  Timing creative videos with live music is something that connects both aurally and visually thus allowing the worshipper to engage in a new and exciting ways.  If your band can stay with a click track, you can open up new possibilities for your worship service and congregation.
  4. It allows for loops, lo-fi drum samples, and if needed filler instruments to provide sounds you normally cannot provide with a live band.  If you are morally oppose to having instruments other than live (and I can understand that argument) then this is not the point for you.  But if you need pads, strings, horns, or even the occasional staple instrument then playing with a click enables you to do this with pre-recorded tracks and loops.
  5. It makes you better musicians.  We need to continually sharpen our skills and strive to be better at our craft.  Playing and practicing with a click will do just that, ask any studio musician.  It only benefits your ability to feel the beat and stick with it.  Again, remember the best musicians in the world can at times be humbled by a click track.

I hope you found this helpful.  There are some minor pitfalls and common misconceptions about playing with a click track.  I will address them in a later post.  For now I hope you are encourage to venture in to new areas of worship music or are encouraged in the  path you are already taking.  Playing with a click track is something I have come to view as vital to our worship services.  Do you play with a click?  If so was it a challenge getting your team to play with one?  What disadvantages do you see?

The tempo is the suitcase. If the suitcase is too small, everything is completely wrinkled. If the tempo is too fast, everything becomes so scrambled you can’t understand it. – Daniel Barenboim

God Bless

Learning to Disconnect: What I Learned From a Weekend without Media

I recently took a period of a Friday through Monday to shut off my phone, computer, twitter, tv, and just disconnect from such a connected world.  Anyone who knows me realized how hard it must have been for me.  My iPhone is a constant companion, my computer closer than a brother.  This weekend promised to be, for me, likened to an addict quitting cold turkey.  It took a long time for the phantom cell phone leg vibrations to subside.  Everywhere I looked I saw perfect twitter fodder – a store called “Guns and Golf,” – and had to resist the urge.  Even in my attempts to disconnect with a good book I was bombarded with the urge to tweet great quotes from Donald Miller, making hard to turn the pages as my texting hand twitched and sweat with every inspiring and funny quote.  Instead of sugarplum fairies I saw photoshop pixies and apple nymphs text messaging back and forth while on Facebook.  It was quite a hard first day.

My intention for the weekend was to spend time, real time, with my wife and in prayer.  I admit I can go overboard with the “connected life.”  At times when I am with my wife, I am not fully there – but it is hard to be when she is watching “Conveyor Belt of Love” (how do you not tweet all about that ridiculous concept of a show?)  I also wanted to take some time and really just pray – to connect (without technology) to my Savior.  I can very easily just pass over that time with God and be more concerned with working through my YouVersion.com reading plan.  I wanted to just have the scriptures and silence (something way to hard to find in today’s world.)

With all of this social media we connect with everybody and nobody at the same time.  I came away having conversation with my wife that was just different.  You just tend to discuss different things when you take the time to just talk – about anything and everything.  This type of conversation could take place during any other day but for me it took the decision to shut things down for a few days for this to happen.  I was also surprised how my prayer life changed with just the silence, slower pace, and analog journaling system (pen and paper).  It was amazing to see how different it was than what previously was my routine (routine is another bad word in my book and part of the whole problem).

I came into the weekend with all the hope and promise of a tenured teacher who once promised to change the world and now just puts in a DVD and makes sure the students know enough to pass.  I wasn’t super excited to disconnect and didn’t know if I could really survive a weekend without technology.  I came out of the weekend like a recent college graduate hellbent on changing the education system and desiring to see students not just pass the test but really “get it.”  I came in downtrodden and expecting to just survive the weekend and left wide-eyed and renewed (less the whole first time snowboarding thing where it was certain i broke at least one bone if not more and broke my pride when the first 10 year old girls snowboarded by with ease. I figured learning in Gatlinburg would be could because – no offense – if you are snowboarding there, you really have no right to make fun of anyone).

I highly recommend a media fast for those of us who work on the media side of the church.  Being able to disconnect with the world around us and to connect with our God is something we all desperately need.  Doing this will only better our ministries and our relationships – digital and analog.  I recommend this really, for anybody; from the Crackberry addict, the iPhone junkie, twitterati, Facebook fiends, to the occasional emailer.  It will only give a better understanding of who you are and where God is leading.

Have you ever taken a media fast? Share you experience?  Do you think you could survive one (I didn’t)? I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject and idea of “Learning to Disconnect.”

Blessings.

Going on a Media Fast for the Weekend – Please Pray, I’m Going Amish…

Ok this was supposed to post last Friday but I messed up the scheduling feature.  It never got fixed because I honestly disconnected from everything but here it is anyway.

My wife and I are getting away for the weekend.  We are heading to Gatlinburg to spend the weekend in a cabin and just relax.  I realize that with my job and obsession with technology I spend way too much time on my computer, twitter, facebook, iPhone, and what have you.  My wife often gets perturbed with my constant “connection” to outside world and lack of one, at times, with her.  I am certain that my walk with Christ is suffering as well.  So for this weekend I will be turning off my iPhone, auto-responding my emails, neglecting twitter, and put a pause on blogging (even though this is a baby blog and posting something everyday is a good way to help garner readers).  If you notice the time and date of this post you may say wait a minute he is supposed to be on a media fast.  Alas, fear not for I wrote this last night before going to bed (cause I waited till the last min to do laundry and pack) and posted it to publish later.  As I embark tomorrow I will only make a few necessary phone calls to make sure all is in place and taken care of for our weekend services then shut off my phone and let the weekend begin.

I plan to share my experience through my blog.  I hope you come back to check out how an über connected guy can pull the plugs for a few days to better the real relationships in his life – not just the digital ones. (and p.s. this is Wild Card Weekend and the 2 hour premier of Chuck will be on – I sure picked a tough weekend to do this…)

So I leave with Bible in hand, my wife by my side, a few good books and a completely open mind to see what God can and will teach me through this weekend – oh and i will be doing a good amount of snowboarding too.  Wish me luck and keep me in your prayers and maybe this can become a good thing for me and for the church today.