Best Practices for Changing Lyric Slides
When executing services and events at your church, the onscreen presentation is a huge part of your congregation’s experience. When it comes to slides with lyrics, going unnoticed is the goal. If an attender is thinking about when the slides change, it’s likely because they’re too early or too late. In that case, they serve to distract from the experience rather than enhance it.
Here are a few tips to equip your tech team with some best practices.
Timing is key
A good general rule is to change the lyric slide one beat before the words actually start. It gives enough time for the congregation to recognize and process the next lyrics, while also not leaving the lyrics for too long, which can make it seem like the band is out of sync.
Consistency with your timing is also an important consideration. If you’re sometimes early, and sometimes late, the congregation will constantly be thinking about when the next slide will come, which can be distracting. If the slides change consistently, the congregation won’t notice the changes at all, and it will feel completely natural.
Learn the Songs
An important thing to remember as the person running the slideshow at church is that you’re neither leading nor following the band. You’re all on the same team, working together to make sure the music and the visuals integrate for a smooth and distraction free experience for those in attendance.
Part of being in step with the band is to learn the songs. I don’t just mean the melody or the words. Learn the length of instrumental sections, intros, outros, etc. If you don’t already know how, learn how to count beats and measures to a song. It’s important to be able to know and understand how long each section of the song is, and the easiest way to quantify that is in beats and measures.
For example, if there’s a long instrumental section before the bridge of a song, you likely don’t want to change to the first slide of the bridge lyrics and have them up on the screen for that entire time. It’s better to wait until just before the lyrics begin to switch to those lines.
On the other hand, you don’t want to wait for the worship leader to start singing before you change. The folks in the congregation need a moment to process that there are new lyrics on the screen and that they should start singing.
Knowing the full arrangement of the song takes the guess work out of changing lyrics!
Now, this plan goes out the window if your church is more likely to go “off script” or adjust the arrangement on the fly. That could be a whole blog post all by itself, but you can still prepare for these moments by intentionally learning the way that the band communicates with each other during the song. If your worship leader uses vocal cues to lead the band, pay attention to those and learn to go with that flow. If you have a music director who is using a talkback mic to talk to the band members during the song, it may be worth your time to have an in-ear monitor mix for yourself so you can hear those cues.
Having your tech team, especially those who are responsible for items that accompany the band, attend and participate in your rehearsals is invaluable. As any of us who have helped lead a worship ministry know, rehearsals often lead to creative changes or tweaks to songs. It’s important that the tech team is right there with the band, noting and practicing the new changes. It will eliminate many miscues on Sunday morning by getting everyone on the same page.
Have your team all together for practice, and you’ll start to see the number of miscues and miscommunications decrease.
Plan for space between sections
During many songs, there are instrumental sections between verses, choruses, and bridges, as well as intros and outros. Have a plan for what is on the screen during that time.
You could use blank slides, scripture that fits the themes in the songs, or other quotes or readings work really nicely to add context to the songs we’re singing. Visual elements such as videos or photos can be poignant as well.
Ultimately, your presentation should be created with intentionality and care, even when you plan to allow for on-the-fly adjustments. Preparation is not at odds with letting the Spirit lead your services. In fact, I would strongly argue that the more prepare you are with a plan for your service, the easier it is to hold the details loosely and let God move in your services as He will.
About the Author
Josh Tarp is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and worship leader from Minneapolis with over 15 years of experience in church & worship leadership. Josh serves as the Director of Marketing at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts, managing social media, designing graphics, and handling customer service.