With the advent of cheaper projection systems and the “digital age,” we have moved from hymnals to stage screens. Screens are more cost efficient and easier for everyone in the church body. Hymnals are hard to revise and as Christian worship music continues to increase in diversity and hit our culture at a much quicker pace, so we are able to be more dynamic. However, that doesn’t mean we should throw the kitchen sink at it.
The Kitchen Sink Mentality
With this brave new world at our fingertips, the Church has done a great job trying to implement technology in ways that are edifying. However, we have slowly worked ourselves into what I consider the “kitchen sink mentality”.
Most presentation software designed for the Church allows video backgrounds. This is a valuable tool that has become the digital wallpaper of our services. Just because you have the ability to do something doesn’t mean you should always do it. Video backgrounds lose their impact when they aren’t used on purpose.
The church I am at used video backgrounds for every song for years. I’d only been on staff for about six months when we went into a series called “Glory,” with the purpose of pointing everyone back to the glory of God devoid of our world’s distractions. I suggested, with a little bit of selling, that we do the entire six week series without any video backgrounds during worship. So for a month and a half with had just the lyrics of our songs on the screen; there were no swirling vortexes, swooping clouds, crashing waves, or space-scapes.
The Effects of No Video Backgrounds
By the end of the second week everyone on staff, as well as in our church body, started giving positive feedback about the change. People were less distracted. They felt more connected to the worship team, and the lighting tech had more freedom without the added color palette of the backgrounds.
As the series came to a close I advised the tech team to continue without backgrounds on the lyrics. We made our way through the Christmas season and it was the New Year before anyone inquired when we would start using backgrounds again. God intervened this time, because as that conversation was starting up our teaching team decided this year would be a year of Sabbath. Every series would be connected to the idea of Sabbath. It was settled, if we were to teach a year on rest, then we couldn’t possibly muddy up the Sundays with over-stimulation.
A Year Without Video Backgrounds
It has been a solid year since we stopped using video backgrounds in our Sunday worship, and to date, no one has ever had a complaint or a substantial argument to the change. In fact, the positive feedback has never stopped, even as new visitors hit our seats. In that time we have been able to outline how and when to use a video background should the occasion arise. We have also been able to start exploring new and inventive ways to use what we have at our disposal, because we aren’t saturating our worship with unintentional information.
Our method is simple: do it on purpose or don’t do it at all.
If the video background doesn’t build unto the point we are making or tell a story in a particular way, then we won’t do it. We are trying to be on purpose with everything we do from a technology standpoint.
I would suggest you and your team definitely take some time to pray through and openly discuss this idea. At the very least, you’ll come out knowing why you do what you do.