Megachurch Tech on a Microchurch Budget

Stop Using Powerpoint

Oh, PowerPoint.  :::sigh:::

Once Upon a Time, you were the wind beneath the wings of song leaders and music ministers everywhere.  You brought the eyes of the congregation out of their hymnals and up to the front of the sanctuary.  The once-muted voices were heard!  The once-blind could now read in really big print! All was well, all was well.

But you had a fatal flaw, PowerPoint.

You did not have a database.  You could not be navigated once the slides were up.  Videos brought you to your knees.

And what a price we paid! Even the most stalwart of A/V techs were broken beneath the weight of your glaring shortcomings.

Not any more, PowerPoint. Not any more.

Visual technology, one of the most important pieces of technology in every church, has come a long way from the days of the overhead projector.  Even PowerPoint, that once-colossal King of Presentation Software, has lost its place in the forefront of worship technology, and rightly so.

PowerPoint has some pretty fatal flaws.  Unless you’re running two monitors, once you’re inside a slideshow, you can’t see where you are within the context of the slideshow.  You run blind.  And as if that wasn’t enough, PowerPoint doesn’t offer a database so that you can store songs and build setlists on the fly.  Every slideshow has to be created from scratch every time.  It’s clunky, time-consuming, and difficult to use.  Let’s not even talk about PowerPoint’s poor performance with video.  Don’t get me wrong, PowerPoint has it’s strengths (I still highly recommend it for your preacher’s sermon slides), but please, for the love of your tech team, don’t use PowerPoint to project song lyrics!

There are 4 main players in the Church Presentation software game.  All of them have the same basic features, all of them offer PowerPoint integration, and all of them offer free trials on their websites.

  1. MediaShout (PC & Mac)
    www.mediashout.com
    $399/3 Licenses (Additional Licenses sold separately)
    MediaShout is the GrandDaddy of modern Church Presentation Software.  It started the game back in the late 90′s, and it’s still the software of choice for a large number of churches.
    PROS: You’ll have complete control over every element of your set.  Video backgrounds, multiple inputs, songs, graphics, EVERYTHING is at your fingertips.
    CONS: You have EVERYTHING at your fingertips, which can be a bit overwhelming.  The interface is tricky, and the learning curve is pretty steep.  There’s no last-minute-grab-a-teenager-to-do-slides with this software.
  2. ProPresenter (PC & Mac)
    www.renewedvision.com/propresenter.php
    $399/Single User
    $799/Site License (Single Campus Only)
    ProPresenter started life as Mac-only, and was, in fact THE only option for Mac users for quite a while. Because of this, ProPresenter is often the software of choice for churches running Macs.  Since then, however, most every software has become cross-platform, including ProPresenter, which is now available for both Mac and PC.
    PROS: ProPresenter is designed to handle multiple screens with ease.  If you’re running 2 or more screens with unique content, ProPresenter is your best bet.
    CONS: The Price.  If you’ve got more than one room in your church that needs to run this software at the same time (ie: Youth Room, Annex, Children’s Ministry), you’ll be spending $800 on software.  That’s a lot of dough.
  3. SongShowPlus (PC)
    www.songshowplus.com
    $299.95/Basic Single Projector License
    $449.95/Professional Single Projector License
    SongShowPlus is a top-tier Church Presentation Software.  You’ll get plenty of advanced features in a fairly easy-to-use bundle, with plenty of add-ons to customize the software to your specific needs.
    PROS: SSP is easy to use without sacrificing advanced features like multiple inputs.  How many advanced features depends on the license you get, though, so do your homework.
    CONS: SSP has a buggy history.  They’ve got awesome technical support, but the bad news is that you’ll probably need to use it a lot.  And again, this is a pretty pricey option if you’re in more than one space.
  4. Diva PickEasyWorship (PC Only. Mac version in development)
    www.easyworship.com
    $399/Site License with unlimited users based at a single venue
    For bang-for-your-buck, ease-of-use, and cost-effectiveness, you won’t find a better bargain than EasyWorship.  Drop a volunteer in at the last minute? No problem.  It’s simple, easy-to-use, and handles most mid-range graphics requests with ease.
    PROS: While not the lowest price on the market, it is the best value on the market in terms of flexibility within a ministry.  Unless you’re a multi-site church, your single site license will cover projection from every computer on campus (and laptops for off-site events like retreats, camps, etc…)
    CONS: If you’re looking for the most advanced software on the market, this isn’t it.  It will more than get the job done for most churches, but if you need advanced switching and user options, this may not cut it.

HONORABLE MENTION

ProclaimOnline (Cloud-based for PC and Mac)
www.proclaimonline.com
Pricing based on church size.  Prices range from $200-$500 per year after 1-year introductory period.
ProclaimOnline is brand new to the Church Presentation software game.  Everything is cloud-based, meaning you can access your presentation software from anywhere in the world and have multiple users contribute simultaneously to your plan creation.
PROS: Based in the cloud, ProclaimOnline is highly accessible and offers all the features you’d expect in traditional, computer-specific software.
CONS: In order to use ProclaimOnline, you have to pay a per month/year subscription, meaning you’ll have an ongoing expense.  Also, if your internet goes down during service, you’re up the local tributary without a means of propulsion.

The great thing about each of these projection software options is that you have the opportunity to try them out, most for 30 days.  Take advantage of that opportunity to find the software that’s the right fit for your church.  One other important fact: Make sure you check the system requirements for each program before you start.  Upgrading your projection software may mean upgrading your computer hardware, but if there’s one thing you don’t want to scrimp on, it’s this.

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