What's the Point of IMAG?

There is value in using IMAG to, in essence, shrink a worship space. A major point of IMAG should be to help the congregation connect with the people who are leading them in worship.

The tech junkies of the world (yes that is you and me) have created a conundrum within the church worship space.

As we have built new or remodeled rooms for worship, we have for many years, included video displays comprised of LED wall, projection, or large TV flavors.

The giant screens with concert-worthy video projection are impressive and entertaining, but is it what is best for the church?

The problem we have created, though, is posed in the following question: "What do we put on the screen?"

When we don't have a fresh idea or some amazing graphics the default is to fall back to IMAG.

This problematic trend is seen even more as smaller churches try to pattern themselves after the "successful" megachurches. The giant screens with concert-worthy video projection are impressive and entertaining, but is it what is best for the church?

Here enters the raging debate: What's the point of using IMAG?

Before we push on, let's make sure everyone is on the same page.  There are several definitions of the term IMAG that are running around out there. For this article, we are simply referencing the term as a shortcut for saying Image MAGnification. That is, we are merely trying to take an image and magnify it for the purpose of making it easily seen.

I have the privilege of serving in a relatively large church, Henderson Hills Baptist Church. Our worship center can seat about 2,000 people. That's a lot of people to put in once place, so we need to help the members of the congregation who are sitting toward the back of the room, to see what is happening on the platform (stage, altar, etc.). Therefore, we use live cameras to magnify the image of the worship leader and teaching pastor during a worship service.

The video directors and I routinely have conversations about what camera shots are beneficial and helpful for the congregation during worship. The general idea is that if we are putting an image on the screen that is smaller than the natural eye can see in the room, then we are no longer doing IMAG.

Our volunteers are very creative and can compose some incredibly moving video shots, but if they don't magnify the image seen by the congregation's eye, then we generally (not always) don't use that shot.

The purpose of showing live video on screens during worship is not so that we can have the same experience as going to a concert. Our congregation doesn't come to church for a concert, or to be entertained with great video production. We use IMAG to help the congregation connect with the worship leader and pastor, as if they were in a smaller, more intimate room.

We use IMAG to, in essence, shrink our worship center. So, the point of IMAG is to help the congregation connect with the people who are leading them in worship.

Do we use shots of instrumentalists? Yes! They are worship leaders too, even if they aren't the band leader. Do we use moving shots? Yes! IMAG doesn't have to be boring.

Do we fight against the distraction of doing too much? Every week!

So, how do you do it? What are the guidelines for what is acceptable? I'm glad you asked.

We have a style guide of sorts that helps with shot composition and selection for what we feel is a good use of IMAG in worship. This is not the end-all, nor is it perfect. This is merely how our video team seeks to support the worship ministry and services with "undistracting excellence."

1. Keep whatever is the primary focus in the shot. If we are singing, keep someone who is singing in the shot. We are helping to focus the attention of the congregation. If they need to be following the worship leader, keep the worship leader in front of them. That doesn't mean the worship leader must be the only person in the shot, but if you are using a wider shot that makes the worship leader smaller on the screen than they are to the naked eye, don't use it.
2. Use moving shots in accordance with the dynamics of the music. Slow pushes and pulls can look really nice when done well. However, a push to the drummer during an acapella moment doesn't fit.
3. Use instrumental breaks to show the instrumentalist who is playing lead. That could be the lead electric guitar, the keyboard, maybe even the bass! If there isn't a specific lead player to highlight, then a wider shot is appropriate.
4. During teaching times the camera should be in front of the person speaking. This seems a bit obvious and simplistic. However, if you have cameras toward the sides of your room, using the right camera while the speaker is looking left is an awkward shot for your congregation to watch.
5. Remember it's IMAG. While some shots would be really cool and look great for a broadcast, that's not the point of what we are doing. We aren't here to impress people with our production. We are here to help focus the congregation's attention toward those leading in worship who are then focusing their hearts on Christ.

Following these simple guidelines can create a framework for the use of IMAG that allows for creativity in live video production while still keeping the heart of image magnification.

As we seek to serve our churches through the use of IMAG, we should continue to strive toward leading our congregations in worship without distractions.

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