Why Do We Need Architectural Projection?


While some would say that ‘architectural projection’ is simply one more case of the church being five years behind culture, the fact remains that this element is still relatively new to the church at large. The projection of secondary film and effects onto walls has been around for many years in both concert culture and the club scene, but for worship, it’s still pretty fresh.

Architectural projection (from here on out, referred to as ‘AP’) within the church typically means having additional projectors that feed footage onto other areas of the worship space. These projections run separately from the lyrical or image-magnification projection that we’re used to seeing in a lot of churches.

Let’s start by answering the question: why do we need architectural projection?

We don’t.

AP isn’t vital to God-honoring, Biblically sound worship. But neither are drums. Or khakis. Or a lot of things.

But if your church is currently using (or wants to use) AP, there are some things to think about that could possibly be a valuable addition to your church.

  1. Know The Need. I like things that look or sound cool and creative, but if you’re gonna’ shell out some cash for an AP setup, let me suggest that the one thing your people DON’T need is distraction. Can we all just be honest for a minute and admit that most of the time, our people are distracted enough all on their own without a light show in the mix? If you’re going to ask more involvement from all of those eyes out in the crowd, why not put something in front of them that we all need. Scripture.

    It amazes me how little I see scripture used in AP. I see lots of cool light washes and occasionally some words drifting around (“Grace….” “Hope….” “Sing….”) but no scripture. I’m not trying to be a Bible nerd here (okay, that’s not true…) but your people need scripture. They need it every day. They need it multiple times during a day. If you going to do something captivating and memorable, why not let them see something inerrant and reliable. (Unless you don’t believe scripture is inerrant. Then you might be at the wrong blog.)

    Invest some time during your set preparation to find some applicable scripture to use in your AP setup. I bet that folks will respond much more strongly (and with better memory) to God’ Word than they do to random lines of lyric.

  2. What’s Good For The Guitarist. Why do churches with AP run it constantly? After about 2 Sundays, doesn’t it start to lose something? Worship leaders, do you let your guitarist play open chords with his bad-to-the-bone overdrive pedal on every song, every week?

    Why not? Because you understand the role of dynamics – of creating something fresh and interesting each week. Isn’t it odd that folks trying to add something ‘creative’ end up running it full-bore constantly? That’s not creative…that’s a gimmick. And it doesn’t work.

    Find some cool ways to get AP to disappear for awhile. Use it like you would any worship element – making the decision to include it when it benefits the congregation by directing them to God.

  3. Grow In Creativity. With something as fluid and editable as most AP setups, make sure that you and your team are growing creatively. Sadly, many church buy the AP “kit” and never invest any time or money into adapting that system to become as helpful as it can. If you’ve got an AP setup and you’re still running the same loops and effects that came with your setup, try some new stuff.

    This is especially important if you have other people running the system. Before diving headlong into AP, make sure you’ve got folks behind the computer who will take ownership of it and run with it.

If your church uses this sort of additional projection setup, I’d love to know what you think. What’s worked? What hasn’t? What are some challenges and ways to combat them?

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8 comments

  1. Chad Ethridge

    I did not know the technical term for "architectural projection", but attend a church that uses it constantly. I like the idea of invoking images during worship to add to the experience, but maybe sometimes we need to subtract from the experience as well. There once was an antidote that "the book is better than the movie." Why is the book better than the movie? The book is better because it doesn't dictate the scene for you and it provides the opportunity to exercise your imagination. Something that is desperately needed in the church! Personally, the most intimate worship experiences have not been times where my eyes are wide open in awe of the savvy technological images being projected before me, but rather times where my eyes are closed blocking out all of the visuals and focusing on the one who drew me there in the first place. Nevertheless, architectural projection does have its merits. One time my church used the words on the screen to really play into the images being projected. The words danced around the walls and bled in and out of the images like a well crafted MTV video. It was done exceptionally well and I was moved by the experience. This ranked right up there with another moving worship experience on the other end of the spectrum. One Sunday the power went out and the musicians where forced to rely solely upon their acoustic guitars and vocals. The chorus swelled from the audience just as much as it did from the stage and there was something very intimate about the experience. It was as if God was saying you don’t need all of this to worship me.

  2. Johnny!

    My suggestion for those using such things is to understand what's behind it: the need to have sacred space communicate something about the faith of the congregation.It used to be that that content was built into the Churches as a lasting testimony to a permanent faith.With the advent of content-less auditoriums, people have started to feel that empty space and are needing to fill it.So I suggest filling it carefully in full knowledge that what you project communicates explicitly the content of your faith. What is really important to a Church can be observed from what they do and what they surround themselves with.

  3. Camron Ware

    As a leader in helping churches dive into visual worship and Environmental Projection, we agree! There has to be balance. That's why I started Visual Worshiper – to help churches understand what visual worship is and why it's important. One of the key principles is "less is more", and when the right person and team is in place (as visual worship leaders), it can be a powerfully engaging time of corporate worship.However, when the projection is used ALL the time, it can be distracting. It's like having too much ketchup on a hamburger, along with one of a number of analogies where you have too much of one thing. It is a harmonious use of lighting, projection, environment, music, scripture, liturgy…etc etc.I think it CAN have HUGE impact as well! My most powerful time in worship is when I run the white Names of God on black background across the entire room, with that being the only visual element on at the time. These same conversations are had over pretty much every piece of technology in the Church! But again: balance. What is the focus? What needs to speak at a certain moment in worship? That's what we help churches see in their own service.So, again, as someone who designs, implements and teaches on Environmental Projection; well done.

  4. Anonymous

    Love this topic since I've had this exact discussion on multiple occasions. Also love that Cameron has commented on it since I got to watch him personally run AP in our church and the care with which he "led" our congregation. Cameron installed our AP system and I personally really like the subtle blending of colors between our stage lighting and AP system as well as the architectural projections. Really like the recommendation of using more scripture. Thanks for all the great discussion points from each of you.chris

  5. Liz

    Having left a church who was strong on one flashy, expensive gimmick after another, can I just say THANK YOU for not being gung-ho about this?

  6. Camron Ware

    @chris: Thanks!@Liz: It does depend a lot on how it's used, as is true with any production element. The main heart behind Environmental Projection is that you actually aren't supposed to watch it! It sounds contradictory, but it's meant to be part of the environment instead of another screen. Hope that helps!I think I took that picture now that I look at it. 🙂 Matt Papa!

  7. Liz

    Camron: You're right, but there is a balance between using a couple of pricey "tricks" to amp up worship and using 1500 pricey 'tricks' as gimmicks in the Church. My husband & I were part of a church where their M.O. was always about "the next big thing". Wasteful spending times 1 million, over & over….

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