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My Friend, the Overhead Projector

By Mike Smith.

(Golcar is a medium sized Baptist church which uses a converted Sunday School hall for worship. Like quite a number of traditional churches, we have gradually taken on new ideas, but we are by no means an all-singing, all-dancing congregation. Old and new live side by side in reasonable harmony. We have had an overhead projector for some years and this is our experience of it.)

"It’s the best thing we’ve ever spent our money on", was the opinion of a very traditional deacon at our church. But most churches only use the OHP occasionally for projecting words of songs. So here are a few ways in which we use it.

  1. Write suggestions for prayer on the screen before a time of open prayer. It’s a great way of getting folk to join in, especially those who would not want to pray out loud. Even visitors feel they can take part. And it helps to avoid the complaint, "Why didn’t you include X in prayer?"
  2. Sermon points. Write them down as you go along. It helps to stop you being long-winded or confused. And writing it down avoids having to balance a card half-way across the writing surface.
  3. A map for a missionary prayer tape. Just draw a simple TV-style map to show the outline of the country and the places mentioned. It’s surprising how something visual makes the tape easier to listen to.
  4. Use at a meeting for brainstorming or planning. Put up ideas or anything else as they come. When people can see, they’re more likely to understand.
  5. Church notices before the service starts - a good way to ensure that important announcements are in front of people as they arrive.
  6. Children’s talks. The visual content helps to keep children’s attention.

I am a very bad artist! The secret is to keep things simple.

  • For figures, the stick man is very adaptable. He can assume any pose. Give him a crown and he is a king; a sword and he is a soldier; a mitre and he is a priest; a bowler hat and he is a foreman. And always give him a name.
  • I have an all-purpose animal - a square with a head. With long legs he is a horse; with horns he is a cow; with a curly tail (and short legs!) he is a pig, with curly wool (and also short legs!) he is a sheep.
  • For backgrounds, use a line for sea or hills; a square for a house. As I said earlier, when in doubt, keep it simple.
  • With speech balloons, always write the words first, then put the balloon round them.
  • You can either gradually build up a single drawing, or do a series. If your OHP has a scroll, just wind on for the next frame.

Here are a few additional important tips:

  • Don’t use narrow pens - medium or broad are best. An A4 acetate will take 12 lines of broad writing, 16 of medium.
  • Don’t use joined up writing - it may look elegant but is often totally illegible.
  • Use water-soluble pens, so that you can re-use acetates and scrolls.
  • Different colours (red, black, green, blue) can be used with good effect.
  • Make sure the screen is visible to all.
  • Have the OHP to one side of you (not in front), to prevent your shadow from blocking off most of the screen.
  • Take your time as you write or draw. As you become more confident, you will be able to add a running commentary.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment - you can always wipe out your mistakes.

Mike Smith is minister of Golcar Baptist Church, Huddersfield.

Ministry Today

You are reading My Friend, the Overhead Projector by Mike Smith, part of Issue 14 of Ministry Today, published in October 1998.

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