Serving in worship ministry affords me the privilege of hearing friendly (and sometimes unfriendly) complaints about what happens in worship. One area that is often criticized is the operation of the visuals placed on the screen during the worship service, especially when it regards the timeliness of the presentation of the song lyrics.
Creative backgrounds and interesting animations certainly help enhance worship services, but they don’t mean much if the people worshiping are distracted because the lyrics to the songs they are trying to sing are late. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing problem in many churches.
So, here’s the bottom line: Song lyrics need to be on the screen before people have to the sing them. If the people have to guess at what the next word or line or phrase is, then their worship experience has been hijacked, meaning they’ve been temporarily or permanently disengaged from what is happening.
How To Avoid Lyrical Delay: Prepare and Practice
Prepare – It is the worship leader’s job to provide the correct worship lyrics and sequences in which the song is going to be presented. This serves as a guide to the technician who is creating and/or displaying the lyrics.
- Very important point – The sequence of the songs, meaning the breakdown of when and how many times the verses, choruses, bridge(s), and tags are included in the song presentation is first and foremost the responsibility of the worship leader.
- If the correct song sequences are not communicated to the technicians building and then operating the song playlist, it is doubtful that the presentations of the songs will be presented properly. The blame for this failure is most often given to the visuals operator, but most often it actually belongs to the worship leader.
- Sometimes, a worship leader refuses to plan the sequences of the songs because he simply wants to be led by the Spirit. It makes sense to these worship leaders that if he and the visuals technician are both being led by the Spirit then everything will come together perfectly without prior coordination. The Holy Spirit can certainly lead two different people simultaneously, but if we use this excuse for not preparing, we are basically blaming God for our laziness and mistakes.
- It is the visual technician’s job to review the song playlist prior to the run-through and worship service ensuring that the correct song version has been included and that it is in the right sequence. If this has been done, the operator and worship leader can be more confident that the right words will be displayed at the right time.
Practice – If there is a run-through prior to the service, it is responsibility of the visuals technician to practice along with the musical worship team.
- The following cannot be said enough – The run-through is not just practice for the band. It’s also practice for the visual technician. Believe it or not, the visual technician needs to practice just as much as the band, if for no other reason than to catch mistakes, correct typos, and reorder the sequences of songs built improperly.
- If practice happens, sequencing or presentation issues can be found and corrected prior to the service. If this does not happen, the visuals technician is basically just hoping everything is going to be ok.
- The rehearsal also allows the visuals technician to reacquaint themselves with the flow and the feel of the song, allowing himself to anticipate where the worship leader is going if an extra chorus or bridge needs to be added on the fly.
- Sometimes, when a visuals technician is also responsible for building the song playlist, he tends to feel like he’s already done his homework for the service and therefore doesn’t deem it necessary to practice with the band during run-through. When these things happen, the operator is allowing prideful arrogance to step in between himself and a successful worship service.
When I was growing up, my parents used to say, “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” The same can be said for the worship leaders and visuals technicians of our day who are partnering together to avoid the number one complaint about church visuals.