Worship Media Arts

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

Sing a New Song: Designing Song Lyrics for Worship

Sing to him a new song?Ķ. and use a new font for Pete’s sake! One of my pet peeves is the way song lyrics are displayed in worship. Why is it that many churches on the right track, doing great creative visual stuff, get to the music portion of worship, and revert to dull lifeless presentation styles? I wish I knew, and I wish I could help them see that there can be power even in the presentation of song lyrics. “Praise & Worship” (as many refer to it) should not be a time to abandon all of the creative stuff that is put into the other parts of worships. Instead it can be an opportunity to extend creativity even further. What does this look?

Let’s start with the basics. Here are a few key points to remember as you produce song slides for worship.

1.) Font choice

Helvetica, and Arial, although very readable, are not terribly inspiring fonts. Feel the freedom to be creative, but don’t go overboard. Readability is most important. If you have a graphic that has a “techno feel”, use a “techno” font. Or, a “warm fuzzy feel”, a “scripty” font; a “dirty” feel, a “rough/corroded” font, and so on. Picking a system font will leave you with a case of the blahs come “P & W” time. Look on the web for freeware fonts, or buy one of those 2000 Wacky Fonts CDs. There are bound to be a few keepers in the mix.

FIGURE 1
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2.) Graphic Backgrounds

It is a great mystery to me: why do I see inspiring graphics leading up to and after congregational singing, but during I’m faced with gradient backgrounds, solid colors and entirely new images that relate in no way to the imagery created for the service? When such churches try to be creative, they often use an image like figure 1. You’ve heard the phrase “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” Unfortunately, I can’t see the lyrics through the trees.

How does one alleviate this problem? I’ve developed a simple technique to take the main worship graphics I create and make song backgrounds from them:

1. Open the main graphic in an image edit program such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Elements or the free Gimp application.
2. Take out any words on the graphic.
3. Apply a gaussian blur.
4. Adjust brightness and contrast to separate the text from the image.

It is also a good idea to use a drop shadow or glow to further help separate your lyrics from the background. See figures 2 and 3 to see what this looks like.

FIGURE 2
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FIGURE 3
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<p>3.)	<strong>Font size</strong></p>
<p>Stick with a consistent font size. I went to a church a while back that had a different size for every line of a song. I felt like I was staring at a flashing buffet sign in Vegas. It was very distracting to say the least, and after a while I started seeing double. OK not really, but you get the point. A good rule of thumb is to use at least 28-30 point type as a minimum size. And, of course your screen size does make a difference.</p>
<p>4.)	<strong>Other various distractions</strong></p>
<p>PowerPoint can be a dangerous tool in the hands of a special effects “wannabe.” Text flying in circles, shooting in from the left, falling from the top, and OH MY!?Ķ..she can’t take much more captain! That kind of sensory overload can make keeping up with the musicians feel like running on a treadmill stuck on the high setting. My advice (and I’m bound to offend someone with this) is to forget that those even exist. I love a good special effect as much as the next guy, but in this case simple is better.</p>
<p>The main thing I keep in mind, as I produce graphics, is the experience of those who will view them. I feel an enormous responsibility every time I create an image that has a bearing on how others will see God. That goes for sermon slides, announcements and even song lyrics. You too may share that humbling responsibility, so ask yourself if you’ve done your best for every piece you’ve produced for this weekend’s worship.</p>
<p>But the main thing is… Please don’t limit your media presentation to displaying lyrics only! Check out other articles for ways to go light years past creating lyrics to making the weekly message “stick” in the minds of worshipers through metaphor.</p>

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2 Comments so far »

  1. The MO Guys said,

    Wrote on March 29, 2006 @ 9:27 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. Deah McReynolds said,

    Wrote on January 29, 2009 @ 3:23 am

    Great article, guys! Thanks for reminding us how a seemingly small detail like font choice can dramatically change the impact of our message.

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