We are finally moving towards worship presentation software. This painfully slow move may have been the single most frustrating aspect of the entire church planting experience. So much goes into setting up the basic aspects of a functional, edifying worship service. Most folks go to church on Sunday, and are ushered into a corporate worship experience, and then depart without giving much thought about how much time, energy, work, and basic know-how was invested into the morning. If you truly desire to peek behind the curtain, to see just how much energy and know-how it takes to lead a congregation into the presence of God on a Sunday morning, then plant a church. You will not only have to find, recruit, and develop a technology/media savvy crew, but you will also have to learn all about the technology, software, and hardware required to develop a relevant and meaningful worship experience. You will have to learn these things, unless, of course, you sit on your laurels and wait for God to send you someone to do it for you. If that’s the case, don’t bother. You will fail.
I began researching worship presentation software a few months ago. I tried Easy Worship, MediaShout, SongShow Plus, and a few others (you can test them for free for a limited time). Needless to say, these programs had a ridiculous learning curve. I’m pretty savvy when it comes to technology and software, and I still had plenty of difficulty with the basic user interfaces these applications offered. None were intuitive or simple; all were chock full of bloat. A basic software application that offered the live worship flexibility that Microsoft PowerPoint lacked was no where to be found. So, we continued printing lyric sheets for the congregation (something we didn’t want to continue because of our dedication to environmental stewardship), and using MS PowerPoint. There was also cost concerns involved. Our financial priorities did not - and would not - include dropping several hundred dollars on worship presentation software. All of the aforementioned software packages included a hefty price tag: EasyWorship $400; Mediashout $430; SongShow Plus $500. Given the difficulty of use of each of these programs, and the ridiculous costs of the programs, we had no choice but to opt out. After all, who in their right mind would drop $400 - $500 dollars for the wonderful privilege of being totally frustrated with a program’s learning curve and nonintuitive interface? I gave up.
Then it hit me! Open Source! I have no idea why the thought didn’t occur to me sooner. For those who don’t know, “Open Source” is the creative practice of appropriation and free sharing of found and created content. “Content” includes software applications too. Said differently, Open Source is a collaborative and communal effort to create and distribute content and software for free, and under a “free-to-share-and use” license (GNU,GPL,etc.). It is a blessing, especially in the context of a young missional community dedicated to fairness, lifestyle simplicity, and curbed consumption. Thus began the search for an open source alternative.
A comment in my original post regarding worship presentation software pointed me towards an open source alternative to Microsoft Office, but it too shared the same “live event” restraints of PowerPoint. It would not do. The suggestion, however, did send me on a search for open source alternatives to MediaShout, EasyWorship, etc.
The search led to Openlp. There, the search for sensible and practical worship presentation software ended.
Openlp is superb! The interface does all that the expensive programs do, but simply. The interface is intuitive and easy to learn. Importing various Bible translations is a breeze. I added the ESV and The Message with no difficulty at all. Importing songs, individual PowerPoint slides and/or whole presentations, video clips, and images is a simple, straightforward process too. The bloated programs have nothing on Openlp, as concerns ease of use, learning curve, and functionality. Then there is cost. Easy Worship, MediaShout, and SongShow Plus come with big price tags; Openlp is 100% free. Openlp is so more than an alternative. It is actually a far better program than Easy Worship, MediaShout, and/or SongShow Plus, and it costs $400 - $500 less. Any cost-benefit analysis on the planet would reveal the simple fact that Openlp is only sensible choice for your worship presentation needs.
If there is one issue with Openlp. it would most assuredly be the problems it has with connecting to CCLI and SongSelect. The current version of Openlp does not connect to CCLI at all, but the community is working on a fix for the next version.
Download Openlp: Openlp.org
OpenSong Bibles (for import): opensong.org
Import Bibles Instructions: Download the Bibles, run the files through Jonathan Corwin’s OpenSong Bible Import VBS Script, then import them via Openlp.