I was honored recently to be interviewed for the UPCI Ohio District News by Anthony Nutter, Student Pastor at The Anchor Church in Zanesville, OH and Promotions Director for the Ohio District Youth. Do to space constraints (and the fact that I don’t know how to answer anything in less than 1,000 words apparently) the “transcript” of the full interview is posted here for your reading enjoyment:
Q: What would be your first piece of advice to a church with a struggling, or non-existent media department?
A: For those just starting, I’d say don’t get intimidated or overwhelmed. You don’t have to do everything all at once. It’s so easy to roll into a larger church that has everything in place and want to compete with or hang with what they’re doing. Don’t get caught up in that trap. Instead, focus on doing the very best your church can do. That’s not an excuse to do sub-par work or to phone it in. That means doing a lot of research and educating yourself about the four main components of any media department: the computer, the projector, the software, and the staff.
That last one—the staff—is so critical; not just for those starting out, but it’s usually the one area where churches that have struggling media departments are hurting. Maybe you’re not large enough to have a multi-person crew, but it’s vital that you have that one “go to” guy (or gal) who you can lean on. And that person should be someone who is willing to learn, and try creative things. Churches tend to plug in their most technically-adept person, just because a computer is involved. But just because someone’s great with computers doesn’t mean they belong in the captain’s chair of the media department. A creative, willing volunteer can easily overcome having poor equipment, but all the pricey equipment in the world can’t make up for the wrong person in the wrong job.
Q: When a church is thinking of moving to a new logo, who or what should they pursue?
A: My first question to churches who come to me wanting to redesign their logo is “Why?” There should be a purpose behind any redesign or rebranding, and I recommend that churches spend a lot of time before they even speak with a designer just figuring out what they want to accomplish with the logo. A “brand” and a “logo” are two different things, but each should strengthen the other. A logo is an identifying mark, but a brand is the essence of who you are. It’s what you say, and what you do. A lot of times there’s a total disconnect between a logo and a church’s real brand because they update their logo to reflect current design trends, but it’s not an accurate reflection of who they are as a church body. So, step number one is simply figuring out what you want to say with your logo so you can give the designer something to work with beyond “make us look cool,” or “I’m bored with our current logo.”
A good designer will be one who asks those probing questions and not just churn out a lazy design.
Computers, software, and graphic designers are plentiful, but a great logo is way more than mouse clicks and clip art. I absolutely recommend that churches work with an established professional—someone who can show you real world examples of their designs in use, and who pay their bills with their design work. With few exceptions, I also think a logo should cost you something real rather than being a freebie favor granted by your uncle’s cousin’s nephew. The value in a logo is sometimes hard to quantify, so when you have something tangible and valuable like real dollars attached, it helps organizations understand the importance and take the process a little more seriously. You can also demand more from the designer that way.
I would also highly recommend that churches stay away from design competition websites and websites that offer a dozen logo ideas for a nickel. That’s not to say you have to spend a fortune, but you get what you pay for, and if your church’s logo costs less than a tank of gas, you’re probably on the wrong path.
Q: What is your recommendation for worship software? What about a low-cost, efficient Windows option?
A: I absolutely adore ProPresenter from Renewed Vision. It’s really the software that’s setting the standard for church presentation. It’s scalable, so it works great in small church settings with just a handful of people, but can also grow into a multi-projector environment suitable for tens of thousands. At $399 it costs exactly the same as the other big names in presentation such as EasyWorship, SongShowPlus, and MediaShout. You get an incredible feature set for the same price as much less capable software, so in my mind it’s a no-brainer. It was originally Mac-only, but a while back they released a PC version.
Low-cost and efficient are kind of mutually exclusive terms with presentation software. There are a handful of free and open source worship presentation programs for Windows such as OpenLP, but I’m not a huge fan of the quality. I’m not being a design snob with that statement, but if the software is glitchy and sluggish then you could actually do more harm than good by using it.
Typically it’s smaller churches or church plants that are concerned about the cost of the software, and for them I would recommend Proclaim. For churches under 100 in attendance it’s $10 per month, and does everything a church needs to do, and also includes some really nifty templates for churches who may struggle on the design end of things. Once you go over 100 in attendance the price rises considerably, however, so I don’t think it’s a great solution for mid-size or larger churches.
Q: When visiting apostolic conferences, churches, camps and events, what is the main mistake that you see most often? How can we avoid it?
A: You know, it’s a little like “A Tale of Two Cities” out there. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In the past year or two, it seems like a lot of events and conferences have really stepped up their efforts to do something great in terms of media, but there’s also a lot of room for improvement for others.
Probably one of the most common mistakes I see that makes me cringe is text handling. There’s almost an art form to how song lyrics should be displayed. Either they shove every word of a verse on a screen in a font so tiny no one could possibly read it, or at the events where they’re displaying lyrics over video they’ll throw up one line at a time about mid-way through that line being sung. We’ve forgotten that the whole point of these brilliant media systems is to better facilitate corporate worship. You’ve got to give people enough time to see, process, and respond to (sing) the lyrics, but too often media teams are kind of playing keep up with the worship team. A lot of that is probably because media teams aren’t participating in the practices, which is a mistake not just at events, but at the local church service level, too.
Q: Any last parting words of wisdom?
A: If you want your church media department to be great, take some personal responsibility and push yourself to learn, learn, learn. I try to spend an hour each weekday learning something new. Set aside a little time every day to improve your skill set or to get inspired. Connect to people on Twitter or design sites like Dribbble.com that are doing things you like in media and design, and then try to figure out how they did it. Read a book about color theory, or typography, or watch a free online video tutorial. There are thousands upon thousands of free online tutorials to learn everything from running worship presentation software to mastering Photoshop. Challenge yourself to remove the words “I don’t know how” from your vocabulary.