How to Display Your Lyrics on Sunday

I have led worship for 13 years.  Over those years I have seen a lot of ways to do format lyric slides.

One issue that I consistently see is the how the lyrics are displayed.  The issues range from how the phrasing is presented, to colors, to fonts, to backgrounds to simple editing and to copyright posting.

When churches are formatting lyric slides, consistency is key.  At our church, we have one font, one background, and one way to phrase our lyrics.  From song to song, it will look the same and will not cause any distraction.  Your church does not need to be as rigid in its presentation as we are.  Creativity can be a good thing as long as it serves the lyrics, not the other way around.

Let’s look at some examples and see some common problems and the solution to them.  We are going to use Matt Maher’s “Christ is Risen” as our sample.

First, phrasing.  In some churches, the person who creates the slides may not know the song well, or might not have a musical intuition in regards to phrasing.  Consequently, the slides look like this:slide1.001This seems like an exaggeration, but it isn’t.  Whether you are familiar with the song or not, this is a big deal.  Subconsciously your brain will think there is a phrase break in each line.  However, there is not.  Think about this: if you were to speak these lines grammatically, they would read like this: “Let no one caught in.  Sin remain inside the lie of.  Inward shame.” It doesn’t make sense.

Listen to the songs carefully.  Look at the lead sheets.  Where are there natural breaks?  That’s where you should be basing your lines off of.  Generally, four lines is what you want to shoot for per slide.  Sometimes there are five, sometimes three.  Use your best judgment.  Also, most lyric websites mark the phrasing correctly.  Follow their lead.  Done correctly, the slide should look like this:slide1.002
Second, colors and backgrounds.  The variety of how churches work with colors and backgrounds is vast.  Some use plain backgrounds, some us picture background.  Either is fine as long as it isn’t distracting or plain ugly.  At our church, I moved us to a plain black background and white words for all slides because there is no way that white on black will distract.  Here is one example:

image2.001.jpegNotice two things: the phrasing is horrible.  Obviously, the person setting the slide wanted to make the font large enough to see, but didn’t bother to phrase it naturally.  Second, the background color isn’t pleasing.  After staring at it for the length of an average song (or a whole music set), your eyes can get uncomfortable.  I put this slide this way because usually when there is an ugly background, phrasing is generally off, too.  Color is okay, but nothing too bright.  Also, make sure there is a good contrast between the color of the words and the background.  For example:

images2.001.jpegA good rule of thumb is either a plain white background with black words, or plain black background with white words.  The older people in your congregation will thank you.

What about image backgrounds?  I moved away from image backgrounds because lyric blocks are hard to format over the images.  Either the color is off or you have compromise the phrasing.  Again, remember that the backgrounds are meant to serve the lyrics, not the other way around.  Here is an example:


Notice how the first two lines are readable, but the lower two aren’t?  This is typical and churches do this because they want the beauty of the picture to go with the song.  Forget that thought.  Let the lyrics stand by themselves.

Third, fonts.  Not everyone is going to agree with me on this, but I believe that every song in your repertoire should have uniform font.  Everything should look like it goes together.  One might think that it looks creative to associate certain fonts with the feeling of a song, but it looks cheesy, not creative.

As far as the type of font, I would recommend always going with a sans-serif.  Sans-serif is always the safest for people with visual issues, especially older people.  When there are funky fonts with weird serifs, it can distract.  At our church, we use Helvetica Neue Light.  A simple Ariel works well, too.

Fourth, editing.  Make sure you ALWAYS review your slides before you present them on Sunday, or have someone else review them.  Let me give you an example.  This happened to me on a chord sheet (thankfully not on screen, but it can happen just as easily).  It comes from Tommy Walker’s “That’s Why We Praise Him.”


Do you see the problem?  Yea, that would have been a BIG problem if it was displayed on Sunday.  Simple reviewing saves us from major embarrassment.

Finally, show the copyright information!  If you own a CCLI license (and you should!!), you are required to display the copyright information of every song that you lead.  It must include the following (and in the following order):

  • Name of the Song
  • Name of the Authors (words & music)
  • Copyright year & copyright owner
  • YOUR CCLI license number, not the song’s CCLI license number

For example:

“10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)”
Words and Music by Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman
(c) 2011 Thankyou Music
CCLI License # (your CCLI License #)

I have seen this in so many churches that it is not even surprising anymore.  But if you have that license (again, you should!!), you MUST put that information on.  It can be on any slide in the song, but to reduce distraction (and to help your singers) put it in the bottom corner of the last slide.

Leading worship is a tough job.  Not only is planning, practicing and leading difficult, there will always be complainers.  One way to help yourself and reduce the possibility of more complaints, streamline all of your songs to uniformity.  It will make the slide production easier, the display more beautiful, and it will maximize focus on the words.


2 thoughts on “How to Display Your Lyrics on Sunday

  1. Excellent advice. With some image backgrounds, you can use the image as a frame, use a white square in the center and increase the transparency so that some of the background is shown, yet the white area should be large enough to accommodate the lyrics for the song. Also, programs allow users to edit the slide master design so they can create custom slides that are automatically replicated when a new slide is added. They can feature the church’s logo, a particular theme, or anything really. The best way to make the most out of programs like powerpoint is to spend the afternoon familiarizing yourself with the program, making up fake presentations, trying out different features.


    1. Hey Jamie, thanks for your note. Great thoughts!

      I am not opposed to images in the background, I’ve just rarely seen it done well. I like the idea of the white square and the transparency.

      I appreciate what you said about templates. I currently use ProPresenter at our church and love the fact that I can customize it enough to streamline the process. I also tend to brand us a little by putting our prop of our logo in the bottom corner as well.



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