Some Pros and Cons: Shedding light on overhead projection

Our thanks to the thirty-nine members of the Calvin Theological Seminary community (students, spouses, staff, faculty) who responded to an open invitation to participate in this pro/con feature. Respondents were from the U.S., Canada, Korea, and Romania.


Using overhead projection of songs in worship is helpful for the following reasons:

  • “It simplifies worship by eliminating the need to announce numbers and have people look them up in hymnbooks.”
  • “When it is done well, all the print being bold enough, all the overheads ready to go before the service, the words double-checked for accuracy, and a conscientious person running the projector, then and only then can it be a useful tool.”
  • “It saves on the expense of hymnals or paper handouts, which is ecologically sound and financially helpful.”
  • “It frees the worshiper to engage in the full range of biblical bodily expressions in worship (which includes, at the very least, kneeling and lifting up of hands).”
  • “Congregants lift their heads and project their voices forward, not downward.”
  • “We can raise our hands in praise, we can clap, we can fold our hands in prayer, and we can sway to the music. I give more of myself to the worship of God through song when I don’t have to hold a book and read from it.”
  • “I am disabled and cannot hold a book without difficulty.”
  • “I am more aware of people around me lifting up their praise—it’s more corporate than individual.”
  • “It is less intimidating for seekers; my friend was not raised in a Christian home and had never sung out loud before he started attending church. He was scared of the notes in the hymnbooks; it was a distancing factor for him.”
  • “You don’t have to share a hymnal with someone, which can be embarrassing if you enjoy singing but cannot carry a tune.”
  • “Only by means of projection can a congregation make use of and keep up with the plethora of excellent worship songs that exist today. One or even two or three hymnbooks could not contain them.”


Using overhead projection of songs in worship is problematic for the following reasons:

  • It’s embarrassing to worship in a church where overheads are changed sloppily. It makes Christian worship look like a joke.”
  • “No one likes reading crooked stuff or straining to read dim words.”
  • “When just the words are printed, it is difficult to learn the tune of a new or unfamiliar song.”
  • “The joy of singing worshipful songs is replaced by frustration in trying to learn or recall the tune.”
  • “Many people have trouble seeing for various reasons (children, older people, those in wheelchairs, those with poor eyesight).”
  • “Songs are often imported into a congregation’s repertoire without adequate theological reflection on the messages of the songs.”
  • “If not well used, they can be distracting and disrupting. Timing is everything. Overhead workers should be well trained on how to perform this ministry well.”
  • “There is no chance for the worshiper to have the words of the song and meditate longer on them.”
  • “Many church seating plans weren’t structured with this in mind, and finding a large area to place the screen so that everyone can see becomes difficult.”
  • “Small children, the elderly, and those in wheelchairs have a hard time seeing when all people around them are standing up.”
  • “It requires proper wall space for projection, which is not always available, and it is difficult to read in well-lit rooms.”
  • “I find it difficult to sing a song I’ve never heard simply by looking at the words. I need to see the music too.”
  • “Learning a song by hearing it and seeing only the words necessitates a simplicity of form. Sometimes this leads to a limited range and a great deal of repetition. Simplicity can be positive, but if only projected songs are used, the simplicity can become boring, stultifying, or stunting.”
  • “Overheads are problematic when the song is new to me and I have no notes to follow.”
  • “The congregation loses its ability to sing in harmony, and people will not be taught to read music.”
  • “Sometimes leaders use songs without permission (and break the eighth commandment while pledging their holiness to God!).”


Jennifer Beimers
Peter Beimers
Joyce Borger
Carl J. Bosma
Daniel Bud
AnnaMae Meyer Bush
Lora A. Byker
John Cooper
Martin Dam
Andrew de Gelder
KerryAnn de Gelder
Henry De Moor
Ina De Moor
Dean Deppe
Anne Bachle Fifer
George Holthof
Tena Holthof
Jim Honeyford
Tony Koeman
Thelma Koens
Jessica Maddox
Jane Oudbier
Mark Quist
Greg Schuringa
Jennifer Settergren
Keith Tanis
Phil Vanden Berge
Ken Vander Horst
Marg Vander Horst

Reformed Worship 51 © March 1999, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.