in pursuit of healthier tech people

I wrote a post on the Willow Creek Association for their blog to church leaders.  Even though it is targeted to church leaders, I thought there would be something useful for the tech artists among us.

If you had to define the church tech people you work with, would it be:

a.)  Creative.  Energetic.  Helpful.  Indispensable.

b.)  Drained.  Critical.  Grumpy.  Anti-social.  Resistant.

Technical artists worshiping :)

I don’t need to know your exact situation to know that we all want to work with a church technical artist defined by “option a”.  However, I have been to many churches, in many different environments, and I see “option b” all the time.  Full time, part time, volunteer, it doesn’t matter.  “Option b” is everywhere.  What is happening at your church?  Chances are, if you dig around a little, you’ll find an unhealthy tech, buried under too much work.

As a leader at your church, not only would you like to thank me for pointing out the obvious, but you are wondering what to do about it.  How can I get an “option a” type tech person at my church?  Is there a school where they crank these types out?  Can I trade in the “option b” I have for a new “a”?  Can I poach one from Willow Creek when no one is looking?

I’m a tech person myself, and I can tell you that it is way easier to be an “option b” tech person, than an “option a” one.  Unfortunately for your church, “option a” technical artists don’t just happen by themselves.  Tech people are unusual and are generally misunderstood at most every church and most of what they do is a mystery to you.  Your tech person is pouring themselves out for your church, and nobody fully understands what they do, how they do it, or what they need to keep doing it.  It is no wonder that “option b” is so wide spread.

The production team at Willow Creek Community Church understands what is like to be a tech person in the local church, which is why we are hosting our 2nd annual Gurus of Tech conference (FREE) to help equip, train and inspire the “option b” types at your church toward becoming an “option a” technical artist.

There will be skill specific training (FREE), and while that is useful and what most tech people hunger for, we will be focusing most of our attention on the heart condition of tech people everywhere: knowing the difference between excellence and perfection, making your relationship with God more than just your serving time, understanding how production fits into the mission of the whole church. (ALL FREE)  Basically moving “option b” towards “option a”.

I would encourage you to send every tech person you have. Check out the website for further information: (FREE)

What: Gurus of Tech

When: May 22-23

Where: Willow Creek Community Church – Crystal Lake Campus

Cost: FREE

can you be trusted?

I believe that every situation is a chance to either gain trust or lose trust.  I have had many conversations with technical artists at churches all over and trust seems like a common topic of conversation.  Can you trust a volunteer to do a particular task?  Can you trust a band member to be prepared for rehearsal?  Can you trust your 16 year old with the keys to the car?

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What informs the decision on whether we trust someone or not?  History.  The collection of events that make up your life and inform others what you will most probably do.

What is your history say?  What do the sum of your choices and responses add up to?  If I were to ask the people you work with, what would they say?  Can your decisions be trusted, or are you known for blowing smoke?

As a technical artist in the local church, I am guessing that you are familiar with the stereotype of tech people…The first reaction is no.  Always complaining about the process not being good enough.  Asking for things that are expensive.  Having an excuse for why something is working right…(need more gear).  If we hope to be a driving force in our churches, and be able to influence how are churches do ministry, we need to have a past history that enables people to trust us.

The challenge is what to do when your leader/boss doesn’t take your recommendation.  It is really easy to feel trusted and a part of the solution when people take your advice.  But what about when someone decides to do the exact opposite of what you think is right?  Obviously each situation is different, but each one is an opportunity to be trusted; another chance for people to add something positive to the history they know of you.

A few instances from my early ministry life stand out, where decisions were made that went against my recommendations.  One in particular involved opening a new video venue in the high school where our church met.  Since we hadn’t really gotten into video until then, I suggested that we have a one week test, where we set up all the cameras and the large screen in the overflow room, before we invited the congregation to attend.  I think you could probably write the rest of the story:  leadership decided to open without a test weekend, the team worked through the night to get the system up and running, the room was packed on the first week and the projector wouldn’t work, we had to ask everyone to go back to the main auditorium.

The natural response for me was to say “I told you so.” and to jump on the idea of how little non-tech people understand my world, and such a typical church leadership decision made in a vacuum, etc.  In reality, I had given my recommendation and they didn’t go with it.  I still put everything I had into trying to make it work, but then when it went south, I didn’t rub my superiority into anyone’s face.  As a result, the leadership above me had a data point that said, “Todd said this was a bad idea, he gave it everything he had and it still didn’t work.  We might want to listen to him next time.”

Each decision, each interaction, each choice you make speaks volumes about what kind of person you are.  It is important to leverage each one, the good and the bad.  Every time you have a chance to speak into something, you should.  You should also know that every one of your ideas will not be acted on, yet how you handle yourself in these moments speaks more about you than handling the good situations. 

