Worship Media Arts

Big Ideas, How-To, and Articles on Worship, Media and the Arts

Communicating Visually 1: Introduction

We (the MO Guys) have recently been appointed adjunct professors in the Master of Arts Program in Missional Leadership at Northwest Nazarene University in Boise, Idaho. This innovative online program seeks to equip leaders to effectively do ministry in our twenty-first century by taking ministry outside the walls of the church.

The first course on tap is titled “Communicating Visually”. It runs eight weeks beginning Monday October 22. Each week of the course has a topical emphasis. As a service to the larger community of those seeking effective ministry in this time, and as a glimpse into what the students are learning, we will publish the course’s weekly online lecture in this space.

In the interest of continuing education, we’d love to see your reactions in the comments below. Enjoy.


Note: Click on the image above to advance to the next one.

This online lecture is available for purchase as a PowerPoint file and is ideal for presentation to a church committee or group on the value of communication in ministry. For more information, CLICK HERE.

17 Comments so far »

  1. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on October 23, 2007 @ 3:36 pm

    What do you think? Leave a message if you have something to say about this article. No registration is required to post a comment, but we will moderate for spam and obscene language, so your comment will be delayed in posting until we clear it.

  2. Greg Davis said,

    Wrote on October 23, 2007 @ 6:09 pm

    Great idea and thanks for offering to publish the weekly lecture here for others to learn from as well. I think the church and its leaders need to learn more about this subject!

  3. Don Johnson said,

    Wrote on October 23, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

    While I don’t disagree that a major cultural shift has occurred in advertising, such that the visual media has in many places overtaken the printed word media, I think a key to the success of any media type is the target audience. In saying that some of the worship “hands” images or Bible may not be culturally relevant, you are in essence invalidating the most common symbolism to reach the “boomers” and “boosters.”
    I think we can generalize to some degree, but I think we could be even more effective by blending elements that address the visual responders of the different segments of the audience. For example, quick cuts and dramatic contrast may appeal to a younger audience, and they might grasp all the ideas correctly and quickly, but the older folks might be put off by the “chaos” and get nothing from the presentation. On the other hand, methods used to reach the senior saints might be lost on the youth, who “check out” very quickly due to a lack of stimulus. Finding middle ground might keep from alienating one group or another, and still enable all to grasp the message.
    All in all, I think this will be a great series, and I look forward to future installments!

    Don Johnson

  4. Lori Fast said,

    Wrote on October 23, 2007 @ 8:48 pm

    I think the issue isn’t so much what images you use to communicate your idea, the issue is whether or not your images actually do communicate something. For example, when a Christian sees a person standing in front of a sunset with their hands raised, they might think of worshipping the creator God. But if a non-Christian saw that, they might just think, “Man, I’d like to be at the beach right now.” So responding to what Don Johnson said, I would totally agree that the intended audience makes a difference in what and how you communicate – just like communicating in any other form, speeches or written word or visual media. I’m eager to see the future lectures!

  5. Ed Coquillard said,

    Wrote on October 24, 2007 @ 12:22 am

    I hope to be able to learn to think outside the box in developing worship media. In a church that struggles with seperation from traditional vs. contemporary services, I am looking to be able to improve our delivery of media to add to the worship experience, while not focusing only on one targeted group. This is the first time I have come across this type of training. I look forward to hearing different ideas and sharing in viewpoints from across the spectrum.
    Thanks in advance for what looks like a great learning experience!

  6. Patrick Fenneran said,

    Wrote on October 24, 2007 @ 5:50 am

    I understand the concepts that are being presented as well as undstanding what the goal is. The comments from Lori and Don are valid but even you guys stated it before – the image/metaphor used has to have an impact and a redeeming value. I am challenged every week becuase of the shift that is happening at our church; the contemporary service falls inbetween two traditional services. This is leading to the older crowd “popping” their head in to see what is going on. Some of the time they decide to stay – the reasons are different for why they stay but the outcome was the same – something touched their heart to sit and listen. So in essence it boils down simply – “know your audience”.

    Guys one word – in your class is this an online thing where you guys are speaking or just the people are reading the slides. Way to many words!!!

    You all rock


  7. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on October 24, 2007 @ 7:19 am


    The syllabus covers a range of learning, including online lectures like this one, extensive discussions via online forums, reading assignments, visual and group assignments, and more. And, yes, there’s a lot of words on these images – we agree! The format of an online lecture necessitated it. We wouldn’t recommend you do this on an image for worship.

