Using Screens in Worship: One church's criteria

Five years ago, our church decided to use a projection machine and screen in worship. We discovered that the appearance of projection-screen technology was forcing us to provide some answers to questions we had not even begun to ask. For example,

  • How does the placement of a screen in the center of the sanctuary change the focal point of worship space?
  • What if the screen in the “down” position temporarily covers the cross that hangs in the center of our worship space? Is that problematic?
  • How do we continue to be a congregation that sings in four-part harmony?

The advent of this technology produced a need to begin talking about our values. Where do we put the screen? How should it function in worship? What does having a screen in worship mean? These are not always the first questions asked by those who envision the endless possibilities for projector-screen technology in worship. In fact, we have discovered along the way that projector-screen technology’s values can at times pull against some of our core values of worship. Keeping technology’s possibilities and worship’s core values equally yoked is a matter for ongoing discussion.

The documents that follow are products of Third Church’s worship committee. These documents have been a helpful starting point for guidelines for projector-screen technology. We hope they are helpful for others too.


Specific Criteria for Screen Use in Worship


Images should be soft and sensitive to the “space” as holy ground. Art should be coordinated with the worship décor committee and sensitive to the other areas in the worship space and liturgical season. Where possible, we would like to see the AV committee use commissioned rather than “stock” iconographic images. [Values 5, 6, 11]


Slide transitions should be “soft,” even “unnoticeable.” Transitions should be complete prior to a worship leader’s speaking. If the screen will be used, it should remain in the “down” position so its movement does not distract. There should be no graphic motion on the screen when the congregation’s attention should be devoted to other areas in the sanctuary. When in doubt about these matters, the AV committee should consult the pastor prior to the service. [Values 4, 6]


Text and images should be in sharp contrast with the background. To blend with surrounding décor, consideration should be made for darker backgrounds. Color palate selected should be sensitive to the art (see 1) and be aesthetically pleasing. Where possible, art and color should be coordinated by the commissioned artist and be captured as a “theme.” [Values 4, 6]

Video and Re-projection

Video clips should be thematically consistent with the worship service and should avoid excessive rapid image transitions. In skits and productions, the video effect should not detract from the production participants. Use at these times is encouraged, especially if it adds value when other props are impossible or impractical. At this time, re-projection of the camera image is not advised for any service. [Values 5, 11]


The use of Bibles and songbooks should be maintained. The primary text of Scripture for the sermon should come from a book rather than be projected on the screen. The use of the screen for accompanying passages as well as other translations is encouraged. [Values 5, 8]


Praise songs where a joyous “wall of sound” from the congregation is desired to give glory to God should be projected to the congregation. Songs that convey supplication, submission, and other contemplation should not be accompanied by projection. Alternate colors or bolded text should indicate when the congregation should sing, particularly when song leaders or choirs lead alternate verses. Where the music coordinator desires to promote the singing of parts, the use of the Psalter Hymnal should be indicated. The worship coordinator or pastor will indicate when a song should not be projected because of a desire to use musical notation. The congregation’s familiarity with a song or response should be taken into account when determining the necessity of using the screen. [Values 7, 8]

Pre- and Post-Service

We encourage consideration of image or art “slide show” or video sequences that set focus on the theme of the service or liturgical season and help the congregation focus on the worship. Music but not “speech” tracks are appropriate with slides and video. [Values 4, 6].




1.  We value a blended style of worship. We value songs, liturgy, and worship that mixes old and new, and is the kind of worship within which all may find a “place.”
The screen will enhance the Praise and Worship component of our services. It will also reach a younger generation with a user-receptive medium.

2.  We value teaching sermons and messages that hearers can follow.
The screen could function as a place for sermon outlines, bulletin points, and visuals; and could aid pastors and listeners in the covenant of learning.

3.  We value the nurturing and building of a community in which all members can see, hear, and participate in worship.
The screen should be readable and visually accessible for all members, regardless of where they are seated in the sanctuary.

4.  We value silent, prayerful, meditative, and reflective time prior to worship for preparation to meet God.
The screen should function as an accompaniment to worship. It should not be used prior to the beginning of worship for bulletin “advertisements” or announcements.

5.  We value the existing symbols in our worship space, including the furnishings and their placement for the sacraments and the proclamation of the Word. We also value the cross and the trefoil rings. These symbols aid our worship of God and communicate stability and permanence.
The screen should not be a focal point of the sanctuary. The screen and its images should be regarded as “less than” those things that are permanent and centrally located in worship space.

6.  We value a worship space that is aesthetically pleasing and is consistent with liturgical colors.
The screen and projector should be discreet and should not be distracting in their placement or function. Their colors and tones should not diminish liturgical colors in our worship space.

7.  We value a music-reading congregation that sings its hymns and songs in four-part harmony.
We should have the capacity to reproduce printed musical notation on our screen.

8.  We value the function of books and we value the use of books in worship. We especially value teaching children to find Bible passages with the context of a book.
The screen should not replace the use of books in worship nor take away the function of “turning together” to books for the public hearing of Scripture.

9.  We value simplicity and stewardly use of resources.
The screen should be uncomplicated and cost-efficient enough so that its use is not expected for every service. We recommend using the existing screen and space if it is wise to do so.

10. We value the time and creative energies of our staff.
We recommend a “PowerPoint” or “screen” team to create and maintain what is on the screen. Like the sound system, staff should not be responsible for the screen’s use, its success, or its failure.

11. We value the “hearing” of the Word through the use of relevant examples and images, recognizing the profound impact of images on our imagination.
The use of images on the screen should be managed with great care. Pictures and icons can have a profound affect on viewers’ spiritual imagination both for good and bad. We urge pastors and screen caretakers to choose images with great sensitivity and care.

12. We value following all copyright laws.
The long-range planning committee should explore what licenses or permission process needs to be complete prior to visually reproducing a song or text. Visitors and members should be assured that we are licensed to display what appears on the screen.


Data Summary
Thinking Beyond the Data
How many churches use projector technology? Nearly 60% of churches use some form of projector technology at least yearly, with 46% using computer-based projectors weekly. These numbers reflect a national growth trend, from below 25% in 1998 to somewhere over 50% in 2003. The use of projectors in worship is a growing trend nationally. Has your church struggled with the idea? What hopes lead you to use them, and what fears hold you back? Have your hopes been realized and your fears addressed?

What kinds of churches use projectors?

Marc Nelesen is pastor of Third Christian Reformed Church, Zeeland, Michigan. You may reach him at


Reformed Worship 72 © June 2004, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.