Worship Media Arts

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

Expanding the Palette: 19 21 Ways to Use Media in Worship

<p>Known for his quirky laid back style and affinity for “happy trees”, public television’s most famous oil painter, Bob Ross, had an almost hypnotic presence as he created picturesque landscapes and nature scenes. Bob’s soft-spoken voice and unique witticisms were only one part of what made him so mesmerizing. His ability to create whole environments completely from scratch with no photo references made you want to watch.</p>
<p>Bob’s name may or may not go down in history alongside Picasso, Michelangelo and Dali, but observing his paintings and techniques can draw in even the most uninterested party. If you have seen his show, you may have noticed that he had a whole arsenal of paints and brushes at his disposal. Ross never just painted with one or two colors. He used his entire palette to create all kinds of interesting variations on color that, once applied to the canvas, matched perfectly.</p>
<p>We in the church can learn a thing or two from Bob Ross about creating inspiring images. Of course this article isn’t about a move to create oil paintings for worship (which could be really cool). It is all about the “paints” we use to create a picture of the gospel for believers and seekers alike.</p>
<p>Far too many churches use a very limited palette when it comes to media in worship. Rather than creating a visually rich experience with many types of media, they only use one or two types as an ongoing practice. For instance, most churches project song lyrics now and most understand that images behind the lyrics are better than solid colors. Others use movie clips on a regular basis, which can be very effective. But there is much more that can be done when creating a “happy painting” of the gospel.</p>
<p>Let’s expand the palette some. We’ve compiled a list of media types and uses that will hopefully help you paint a more inspiring picture in worship. They are listed alphabetically by graphics and video. Please note that this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, although it contains a wide variety of ideas and styles from our own experience. If you have additional ideas, please add them in the comments section following the article.</p>
<p><strong>Graphic Images</strong></p>
<p>1.	<em>Main Image</em></p>
<p>If you want people who come to worship to “get it” and take “it” home with them, creating a single theme for the day can be very helpful. When it comes to the screen, this means creating a visual representation of the theme that will be present from the time people enter the sanctuary until the time they leave. The easiest way to emphasize your theme is by creating a single image that becomes the “image of the day.”</p>
<p>Ideally, this main image would be displayed even before worship starts. It would appear in between songs, before and after videos and movie clips, and any other time there isn’t another images that makes sense. It is also very useful as a visual cue once the pastor has moved on from a particular scripture or sermon point. We think of it as a default image -rather than going to black or another random image when there is nothing else new to project, go to your main image for the day.</p>
<p>To really drive home the visual theme, consider placing it on the front of your program or bulletin for the day. It’s less expensive and a lot cooler than cheesy “bulletin art.”</p>
<p>2.	<em>Sermon Series</em></p>
<p>Many pastors like to preach sermons in series. This can be both good and bad when it comes to media. It’s fairly common for us to see churches use the same main graphic for the entire series. This can become quite repetitive; usually, after the second week the congregation will begin to ignore the image on the screen.</p>
<p>Using the same image can also make the series feel as if it isn’t progressing. Even if the pastor is bringing new ideas to the pulpit each week, if none are being brought to the screen, people can feel as if things are going nowhere. It’s important to keep in mind that, in terms of communication forms, the screen is both ubiquitous and dominant. It often overshadows what is being spoken, for good or bad, so it’s extremely important to make the visuals progress too.</p>
<div class=

<p>There are a couple ways to keep the screen as fresh as the preaching during a series (assuming, of course, the preaching is fresh each week). First you might consider creating variations on the theme graphic for the series. Make each week look similar but alter the design enough to make it stand on its own.</p>
<p>Next you might give each week its own <a href=metaphor or unique theme but have an overall series graphic or icon that ties them together.

A church that Midnight Oil co-owner Jason Moore served did a series called “Divine Direction” where each week utilized a different direction-themed metaphor. The individual weeks were True North (a compass metaphor), Personal Navigator (GPS), Go West (cowboy riding off into the sunset), and Direction Unexpected (moss growing on north side of trees). Each week had its own look that kept momentum going and people engaged (Figure 1).

17 Comments so far »

  1. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on June 15, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

    So, what did we miss? How have you used media in ways not covered here? Let us know by adding comments below.

  2. Gene said,

    Wrote on June 15, 2006 @ 7:22 pm

    Great article, guys. One thing you’ve mentioned elsewhere but I didn’t see here was ‘physical’ media. Like a bookmark printed with something connecting to the service, or the coffee filter thing…something that people are given and either take away to remember the service or do something symbolic with.

  3. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on June 15, 2006 @ 9:17 pm

    Definitely, Gene. We just talked about graphics and video on screen but you’re absolutely right–there’s a plethora of different things you can do with physical media as well.

  4. Henrietta Kissel said,

    Wrote on June 20, 2006 @ 10:48 am

    Title is 18 ways and I only see 13. Where may I find the other 5?

    thank you

  5. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on June 20, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

    Henrietta, It’s 5+13.

  6. koc said,

    Wrote on June 21, 2006 @ 10:09 pm

    one of the best ways we’ve used video in worhsip is to interview people telling their faith stories. It allows us to edit down a 30-45 minute interview into a concise 3-4 minute story. These ‘real life’ faith journeys are a very powerful part of our worship!

  7. Craig said,

    Wrote on June 26, 2006 @ 1:13 am

    I’ve had an artist do a ‘live’ drawing on-screen using a drawing tablet – illustrating the scripture text as it is read. “Painter” is a great software program for this.