  8. Mark Stahura said,

    Wrote on October 24, 2007 @ 7:26 am

    Responding to both Don and Lori, many church visual designers don’t think carefully about what the image SAYS on its own, and whether that helps or inhibits what you’re trying to say at that moment in worship. And so much of the music visual industry seems stuck on nature as the background to any text or song whatsoever, so we get “A Mighty Fortress” words against an image of clouds, or “Joy to the World” with a single star. The strength of great image use is that it assists and even magnifies (or, the best possibility, resonates in a metaphoric sense) the message of the words or song or moment. “Pretty” is useless unless it supports the communication of the message, to THIS audience at THIS time. No image is inherently bad — I could see even using the Blue Screen of Death to illustrate how we sometimes run our own program of worldly concern until we reach a dead end, for instance; the point is whether an image communicates a message that supports and coheres with the rest of the service, whether it gets to people and makes the message memorable.

  9. Chuck Abshere said,

    Wrote on October 24, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

    You guys are so awesome. This is a medium that the youth of our congregations can not only help us with, but maybe give us some direction in also.

    Keep up the Great Work and keep on teaching and informing the more mature christian worship leaders. I am always willing to learn new things to further the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  10. Jeff Fradenburgh said,

    Wrote on October 31, 2007 @ 7:00 am

    Great resource!

    Questions I hope you’ll answer throughout the course:

    What software is #1 easiest to use for the novice and #2 affordable.

    If a picture is worth a thousand words where can we find the right pictures that are not copyrighted.


  11. Alistair Stewart said,

    Wrote on November 3, 2007 @ 10:58 am

    I’m glad to see that a course on visual communication is being offered.

    Having taught media development in an education context for 40 years (and having had to follow rigorous academic approaches to the issue of media and learning) I am a bit concerned about the conceptual framework within which visual communication needs to be explored.

    In teaching approaches to the development of media-based materials for learning, I find it necessary to draw from five areas – Communication, Visual Communication, Theories of Learning, Instructional Design, and Attributes of the Media.

    One of the most telling judgements on media in education arose in 1983 from research (a metanalysis of a large number of research papers) carried out by Richard Clark. He concluded that “Media no more facilitates learning than the grocery truck facilitates nutrition”. It was really a criticism of previous research in media and learning, but it highlighted the need for very serious consideration necessary for the use of media in education.

    I think the use of media in church requires similar serious critical appraisal. Visual communication is only one of the aspects that needs to be explored. A lot of research has been carried out over the years and we need to be aware of that. Many people have a low level of visual literacy, and it is very difficult (in fact it is probably very foolish) to generalise on how people interpret visual images.

  12. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on November 4, 2007 @ 5:16 pm


    Thanks for your post. We agree that your five part typology is apropos, and that it is foolish to generalize on how people interpret visual images. We would strongly disagree with your citation from 1983. We’d also argue that a lot has happened since then.

    It could be argued, as it has been in some of the texts we use in our class, that the strength, and weakness, of image is its ambiguity–its ability to allow multiple meanings, which is a very different characteristic than that of the printed word, which excels in and suffers from its ability to facilitate detached analysis. In fact, this is part of what is coming in our next lecture.

    We hope you’ll continue to bring your knowledge and experience to the discussion.

  13. Midnight Oil Productions | Reading | Archive » Communicating Visually 2: A Brief History of Change Resistance said,

    Wrote on November 7, 2007 @ 10:50 am

    […] Communicating Visually 1: Introduction […]

  14. Midnight Oil Productions | Reading | Archive » Communicating Visually 3: Text to Image said,

    Wrote on November 7, 2007 @ 10:51 am

    […] Communicating Visually 1: Introduction […]

  15. Gene said,

    Wrote on November 8, 2007 @ 9:47 pm

    Jeff — there are very few pictures that are totally copyright free except ones shot by U.S. gov’t employees. However, on stock.xchng (http://www.sxc.hu) there are lots and lots of pictures available that are free to use for designing graphics for church and the like.

    As far as software, there are a lot of options. Free (e.g., Easislides) as well as pay (Easy Worship, MediaShout, Song Show Plus, etc.). Each has strengths and weaknesses, so it’s best to try them out and see what works best for you.

  16. Midnight Oil Productions | Reading | Archive » Communicating Visually 4: Metaphor said,

    Wrote on November 13, 2007 @ 9:17 am

    […] Communicating Visually 1: Introduction […]

  17. Chris Rogers said,

    Wrote on December 13, 2007 @ 4:36 am


    Thanks for posting this content. We are taking some baby steps at our church in vis-comm and your 7- (no, 6-)part presentation was both affirming and indicting as to where we currently are in that journey.

    Being a multi-generational church family, one thing I really want to discern from the King is how to speak the visual language that is native to the 20-somethings while still connecting with the 70-somethings. If you guys have any posts or resources that hit on this, I would love to see them.

    Thanks for burning the Midnight Oil and making your work available.

Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a Comment

Name: (Required)

E-mail: (Required)