PowerPoint Goes to Church

by Denn Guptill

Throughout the history of the Christian Church there have been technological milestones which have had a dramatic impact on how we worship together as believers.

I'm not sure that even Guttenberg understood the significance his press with movable type would have on the lives of the faithful. Technology allowed for the mass production of the printed page and eventually resulted in individual believers having their own Bibles which they were able carry to church, allowing them to enter more fully into the worship experience.

The automobile not only changed the way we travel, it also had a dramatic impact on the way we worship. Our church home wouldn’t have to be dictated by its distance from our home, or whether or not it was close enough to walk to. People could now choose their church based on their personal preferences for preaching and worship style. If you didn't like the church next door you could drive another ten minutes and find a congregation you were comfortable with. The advent of personal transportation was the beginning of the consumer mentality within the church.

In the late seventies the churches on the cutting edge of technology discovered the overhead projector. No longer would Sunday worship be limited to the printed page. New songs were introduced, sung and retired at a pace undreamed of only ten years before.

Instead of having to print song sheets to introduce new music and trying to maintain "chorus" books typed, copied and stapled together by the church secretary, individual overheads could be prepared quickly and relatively inexpensively.

Individual churches had individual tastes and even churches within the same tradition weren't necessarily singing from the same page. Within ten years the overhead projector became a "must have" tool in evangelical churches.

During the late 80s and into the 90s some of the larger more progressive churches experimented with slide projectors, but soon discovered that slides were expensive to produce and awkward to maintain. Logistically it was still easier and cheaper to introduce new songs using the faithful overhead.

If we were to ask, "What technological advance in the last decade is going to have the greatest impact on the North American Sunday morning worship experience?" the responses would certainly include the almost universal use of personal computers as well as the Internet. And while those technologies have definitely changed how we do church work and prepare sermons, the technology that has done the most in changing the look of worship has to be the new affordable digital or video projectors.

Industry has known the potential of presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Lotus Presentation for years; however, it has only been recently that the equipment needed has been priced so the average church can justify the expense. Video projectors that could only be afforded by the largest churches have drastically declined in price during the last couple of years and are now within the reach of many midsize churches and even some smaller churches. Within ten years video projectors will be as commonplace in churches as overhead projectors are today.

Unfortunately, too many churches are using their presentation software and video as nothing more then glorified overheads... words for songs are projected on the screen during the song service and then the projector is shut off.

There is a story told about a lumberjack who had resisted technology for years but finally broke down and bought a chainsaw. After a week with his new purchase he was disappointed in how little it had improved his productivity. Returning the saw to the dealer he told them, “This wasn't worth the money I paid for it. It doesn't cut anymore trees then my old hand saw and it weighs a ton." The dealer said, "Well that shouldn't be so, let's see what the problem is”. Reaching down and pulling the starter cord the saw roared to life and the lumberjack jumped back and exclaimed, "What's that noise?"

Sure, video projectors can be used to project the words of songs on to a screen. But they can also do so much more. They can be used to teach Scripture, play music and show videos. The proper use of a video projector has the potential to enhance the worship experience and teach our people more about the scriptures.

With many professionals in our congregations using PowerPoint or watching PowerPoint presentations at work, "good enough" just isn't good enough. For better or worse, those in the pew now expect to see the same quality on Sunday that they see Monday through Friday. Just because it’s for church shouldn’t be an excuse for doing a second rate job. Instead, our commitment needs to be doing it first rate.

Our aim is to help you take your church presentations to the next level and to help put some power in PowerPoint. People often ask, "How long does it take to put together a presentation for church?" My answer is, "How long do you have?" Presentation software can be an incredible time thief, and it's not uncommon to hear people complain of the hours spent putting together a computer presentation for their Sunday morning service. It doesn't have to be that way. This website will provide you with techniques, tips and resources which will allow you to put together a quality presentation in a reasonable amount of time.

In each article we will look at individual elements of a worship presentation, providing you with step by step instructions, short cuts and examples.

There are a number of presentation packages on the market today including several church-specific products. We have aimed this website specifically at PowerPoint users for a couple of reasons. First, the Microsoft product is the market leader and many churches already have PowerPoint bundled in an office software package. Secondly, when it comes down to dollars and cents, PowerPoint gives you more bang for your buck, especially when churches take advantage of the charitable pricing option available through Microsoft.

Copyright Denn Guptill / PowerPoint4Preaching.com