    I’ve also experimented in a smaller church with a ‘prayer window’ setup in Powerpoint (but it could be done in Flash). One or more children are invited to come and click on a panel of the window (on a computer at the front of the sanctuary) – the panel contains an invisible action button that links to another screen. we’ve done this to focus our prayers on particular people and places around the world. (I’ve got an interest in ‘interactivity’ – there’s an essay on my website in the downloads section).

    I’ve also done a “pretend” live satellite cross, where the person is actually in a room nearby. It was very funny in the context of a drama where we crossed “live” to New York and the person on screen was standing in front of what was obviously a poster on a wall.

    I’ve just started playing with a “VJ” program – Arkaos – http://www.arkaos.net – which some contacts in the US have used a lot for live vision mixing in young adult oriented worship. It allows for mixing pre-prepared and recent media elements (eg. images or clips from an event) with a live video feed if you want. used in dance club settings.

    thanks guys – keep up the good work!

  8. Bonnie Greene said,

    Wrote on June 26, 2006 @ 3:01 am

    We use all of these regularly, plus videos that convey a really powerful song, like Greg Ferguson’s “Leave a Light on for Me”. I’ve become aware that we’re evolving to a different stage. Instead of video or media as illustration for the spoken message, it’s that we have the Gospel “preached” in 3 different languages in each service: oral, visual, auditory (the featured music). Each is a sermon–on the same theme–but in a different medium. I think of this as a transition like the one made when we moved from “illuminations” of the first letter of a hand-copied book in the Middle Ages to a fully illustrated book in William Blake to comic novels today. Very exciting time.

  9. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on June 26, 2006 @ 7:20 am


    That is exciting. This is the ultimate goal, for us at least, of what we’re talking about with media in worship…. to discover a visual language to communicate the Gospel, and to not just use the screen to support, or illustrate as you say, messages rooted in text and orality. The support mindset, which we call the AV Mentality among other things, fails to truly capture the power of the medium. It takes a while to begin to grasp this difference. Sounds like you guys are doing it.

  10. paul bagley said,

    Wrote on June 26, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

    Often we like to highlight lyrics in a familiar worship song by flipping to a scene from a movie. It works better with a worship song that the church can sing with out the words so that when you flip from the text on the screen to a movie scene the church will continue to sing the song at the same time as the scene.

    Also we have enjoyed using a movie scene with no sound just the visual to highlight a point during the pastors message.

  11. Paul Clifford said,

    Wrote on June 28, 2006 @ 10:19 am

    What about in-drama support? Game show spoofs need things like a Jeopardy board. A drama about a church that isn’t welcoming might use a projected still of a church building as a set.

    Additionally, IMAG (if done properly) can draw the audience into the experience of the service in ways that just having a small room cannot.


  12. Susan Ewing said,

    Wrote on July 20, 2006 @ 2:41 pm

    As a very small church >100 including children we have $$ issues but lots of ideas and talent. We are doing a mosaic July 30 with those old enough to write writing a word or two of what grace means to them on a broken piece of tile which will form the dove in the mosaic. Having attendees participate in something concrete that will be displayed as a work of art in the church adds much to the worship experience.

  13. YouthMinistryTV.com » Blog Archive » Tips For Using Media in Worship said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2006 @ 9:05 am

    […] Midnight Oil Productions has posted a great article about using media in worship called Expanding the Pallette: 18 Ways to Use Media in Worship. I especially liked their tips on using video in worship. Some of their ideas include: […]

  14. CHURCH VIDEO IDEAS » What’s new with Midnight Oil Productions? said,

    Wrote on August 22, 2006 @ 11:20 am

    […] ***Midnight Oil Plus*** Join their new annual membership program to get free products, coupons for media, software, seminars, and more. Articles This summer MOP published a number of new articles. Read them all on their site. Here’s a cool one entitled “19 Ways to Use Media in Worship“. […]

  15. Expanding the Palette: 18 Ways to Use Media in Worship « Ray Emery said,

    Wrote on July 17, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

    […] Expanding the Palette: 18 Ways to Use Media in Worship 20 06 2006 Posted June 15th, 2006 by The MO Guys […]

  16. Ronda said,

    Wrote on February 19, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

    These are good ideas but can you address some rules for what not to use for song backgrounds or sermons. It seems to us that our media volunteer has a willing spirit but doesn’t really understand the importance of the what/how of choosing slides. He chooses slides basesd on subject but doesn’t consider the potential distraction they pose. Often the images are distorted, distracting, awkward. Just some basic “rules”. A distracting, uncomfortable slide is more damaging than no slide at all.

  17. Brian William said,

    Wrote on June 18, 2008 @ 10:24 am

    I know the article was posted a couple years ago, but one of my favorite uses for the screen has been for popular music. I’ve used the actual music videos at times — such as Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love?” with key lyrics added over the top of the music video to emphasize the message. But then I’ve created my own music videos for a variety of other songs — “Watching You” by Rodney Atkins (the verse about the kid learning how to pray by watching his dad), “Let Love In” by the Goo Goo Dolls (the chorus about letting go of fear the ‘moment we decided to let love in’), and “The Great Divide” by Scott Stapp. The one I liked the best was “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence, using a simple sunrise video while highlighting key lyrics over the top of it.

    I’ve been surprised that with the number of books, websites, etc. that have used movie clips as sermon illustrations that there hasn’t been anything similar (that I’m aware of) for popular music. Especially because pop songs are already perfectly edited for worship use — two and a half to three minutes is just about right for an illustration.

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