Over the last two decades, nearly every church has incorporated at least one media projector into their services. Instead of people burying their heads into a hymnal or mouthing nonsense words as they search for the correct lyrics, they now lift their heads, read along as they sing, and can understand even the most mumble-mouthed soloist.
We read scriptures from them, play announcement videos on them, and share videos from missionaries and religious organizations. Media projectors can be incredibly useful in every church service, but we need to be aware of how to use them, how to prepare for them, and how to interact with those who are performing the unenviable task of running them.
I am in a unique position of serving from both behind the pulpit and the iMac on a regular basis, thereby having an understanding of what is required from both sides. Unfortunately, many ministers have no idea what is going on in the media booth. From time to time, that creates massive problems.
Luckily, at The Pentecostals of Bossier City, we have Pastor Dean and Pastor Stanley, who fully understand that media operators need to be given as many tools as possible to help them prepare, and do everything within their power to make sure things will run smoothly, even when late inspiration strikes. This ensures fewer miscues during our services. Even for funerals, Pastor Dean often reminds the funeral home or family that any slideshows or media need to be handed in well in advance.
However, I have often seen ministers embarrass media operators during the middle of service, sometimes in front of large crowds, and the entire congregation laughs at the clueless media operator as the omniscient preacher continues to rush and chastise the hapless soul from the pulpit. In actuality, I would estimate that in 90% of these cases, the fault actually does not lie with the media operator, but with the minister who is publicly shaming him.
Fellow ministers, listen up.
1. MEDIA OPERATORS NEED YOU TO HELP THEM PREPARE
Media presentation software is not magic. If you fail to give your scripture references before service, you cannot scream, “2 Chronicles 2:14-20! Get it on the screen! Get it on the screen! What’s taking so long? Are you asleep up there? My God, we can’t get it together today…”
First of all, it’s not as simple as typing the scripture reference and hitting a magic button that sends it immediately to the screens. For a multi-verse reference in ProPresenter (my recommended church presentation software), it takes me an average of 8 seconds to have it on the screens, and I type over 90 words per minute.
If you decide to incorporate video into your service, it is even more important that you get the video or DVD in the hands of your media operators at least 30 minutes before service. There are a number of things that could go terribly wrong when dealing with video files, and they need plenty of time to prepare. Again: MEDIA SOFTWARE IS NOT MAGICAL. If you’ve ever had a problem setting up a Powerpoint, formatting a Word document, or paying a bill online, then you should know that things don’t always work the way they’re supposed to.
Hear me now: if you publicly ridicule your media operator for something that is actually your fault, then it shows one or a combination of these:
- A lack of understanding.
- A lack of compassion.
- A lack of character.
There are obviously times when you might joke with a media operator when things go awry, but if it’s done with the right spirit, it goes a long way in not alienating one of your volunteers. It’s especially difficult for those who are more introverted, as most of your tech-minded volunteers tend to be.
Ministry is a stressful job with many demands pulling you in every direction, but we must remain aware that for media operators, what they’re doing is their ministry, and they should not be unnecessarily humiliated. Please help them by giving them your scriptures, videos, and graphics as soon as you have them yourself.
Email them. Dropbox them. Give them a USB thumb drive. Whatever you have to do, equip them.
2. MEDIA CANNOT BE RUN ON ANTIQUATED OR UNDERPOWERED HARDWARE
If you expect to run your church media off of a computer that is older than the double-breasted suit you haven’t taken out of the closet since the AOL days, then don’t be stunned and angered when that video of an Argentine missionary starts skipping uncontrollably, creating those horrible awkward pauses that leave the congregation cringing.
The most taxing things you can do with a computer are graphics-based. If you’re running media software, it’s already taxing your system. If you’re running video, especially HD video, it’s probably going to be pushing your church’s computer to its limits. If you underfund your media department, then don’t be surprised when it all grinds to a halt.
I understand that every church has to operate under a budget, and media often seems like an unnecessary expense (until you desperately need it). There are bargain deals to be found. Search Apple’s refurbished section on their store. Search NewEgg.com. Search for a slightly-used iMac. Just please don’t bust out the Packard Bell and hope that it plays that 720p video your youth department put together.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
Pastors are often required to juggle study, hospital visits, prayer meetings, outside jobs, counseling sessions, church finances, and family time in a way that would make most people’s heads spin. I know this, and I know that for most of you, it’s a daunting task to not only prepare a sermon, but also gather together media or create a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation to accompany your sermons.
Ask for help.
The person running your media for church can probably put together a serious presentation and gather supplementary images/video much faster than you can. Give your media operator 30-45 minutes of heads-up time before service, and they can likely put a level of polish on your sermon media that greatly enhances the vibe of your church.
Find a member of your church who is artistically and technically inclined, and put them to work. They want to help. They want the church to be represented well graphically. Throwing up a Powerpoint using the default styles will get the job done, but using an interesting graphic and unique text/formatting will go a long way in making your church’s media look more professional.
Your church’s media solutions might not be the fanciest or the prettiest, but with some training, investment, and encouragement, you can have a staff put together that will do the best job possible for your church under whatever budget you can assign. Ministers are becoming more tech-savvy every day, and companies like Apple have changed the way we approach media and design, whether it be for our businesses or our churches.
Even while operating under a basic budget, our church media can look good enough represent us well. Just imagine where we will be twenty years from now.
Next: Church Media (Part 2) – For Worship Pastors