Projection Software for Liturgical Worship?

I’ll admit it. I’m a techno-geek. Just ask my boys and they’ll confirm it. Right now I’m frequently found carrying two cell phones, a Nexus 7, and a computer. I’m always checking out what’s possible and thinking about how I might use various tools for ministry.

When it came time for us to review software for projection in worship, I considered every application I could find. I test drove them for a period before making a decision. I was looking for a system that would be user-friendly for volunteers, quick and efficient for staff members preparing for worship, and easily maintained for all involved.

I quickly learned in my search that worship presentation software is not geared for liturgical communities such as ours. They are designed for evangelical, house-band, big-stage worship centers. As a pastor of a traditional Lutheran church, my needs were quite different. After checking out all that I could find, I settled on MediaShout.

I like MediaShout for many reasons. First, it provides an intuitive package for volunteers working with it on Sunday morning. When they open it up, the day’s “script” is presented front and center. Once they get it started, volunteer worship techs simply press the space bar to move things forward, F9 to move back a slide, or point the mouse to a particular slide and select the blue arrow to play it. It is easy for them.

MediaShout provides an excellent database system. Though it came preloaded with many songs, we deleted them all, because we are a liturgical community that used very few of the provided music. Those we sing and found in the stock database varied too often from that which is in our denominational hymnal. After deleting the provided hymns, we began populating it with songs we use regularly.  We did it week by week, adding songs as we needed them.

It wasn’t long before we began realizing the benefit of a well-organized database. Once the song is properly entered, we simply drag that song into the script, placing it where we want it. Then, it’s ready to go. We have been using MediaShout for three years. It isn’t too often that we have to enter a song, but when we do, it’s relatively easy to do.

Songs can be interspersed with other types of slides (they call slides “cues”) as well. We insert text cues between songs. It’s easy and quick to do. When I decide to create a PowerPoint presentation for a sermon, MediaShout lets me pull it in quite quickly. In some services we have a combination of songs, text, PowerPoint, YouTube, and other video playback. Mediashout allows you to put everything together so that your volunteer has it all ready to use. They push the space bar to fire the next cue in the script.  Volunteers do not have to switch between other programs to play a video, or show a powerpoint presentation. What we prepare typically goes without a hitch.

There are times, however, that we have hiccups. Not every morning goes smoothly. We have had times when MediaShout has not responded as it ought. This usually means that it freezes on us. A few weeks ago I had to step out of the pulpit and help my volunteer reboot the computer and get it going again. Unfortunately, that was a day when my sermon was closely tied to images I planned to project. 

We have found it best to check that all updates to Windows, MediaShout, and other software are installed before Sunday morning begins. In the hour prior to the first worship service, we try to remember to reboot the computer, to make sure that nothing might be lurking in the dark recesses of its RAM. We hadn’t done that when it last froze up on me. Typically, a reboot before worship keeps things running smoothly.  

There are a few things that I’d like to see MediaShout do differently. I’d like it to more easily pull in music from .txt forms. They have the option to do so, but, it’s not as foolproof as the literature says it will be. I also wish they’d think about making some of the keystroke shortcuts common to Windows programs function within their program.

Having said that, I’ve not updated to the latest version, version 5, which they just released. Generally, I like to wait a bit until doing so. I want others to help work out the bugs of a new version before I jump in.  I expect that the new version builds on the success of the version we’re using. It’s a great program that has helped the congregation worship well.

What do you use for worship projection? What would you like to know about our experience? Leave a comment, ask a question. If you’re using the newest version of MediaShout, tell me how it’s going. I’ll tell you what I know and consider what you have to say.

The photo above is from MilwaukeeSynod. It is used by permission according to its Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) licensure. 

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