Worship Media Arts

Archive for Communicating Visually

Visual Scripture: Making the Word an Experience


There’s no doubt that we live in a visual culture, and that culture has become less and less interested in the institutional church. While we have the most powerful story to tell, the way in which we tell it is often the least powerful way for the time in which we live.

Quite often, the reading of scripture in worship is the least engaging moment of all. Rather than approaching scripture as story, scripture is often shared in a dry, emotionless way or done as a broken, monotone, congregational reading. With screens so prevalent in worship now, the most common approach to scripture in worship is to just put the text on the screen and hope that people read along. Are any of those methods really very effective for our visual culture? Probably not.
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Making Messages More Powerful with Images


Here at Midnight Oil we talk a lot about metaphor. More than just a gimmick or a shiny hook on which to hang some thoughts, when it comes to communicating visually in worship, visual metaphors aren’t just the a hook for the message, they are the message itself. When creating images in a worship setting, good use of metaphor is key to making images work and the message stick with your congregation.

Here is how one of our graduate students put it in a class we recently finished teaching:

“Metaphors seem like they are much more “all-encompassing” than anecdotes. In fact, even a metaphor can have a few relative anecdotes within it to help drive the point home. I think the major point is that metaphors aren’t things that you just add to a sermon to help people pay attention as if they need to be attached to the truth of the message as an attractive advertisement. Metaphors aren’t a way of “dumbing down” the real message. Metaphor is the real message being shared in such a way that it relates to a new group of individuals in a powerful and meaningful way. While anecdotes can have this effect by making one of the stories memorable, metaphor has the capability to allow the hearer to connect to the truth of the message through various points of entry and to take that truth with him/her even when they leave the service.”

– From Nathan Hand, NNU class fall 09

To see some visual metaphors for worship, check out our comprehensive list here.


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Creating Cool Titles for Your Worship Services


Earth Movers, for a focus on the power of service in the name of Christ
Family Matters, for a focus on the issues related to the importance of family
Grains of Truth, for a focus on Mark 2:23ff, when the disciples eat grain on the Sabbath
True Colors, for a focus on Jesus as light of the world, using the spectrum as a metaphor
Firewall, for a focus on erecting barriers to sin in our lives

Do you title your service? Similar to a sermon title, a service title appears on all major communiques throughout the Sunday morning experience such as screen imagery, bulletin covers, signage, and digital and print banners. It is often less informational and more connectional than a sermon title. A good title focuses the congregation’s attention on the topic of the day in an engaging and memorable way.

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The Power of Communicating Visually

Communicating Visually

We just finished a round of the course we teach at Northwest Nazarene University’s Graduate School of Missional Leadership (which is a fancy new term for a seminary). As adjunct professors, we’re charged with leading students through a course on Communicating Visually.

It may seem out of place to have a communications course at a seminary to some. Some of the students certainly think so, at least when they start, and have no qualms in voicing their well-honed academic opinions. This fall we had 26 students, not including the three who decided after 1 of 8 weeks that it wasn’t worth their effort. Maybe a half dozen of the group were initially not only indifferent or undecided, but flat out antagonistic to the idea that their degree required something as facile and superficial as how to run PowerPoint.

Probably the most enjoyable part of the course is to see these people come around. They become the biggest believers, invariably. Here are some of their comments from the last day of the class:

I felt that same way after I read Rob Bell’s, “Jesus Came to Save Christians.” It was a life changing book even as this class is most certainly life changing for all of us! We will never again say we see in the same way again! I think it is as much of a drastic change in sight even as the disciples had after Jesus’ resurrection.
– Todd Holden

This class has challenged me to step up and educate our congregation on the culture that we are living in today. If we want to take seriously that God has commissioned us to “go and make disciples,” then we have to be willing to communicate in the language of those we are going to. Missionaries, of course, would go about learning the actual spoken language of the culture they would be reaching out to. It is no different for us- we are sent to the culture we live in, and for some reason, there has been this wall of separation that we have created as the body of Christ. On one side, we’ve kept ourselves to the “written word,” confusing it for “The Word that was made Flesh.” We have forgotten that in our very DNA we were created by a God who took on flesh and stepped into culture, adopting and adapting to a way of life.
– Cody Stauffer

More than just engaging the sense of sight for a viewer, visual ministry is meant to relate to the experiences of those to whom it is communicating. With advancements in technologies that are largely visual in nature, the church has a great opportunity to speak to its surrounding culture with this new “language” and to relate to it in a new way. To a visual culture visual language contains much more mystery, allows for much more discovery, extends much more of an invitation to be creative, and engages in more relevant questions and answers than its printed counterpart. Now, writing is not irrelevant, but visual communication is effectively meeting the needs of a culture that is on the cusp of postmodernism, and if the church ignores the fact that this is taking place then it is stuck in a tunnel vision of its own methodological arrogance.
– Nathan Hand

We’ll share some highlights of the curriculum that led to these comments over the next few weeks.


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Design Really Does Matter: The Rest of the Story

A while back Jason posted about the radical redesign of Tropicana Orange Juice, and the negative effects it had on sales.

Interesting to note this morning that Fortune magazine has the Tropicana redesign ranked #2 on their list of “Dumbest Moments in Business 2009 Midyear Edition.” They said,

Tropicana fans said the simplicity of the new design reminded them of store-brand generics. And who wants to be mistaken for a generic consumer? Within a month, the public’s flogging by e-mail, phone, and blogs forced PepsiCo to bring back the old straw-in-an-orange cartons. Other parts of the campaign remain, but PepsiCo will probably think twice before it tries updating this icon again.

Maybe you consider yourself sophisticated and not susceptible to the packaging of a product. The reality is, you are. Everyone is. The content, and how the content is presented, are intertwined. The old saw is, “the medium is the message.” In other words, design and presentation creates meaning. How is your design and presentation of the Gospel impacting its meaning to those who are listening?


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