Song Sheets Can Be Your Friend

A lot of worship leaders are under the impression that in order for people to “really worship”, then the words to the songs must be projected. Projecting lyrics can become not only a non-negotiable, but also an idol. PowerPoint will make our service more alive! MediaShout will get people’s hands in the air! Song sheets are the enemy!

I’ve come to learn that sometimes, song sheets can be your friend.

Now don’t get me wrong – I prefer projecting lyrics to printing them for several reasons. Here are just a few:

  • It gives me flexibility to make last-minute changes
  • It allows people’s heads and eyes to be lifted up
  • It frees people’s hands to be expressive (as the bible encourages)
  • It saves money by reducing the cost of paper, copying, and ink
  • It makes lyrics easier to disseminate to large numbers of people
  • It prevents waste of un-used paper
  • It avoids the problem of not printing enough copies of the lyrics
  • It helps promote unity in the congregation by physically pointing people in the same direction.

Most worship leaders would agree with those pro’s of projecting lyrics. The problem is when the pro’s of projecting lyrics blind us to the con’s.

The cons range from the practical:

  • The ceiling is too low
  • The church can’t afford a laptop and projector
  • The room is too bright
  • The sight-lines aren’t good
  • You’re leading in an open field

To the pastoral:

  • Some members of the congregation have threatened to leave if a screen ever appears in the general vicinity of the church
  • Projecting lyrics is more of a distraction than an aid

Worship leaders need to be able to be honest and objective enough to know when projecting lyrics would be a hindrance to people singing to God. In those instances, song sheets can be your friend.

In what we call the “main sanctuary” at my church, projecting the lyrics is a no-brainer. The screens, projectors, and computers are all permanently installed in the room and easy to use. But in our “historic church”, a civil-war era colonial-looking building, there aren’t any screens or projectors installed, and until we find a way to do that without disturbing the beauty of the space, projecting lyrics requires a good deal of work. After a couple years of going through all that trouble, I finally realized it was more trouble than it was worth. Deciding to just go ahead and use song sheets has been incredibly freeing.

Sometimes if the song sheet is for a home group, or a staff meeting, or an informal gathering where I’m just leading a couple of songs, I’ll put the songs on one half of a 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper. This way I can get two song sheets out of one piece of paper, and it’s not very big.

Other times, if the song sheet is for something more formal, like a healing service in the historic church, we’ll put a nicer looking heading on top of it so that it feels more official.

Here’s how I format the song sheets to make them not only readable but pleasant to read:

  • 12 or 14-point font
  • A readable font that has a bit more character than Arial or Times New Roman. Not too much character to be distracting, but just a little bit
  • Bold-ed song titles
  • Italicized chorus
  • 8-point font for the copyright information at the bottom of each song
  • One 6 or 8-point line between the sections of the song
  • Two full lines of 12 or 14-point space between each song

It’s totally fine (and understandable) to prefer projecting lyrics to printing them. I certainly do. And I look for ways to make rooms more conducive to doing so, since I think the advantages of projecting lyrics are worth some work. But, from time to time, the advantages of printing the lyrics are too great to overlook.

3 thoughts on “Song Sheets Can Be Your Friend”

  1. We do both at our church. A while back I wrote on my blog about the necessity of technology ( and how our dependence upon unnecessary things could have a devistating effect on our worship services…what happens when the lights go out? If you have cut your dependence upon unnecessary tech then you don’t have much to stress about if something crazy happens…doesn’t mean you can’t use the tech, just don’t depend on it…it will fail you.

    Like I said, we do both projection and print the songs in the bulletin. On more than one occasion the laptop has flipped out or the projector bulb has burnt out, but all was good because we had the bulletins…we also encourage people to take home the bulletins and use the songs for personal times of worship and meditation.

    good post!

  2. We happily use screens at our church. However, there’s still one more con, lamentably lost to many, many people.

    It used to be that the church was at the forefront of culture-making, especially when it came to the musical arts. Music history proves this (think of the roots of Western music in chant, or the dominance of Bach). The church, at one time, was the primary vehicle through which music was made. In fact, it’s the case that people received their “music education” through the church. And perhaps, up until the screen generation, this was still the case, as we held hymnals, read notes on staves, sang four-part harmonies, etc.

    Now, more often, the church is accused of culture-“aping” rather than culture-making, and I wonder if the church’s waning influence in the area of musical arts is not because we’ve given up some of our influential role by substituting music for lyrics.

    Hear me out. I’m not a classical snob or purist here. I’m down with screens and projected words for many of the above reasons you described. But I still want to take the opportunity to voice another down-side to the screens…and one which we often overlook because we don’t have a long enough view of things to see it.d


    P.S. I’m still holding on to this idea in our worship, actually. It’s a bit of subversive “civil disobedience.” I intentionally draw up all our congregational songs in sheet music form and we print them, week-in and week-out. I have to admit that probably less than 15% of people use the sheet music, and it’s therefore poor stewardship of our resources (both human and environmental). But because of what I said above, I can’t quite let go of it.

  3. It is sad that we dont teach people to read music by using hymnals. Harmony has become non existent in the congregation. Call me old fashioned but it is true.

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