Live media has changed a lot in the past 20 years for churches. Overhead transparencies have been replaced with presentation software. Keyboards have been replaced with MIDI controllers and laptops. And while computers have brought a new world of convenience into the worship environment, they are not perfect machines: apps crash, batteries die, and hard drives fail.
As it turns out, many of the convenient features about owning a personal computer become inconvenient when that computer is used in a live production environment. What if I told you that by eliminating some of these features you could prevent most of the blunders that cause distractions in your services?
Here are eight tweaks that I’d recommend making on your church’s projection computer immediately:
1. Disable Instant Messaging Apps (Including FaceTime)
We’ve all been there…the pastor is in the middle of a powerful message when suddenly, an innocent but obtrusive chime comes over the PA. Someone is receiving a message during service…and now the entire crowd knows it. Make sure to disable – nay, uninstall – all instant messaging apps, including FaceTime. The last thing you need is someone trying to video chat with you in the middle of worship.
2. Close Your Web Browser
Web browsers can cause computers to crawl sometimes. Many websites have popups that include audio – be it a minor chime or a full musical track. Most web-based e-mail services (i.e. Gmail) have a chat feature that, if left open, will play a sound as soon as you receive any chat-related alerts. With all of this being said, it’s best just to leave your browser closed during services.
3. Turn Off Wi-Fi
Yes, I said it. If a computer is being used for media in your environment, it should be disconnected from the internet during your services. In addition to solving the problems in tweaks 1 and 2, this will also prevent any alerts in the event that your computer loses wi-fi signal temporarily. (Tip: To continue using apps such as the ProPresenter remote without internet, try using the “Create Network” feature on your Mac.)
4. Disable Mouse Shortcuts (Including Hot Corners)
When using computers on a daily basis, a mouse shortcut to reveal your desktop is great. In a worship environment, it’s a nightmare. No one should be seeing your “Hang In There Kitty” desktop in the middle of worship. I’ve also found that when training a volunteer that is not as familiar with computers, their first response to accidentally activating the desktop shortcut is to raise their hands away from the computer in panic. Your life will be easier if you just disable all mouse buttons/shortcuts except left and right click.
5. Disable Screen Saver & Display Sleep
This may seem like an obvious one, but when setting up a new computer, it can be easy to forget. Make sure to disable your screen saver, as well as display sleep, to prevent them from coming on mid-service. I’ve seen this happen too many times right in the middle of a Pastor’s message.
6. Disable Bluetooth
Again, this is a feature designed for convenience: If any bluetooth accessories that come into signal range of your computer, they’ll automatically connect. Unfortunately, since many people are carrying around bluetooth-enabled devices, this can cause some issues. To prevent accidentally connecting to a phone or wireless mouse that someone in the crowd has, just disable bluetooth.
7. Set Your Wallpaper To Solid Black
As convenient as presentation software is, it’s not bulletproof. Every once in a while, it crashes. Having a black background on your screens will ensure that, in the event of a crash, it will be less of a distraction (maybe even unnoticeable). Having the default desktop background appear on screen is a sign to everyone that something is wrong in the booth.
Update: Thanks to Jon Sheperd for the suggestion: As an alternative to a black background, you could use your church’s default slide or your current sermon series graphic as a background in case of a software crash.
8. Use A Wired Keyboard and Mouse
Nothing is worse than having your mouse batteries die in the middle of a fast worship song. By using wired mice and keyboards on all your production computers, you’ll never have to think about batteries again.
A good friend once told me that production is more about covering mistakes that happen than running everything perfectly. While there’s no such thing as a perfect Sunday, using these tips will hopefully help you to prevent some of the failures that can be a distraction in your services.
Do you have any other tips that you’d add to the list?