As I took my seat, I flicked to the front, intrigued to see when it was published – 1983! It made me wonder if this was their only source of songs, and how sad that would be given all the wonderful songs written since that have impacted and inspired churches across the world.
And it struck me that even now the adoption of technology, and specifically computer projection, can still feel like a significant challenge for many churches.
CCLI was born in 1988 in direct response to the way technology was changing how congregations sing. Overhead projectors were replacing hymnbooks, and as they disappeared, so did the proportion of the cover price paid in royalties to the featured songwriters. A new system for honouring those writers was required and the Church Copyright Licence was born. Now, computers have largely replaced the acetate, and more often than not, rely on that ubiquitous and universally familiar presentation tool – PowerPoint!
But is there a better way? There are now a plethora of presentation tools purpose-built for churches. Surely, with so many great alternatives made specifically to meet our needs, we would be deserting PowerPoint in our droves. So what’s holding so many churches back? Why should you consider making the change, and what will you gain?
Without further ado, here are the five top reasons I believe a dedicated church presentation platform will benefit your church…
Let’s face it, we’re all too busy! If you’ve ever found yourself up late, searching the internet for bible passages or song lyrics, (which may or may not be accurate) then pasting and formatting them, slide by slide, into your service slides, then this one's for you. PowerPoint was never designed for church services, which means it can take a lot of time and effort to source the content you need and prepare your slides.
Dedicated church presentation tools do the hard work for you. Good ones come preloaded with bibles, backgrounds, and motion graphics, and include formatting tools, to make setting up your songs easy.
If you think church specific software will be expensive, you may be surprised. Presenter by WorshipTools is an example of a presentation application made for churches that can be used completely free of charge. Its creator, Adam Meyer, designed it for his own church when he began serving on the media team and found existing options to be both limiting and expensive. Presenter is now one of the leading church presentation solutions. It offers different plans, some with more advanced features that you pay for. Yet Adam says more than 80% of users find that the free version is more than sufficient for their needs.
From CCLI’s own customer surveys we know that fear is one of the main reasons for a reluctance to try new technology. However, many church presentation applications are deliberately simple and intuitive to use, having been designed by people who understand the challenges of learning something new. Plus, most will provide a range of support options such as articles and help-videos. And because they’re small, organisations like WorshipTools offer email support by staff who actually use the applications in their own churches.
The reality is rarely as scary as the perception, and because the software is designed specifically for worship services, you won’t be faced with a range of features you’ll never need.
Another key benefit of using many popular church presentation solutions is the fact that they can often be connected to other applications used by your team. Most church presentation software integrates with SongSelect, CCLI’s database of lyrics and sheet music, meaning any church with a Church Copyright Licence has free access to CCLI’s database of authorised song words. These can be pulled instantly into your presentations ready-formatted, or adjusted with just a few clicks.
But it’s not just before the service that this integration is so helpful. If you’ve ever shouldered the responsibility for CCLI reporting, you’ll know how time-consuming it can be. A growing number of worship applications including Presenter by WorshipTools, ProPresenter, and Easy Worship, can now report songs back to CCLI automatically, provided they contain the CCLI song number. Use SongSelect to pull in your lyrics and the song number will always be included, meaning the task of CCLI reporting is fully taken care of.
WorshipTools offers two further free applications to make life easier for churches. A free service planning and scheduling tool, appropriately called Planning, is designed to help with service flow and scheduling volunteers, while a free sheet music App, Music Stand is designed to keep musicians on the same (digital) page. Both applications integrate with Presenter, so set lists and service plans sync from one to the other, and for everyone who’s signed in.
If simple and feature-packed sounds like an oxymoron, you may be surprised. The beauty of dedicated software is that the features you get are the ones that are actually useful for running church services. Whereas PowerPoint is weighed down with all kinds of features that you’ll never need, church presentation applications can be powerful without being complex.
As well as lyric integration, many come pre-loaded with popular bible translations. Some, like Presenter, provide motion graphics, backgrounds and templates, while videos can be imported or streamed live from within your slides. And, if you’ve ever been there, mid-service, needing to jump to a slide somewhere else in your presentation, and having to scroll back or forth as you can only see what everyone else sees, a stage display output can be a real life-saver!
At the core of all WorshipTools applications is cloud syncing. According to Adam Meyer, This means “anywhere access to your lyrics, videos, images, and cue lists from any computer or device. Gone are the days of staying late to finish a presentation, or needing to transfer presentations and media from home to church.”
WorshipTools is part of the CCLI Family. To try their free applications visit worshiptools.com. For more about SongSelect visit songselect.ccli.com. To learn more about CCLI Auto-reporting visit ccli.com/auto-reporting.