N o matter what happens at seminars and conferences on images in worship, when it comes to Q&A time, it’s always the same basic set of questions. These are the basic concepts that everyone needs to know in order to use screens more effectively in worship. Consider this a crash course on screen use in your church. You can find Questions 1 – 5 here.
Q: What if I can’t find the image I need online?
A: Learn to take a photograph.
You can survive a little while surfing Google, but you’ll hit a wall quickly, not to mention find it difficult to explain to others why you’re surfing inappropriate websites. There are a lot of great, free sites out there. An amazing website called Blue Vertigo keeps a list of all of them.
Also, there are some good, royalty-free resource sites available. Subscription sites such as photospin.com offer an unlimited database for a single yearly fee. Or, consider a la carte websites such as istockphoto.com, which offer nice photos for as little as $1 each.
In addition, flickr has an advanced search feature that allows the user to search images from the royalty-free Creative Commons database.
But, the best solution is: Learn to take a good photograph. You’ll also get what you need if you’re shooting it yourself.
Q: How to we deal with copyright?
A: Sidestep it.
I don’t mean ignore it, unless, as Jason Moore says, you want to start a full-time prison ministry. By sidestep, I mean don’t even bother with anything that might have a copyright on it. Make your own stuff, or find royalty-free resources online on the websites mentioned above.
Make sure you have the CVLI license, which allows users to show major studio motion pictures in worship. The fair use argument is weak; don’t use it.
Q: How do we avoid burnout for our best people?
A: Move toward a manageable production schedule with limits.
Name your best three or four volunteers as producers. These people are not necessarily the best implementers, but the ones who understand your vision the best. Set up a schedule for them in one of two ways. If you operate on a week-to-week basis, use the calendar to name a weekend of the month that is theirs to run. This gives them ownership and sets a manageable service expectation. If you plan worship in series, plan schedules so that each producer is on point for a mutually agreed number of series per year.
Treat the producer as the leader of the volunteer crew. At first the producer will be the one loading images and pushing buttons. Over time, the goal is that the producer will work with a graphic artist, video specialist, and so on.
Q: We use volunteers and we’re hit or miss. How can we get consistent quality using just volunteers?
A: Develop design standards.
Create a style guide for your designs, which creates standardization. Do you capitalize pronouns for God? Do you use punctuation on screen? Identify these grammatical elements. In addition, name what is acceptable visually. Do you always use black or white type, or is colored type acceptable? What fonts or font families are okay? How about color schemes, use of gradients, shadows, and so on?
Some of these decisions are flexible. Some I’ll get on a soapbox about, such as use of sans serif fonts, avoidance of punctuation on screen, and the use of a reduced color palette. Watch the graphics package of a favorite television program or product brand and you’ll see the consistency of fonts, colors, and styles used.
Q: Producing a new service every weekend is simply too much work. How can we simplify the process?
A: Create themes and variations on themes.
Don’t try to create 52 unique productions a year plus everything midweek, too. Develop groupings around sermon series or liturgical seasons. This reduces the load to six to eight primary productions a year. For each grouping, create a primary theme and a few variations, in still and/or motion form.
While Creative Director at a church in Texas I identified a hand-written invitation on letterhead as the primary metaphor for a series on stewardship and giving. I produced a primary image that represented the series, in high res and screen res form. This appeared in posters, on bulletin covers, on the website, and so on. I slightly modified this primary image for each week of the series. Then I created two coordinating motion graphic backgrounds for the song portion of worship. These videos are simple dissolves and transitions between close up shots of envelopes and letters.
Even on a small budget and with a volunteer workforce, it is possible to create quality imagery and use your screen effectively to enhance worship and share God’s story in inspiring new ways.