September 11, 2020

Creating a lyric projection template

Creating a lyric projection template

Churches across the world have been using their creative skills to work with the everchanging realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. All of us have gotten used to smaller Mass sizes, wearing masks at church and watching liturgies at home. Things such as the sign of peace, holy water at the entrance of the church, even coffee and doughnuts seem like memories of the past. As a pastoral musician, something that was a big adjustment for me was not having hymnals in the pews anymore. Maybe your parish has started creating disposable worship aids, or including the music in your bulletin, or even assisting parishioners in purchasing their own missals. At my parish, we have been using a projection system as the primary way to engage the congregation in liturgical singing.

Today, I would like to take a few moments to share with you how to best set up a projection template for use at Mass. If you do not currently have a projection system set up in your church, this blog is a great place to learn more. You will also need a subscription to ONE LICENSE in order to legally project most song lyrics during Mass.

Finding a preferred software

There are countless options when setting up your template. Softwares such as PowerPoint (Microsoft) or Keynote (Apple) are obvious choices, as they come standard on many computers. We use Google Slides at our parish and really appreciate the ability to have multiple editors and collaborators on one file.

Setting up a song lyric template

Step One: Find the correct font size for your church

I have found that in creating lyric templates, simple is always better. You want to make sure all parishioners can clearly see what you are presenting from anywhere in the church. Before you sit down and start entering lyrics into a program, I recommend setting up a few slides containing lyrics of varying sizes. Use a black background and choose an easy-to-read font. Calibri or Arial are good places to start.

Creating a lyric projection template
Creating a lyric projection template
Creating a lyric projection template

Set up these slides in the church and have a few people join you. Make sure each person is in a different part of the church and slowly go through the slides. Take into consideration that some parishioners might not see as well as you do. I try to pick the size that works best for me, and then go one size bigger. At our parish, we use Gill Sans at size 54.

Step 2: Start with a black/blank slide

It is important to always have a black slide before and after each song. It will act as a placeholder in between each song and make it look as though the projector is turned off.

Step 3: Create a title slide

This serves as a way of letting the congregation know what song they will be singing, as well as complying with all copyright laws. It also makes for a nice placeholder as your accompanist plays the introduction. Make sure you include the title of the song, all composers and the copyright line. You can find this information through your ONE LICENSE subscription or on the sheet music itself.

Creating a lyric projection template

Step 4: Insert the lyrics

In many cases this step is as easy as copying and pasting the lyrics. But be aware that not all song lyrics will fit well into the template you have created. Here are some tips I have discovered after creating thousands of slides.

  • Make sure to split the verses, refrains and any other sections of the music onto different slides.
  • Don’t try to squeeze in extra lyrics. This can be distracting when moving from slide to slide and difficult to read.
    Creating a lyric projection template
    Creating a lyric projection template
  • Keep the font size and style exactly the same between each and every slide and song.
  • If you can’t fit a phrase on one line of a slide, be careful how you split it up. Take into consideration the phrasing of the melody and poetry of the lyrics.
    Creating a lyric projection template
    Creating a lyric projection template
  • Keep the arrangement and the order of the song in mind. If your community always sings a second chorus at the end of the song, add the extra slides if needed. If you always go back and sing verse one at the end, make sure to include that. This simple step in planning can make things run a lot smoother during Mass. The last thing you want is to have someone looking for the correct slide in the middle of a song.

Step 5: Create clear guidelines

In some cases, a church might have a dedicated person creating and managing the slides. At our church, we have created a shared google drive where staff and volunteers help edit and manage the slides for the weekend Masses. We have created some basic guidelines for those creating slides so that we maintain a consistent look. This includes step-by-step instructions with all the details we have outlined above. We also keep a master template on file for anyone who needs to create a slideshow that is not already in our library.

Step 6: Find the right help

If you need help preparing the slides, it is really important that you find people who have a basic understanding of liturgical music. This will help them in arranging the lyrics on the slide in a way that makes sense for each specific song. It is also important to find people with an eye for detail. I make a lot of musical mistakes each Sunday, most of which people do not notice, but if a word is misspelled on a slide, I am sure to hear about it. You also want to be careful who you select to click through the slides at Mass. When we first started using projectors at my parish, I made an announcement asking for volunteers. I had a lot of people step forward who were excited to help. Even though many of these volunteers were willing, they were not always the best suited for the job. In principle, this is an easy task, but you need to find the right person. Look for people who have a good knowledge of the liturgy and its music. I have had a lot of luck asking retired choir members, lectors, and eucharistic ministers (only for the Masses where they aren’t already scheduled, that is). When asking someone to help, use a phrase like, “You have a great love for the liturgy. I see you as a perfect person for this job.” Noticing specific gifts in your volunteers will empower them to take ownership of the ministry.


In closing, I encourage you to treat your slide preparation with as much care as you would any other liturgical ministry. It is easy to get in the habit of throwing slides together at the last minute, but congregations will see through this right away. The Mass is the “source and summit” of our lives, and we are called to bring our best to every moment and detail. This is true for the flowers, the lectors, the homily, the music and even the song lyrics.

Below you will find a form for a free OCP projection template to get you started, and we promise to keep you up to date on developments and news around the issue of projection at the Mass.

Nichlas Schaal
Nichlas Schaal

Nichlas Schaal lives in Tigard, Oregon with his lovely wife and six kids. He is currently the Director of Music at Saint Anthony Catholic in Tigard. Nichlas has over 20 years of leadership experience in music ministry.