As our culture becomes increasingly visual, it’s helpful for worship leaders to have visual tools available to them in communicating effectively with people who are used to celebrity memes and Instagram feeds. I’ve recently been using word clouds in worship to help people to engage visually with the textual truths of the Bible. While there are word cloud generators that allow you to place words in particular places to achieve ‘a look’ that you’re going for, I’m particularly drawn to word cloud generators that graphically represent the frequency of word usage in a particular group of words. Using portions of the Bible as raw data presents useful insights into God’s Word and visually striking images to communicate those insights.
Useful insights and images
Good Bible study habits are important for worship leaders seeking to carefully root their services in God’s Word and word clouds can offer some neat insights into the key ideas in a given text. Since word clouds are really just pictures that indicate how often certain words appear, the biggest words represent the most frequent (and often most important) ideas.
For example, this is a visual representation of Genesis 1.
Who’s the star of the Creation story? Who’s front and centre? Preachers will often make the point by saying - ‘In the beginning… God.’ - to indicate the centrality and pre-eminence of God in Creation; this word cloud, created using the text of Genesis 1, powerfully makes that very point.
The opening verses of John’s Gospel (John 1:1-18) serve as an overture to the whole Gospel, introducing themes and ideas that John will explore and develop through the rest of his Gospel. Worship leaders can easily present this glorious constellation of ideas by showing this word cloud:
As a piece of poetry, Psalm 148 urges its reader to ‘Praise the Lord’ by repeating those words over and again. As a word cloud, Psalm 148 makes the same point by causing the various created things, which are called to praise God, to orbit around the call to praise:
Making word clouds
To make your own word clouds, you need two things – a word cloud generator and a digital version of the biblical text you intend to use.
Searching for ‘word cloud generator’ in your browser will bring up many results, all with different features. For the Genesis 1 and Psalm 148 clouds, I used abcya.com (http://www.abcya.com/word_clouds.htm) which allows you to save your word clouds directly as image files. John 1 was made using Jason Davies’s word cloud generator (https://www.jasondavies.com/wordcloud/).
In order to make the generator work, you need a big section of text, so while you could type out the Bible verses, I have found it much easier to copy and paste from your favourite Bible software or website. Biblegateway.com or translation specific websites would work; I use BibleWorks and OliveTree so I simply copy and paste from there.
Once you have copied the text, paste it into the text field in the word cloud generator. Most generators allow you to edit the text, so you could remove the verse numbers (I didn’t in mine, hence the numbers tucked into the images).
Words clouds are a neat way of visually presenting to the congregation the ideas inherent in a biblical text. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a word cloud is that, plus a visual commentary.