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The Future of Visuals

I hope some of you noticed last week that I had severely cut back on the visuals in the PowerPoint that goes with the sermon. (Actually, its MediaShout – powerpoint is kind of a generic name I use for what we project on the screen, though we don’t actually use the Powerpoint program on Sunday morning anymore.)

I had several reasons for the severe cut back last week, some personal, some having to do with comments made by various folks about the recent visuals. Among the most important of these reasons was that the visuals seem too complex when combined with lively preaching, and that they were taking me way too much time.

Partially in reaction, partially in response, I cut way back last week and made a discovery that is blatantly obvious but still has to be tried to be appreciated: when you do less, it takes less time!  I have been looking for ways to increase my ‘margin’ in ministry – to tune my own ministry, if you will.  But until last week I had been unwilling to try cutting back on the visuals because I’d convinced myself that more was better in that arena.  Clearly that’s not so.

So, it’s time to try a new experiment, and I welcome your comments over the next six or eight weeks. On most Sundays I am going to try to combine relatively simple visuals with lively preaching. I’ll always put the text on the screen.  I’ll frequently put some cross references and maps. And I’ll occasionally put a very pertinent picture up.  But I’ll almost never, in a normal week, use fast moving montages or other forms of motion.  On the other hand I will be able to use some verbal imagery and approaches that I have been limiting because everything needed a visual.  So I hope that will be a gain.

Then, maybe one Sunday out of four, I’m going to go the opposite direction and prepare a message with what I’m calling ‘enhanced’ visuals.  This will be similar to what I have been doing, but tweaked even more fully toward visual communication. I’ll try to have a cohesive visual theme for the sermon and to say again what God has said in Scripture in the best visual ways I can manage. Significantly I’m going to try being ‘aware’ of the video, standing a bit to the side and at times even narrating what you’re seeing rather than trying to have the verbal part of the message stand alone.  I hope this latter approach will keep the visuals from being ‘too complex’ because you won’t be expected to process them independently of my words, but through my words.

Anyway, that’s the plan. This Sunday (April 20th) will be a ‘restricted visuals’ Sunday, as will the 27th.  On those weeks especially, I’m hoping this provides the ‘margin’ I’ve been needing to do my part in tuning ministry at Trinity. The following Sunday, May 4th, will be the first ‘enhanced visuals’ Sunday.  I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare for that, that God would guide me to effective techniques of visual presentation, keeping the best and most cohesive of the things I’ve done.