Projectors are at the heart of the modern church experience. They display song lyrics, motions, graphics, sermon outlines, and multimedia teaching illustrations, as well as video and still announcements to create an informative and visually pleasing church service.

Because pastors, worship leaders, and media techs can often feel burdened to select the best projector for their houses of worship, feature simplification can help streamline the selection process. This helpful guide walks church leaders through the process of uncovering the most essential traits of a good worship projector.

Here are four features every church should look for in a new projector:

Feature #1 – Brightness & Room Size

The standard measurement for brightness is called lumens. Projectors typically run from about 1,500 lumens at the low range (just enough for a home theater unit), to 6,000 lumens at the mid-range, up to 25,000 lumens for major events like concerts. Most houses of worship shouldn’t consider anything less than 2,500 lumens, and then only if they have fewer than 100 seats. The largest churches – those with over 400 seats – should look at projectors in the 4,500 to 6,000 lumens range.

How bright the projector needs to be depends on how bright the worship space is, as well as how big it is. Essentially, the brighter the room, the brighter the projector must be. Churches that turn out the lights every time the projector is in use don’t necessarily need a 6,000 lumens unit. In fact, a projector that’s too bright for the room may overwhelm the eyes, making for a poor viewing experience. If, on the other hand, the room lets in a lot of ambient light, or if the pastor keeps the overheads on, then the church will need a unit that’s bright enough to outshine the competition.

Feature #2 – Smooth & Quiet

A good projector should be quiet, or at least as quiet as the service demands. That, of course, will vary depending on the size of the worship space, the seating capacity, and the average noise levels. Megachurches that seat thousands and feature loud music, rousing sermons, and boisterous crowds, won’t suffer from a little fan noise. Services that are on the tame side and venues that are on the small side will obviously prioritize quiet operation.

In order to get a sense of the relative noise level, church leaders should look at each projector’s specs and search for a category called fan noise. The manufacturer should provide an exact decibel level, which allows people to compare options and find a noise range that’s right for a particular space.

Feature #3 – Sharp & Beautiful

Digital images are composed of many little dots, or pixels. The more pixels an image has, the higher the resolution and the better the image quality. Projector resolution is comprised of two numbers (1920 x 1200, for example). The first number describes how many pixels there are horizontally, and the second number records the number of vertical pixels. Multiply them together, and you have the total number of pixels in the image.

Churches will need a higher resolution picture if they plan on playing a lot of HD video, less so if they project intricate graphics, and even less if they limit themselves to simple images and large text. Since most modern churches have become highly media-savvy, high-resolution projectors are in great demand, but not every house of worship needs one. All things being equal, sharper is better, but church leaders should always weigh the desire for image quality against their needs and their budget.

Feature #4 – Longevity & Maintenance

When it comes to choosing a projector, longevity should also play a role, particularly if for those churches that plan on squeezing a lot of life out of their projector. One of the biggest variables is the light source – bulb versus LED. The average bulb will last about 2,000 hours, while newer LED technology can expand the lifespan to 10,000 or even 20,000 hours.

How long a projector lasts also depends a great deal on how well it’s taken care of. Regular maintenance may be a hassle, but it’s the only way to the get the most out of a unit. With that in mind, churches are better off choosing a low-maintenance projector, or at least one that’s easy to care for.

Choosing the right projector for a church doesn’t have to be rocket science. If pastors, worship leaders, and media techs do their research and follow these tips, they can wade through the confusion and find the perfect projector for their needs.