Most of us can respond well when people take your advice.  How will you respond when they don’t? 


Creative Commons License photo credit: Profound Whatever

authenticity at the grammys

Since last year’s Grammy’s, my kids have started engaging with current music.  Everyone has their own iPod, with the choice to listen to whatever music they feel like.  I feel like I haven’t been this aware of what is happening with music since the 80’s.


We all sat down to watch and cheer for our favorites.  We were all pulling for Adele, some wishing for Skrillex to win best new artist, others wishing Taylor Swift would stop singing…pretty much the full range of musical tastes and opinions.

Reflecting on last night, I had a few take-aways.  The first is that I love that my family is into music.  Music is such a huge part of my story, and it matters a bunch that my kids can enjoy and appreciate good music.

The second thing that struck me was how much I appreciated the authenticity of the people who performed.  I felt like the producers matched each artists style and feel.  Chris Brown’s cool video cubes, and the flying squirrel dancers really seemed to fit.  I can guarantee that he wasn’t actually singing, but it didn’t seem like that was what mattered most for that element.  The Foo Fighters bringing some rock and roll to the parking lot was the perfect thing.

From a production standpoint, I thought they did a nice job of being true to each performance:  The Civil Wars, Jennifer Hudson, Cold Play, Katy Perry.  The treatment was different for each one and never upstaged the performance, but enhanced what the artists were doing.  For me personally, there were somethings I loved and others I could do without, but each one seemed to represented the music and the art the way it was intended to.

It was a good reminder for me to use production to enhance an element, and not to overpower it.  Maybe there will someday be a place for human ice sculptures surrounded by flames at church, but until that day, I’ll keep striving for matching the level of production with the intent of each element.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Thomas Hawk

a community of techs

“Life change happens best in the context of community.”

DSC00047This was a value statement from a church that I worked at many years ago.  I think it is true.  As production people, we spend so much effort and pour lots of resources into making the large group experience happen at our churches, in many ways facilitating the life of the church.  When we are the last ones out the door after a long night, it can feel like we are functioning just on the outer fringe of the community instead of being fully functioning members of it.

15 years ago, I started reaching out to any other church technical artists to try and feel like I was a part of a community that understood me and could walk along side me and encourage me along the way.  Nothing really existed at the time to facilitate this kind of community, so I just went after it myself, for myself.

Today is a much different landscape for church technical people.  Most churches need technology to even function, which means there is a tech person involved.  I love the fact that there are communities of tech people out there for us to tap into and feel encouraged by.


The production team at Willow Creek is gearing up to host our 2nd annual “Gurus of Tech” event, in an effort to provide the opportunity for church technical artists to be a part of a community.  To know you aren’t alone; that there are people all over the world with the same struggles as you, or that have faced a problem and come up with a brilliant solution.  To sit in a room full of people who have a similar passion for using the technical arts to advance the cause of the Gospel around the world.

Gurus of Tech is my favorite thing all year:  to feel connected, to feel like I am not alone, to feel like I am apart of something much bigger, to be inspired to keep going.  We’d love to have you join us.

CTL is another amazing way to feel connected to other technical artists in your region or even around the world.  It is not only an online community but it is a vehicle for organizing face to face gatherings by region.  The leadership of CTL will be involved at Gurus of Tech to help further the connect that begins at the event.  Sign up.  Check out there website for more info.

germany leitungskongress – 4

Thursday – Saturday

It was an amazing 2.5 days, on many levels.  How the team worked together.  The content of each session.  Hearing 7000+ Germany church leaders filling the venue with their voices raised in worship.

At some point earlier in the week, I commented to someone that I couldn’t remember being so tired before, but now looking back, all of the tired feelings are gone and are replaced by memories of amazing moments of worship, deep connection with team members, and the realization that I get an opportunity to use the gifts I have to help influence so many church leaders from the other side of the world.

Here are a few of the highlights from the entire conference, in no particular order:


DSC00841 So many leaders struggle with being adequate enough to lead their churches or their teams.  Mark Demel acted in a scene about a pastor checking himself in to a rehab center followed by Greg Ferguson singing “He Knows”, accompanied by Paul Mutzabaugh. It was a powerful moment, giving people space to consider their own struggles and release them to God.



Andy Stanley, with his translator Chris, brought his “Upside of Tension” talk to the German church leaders.  After his talk, it is interesting to see how many situations fall into the category of “a tension to be managed”.  So often I am trying to eliminate the tension when it won’t, or shouldn’t go away.  Some tension is necessary and good.

One of the favorite parts of my job is getting to interact with amazing people like Andy Stanley.  At this particular conference I had the pleasure of working with Pete and Geri Scazzero, Gordon MacDonald, Jeff Manion, Christine Caine, Hans Peter Wolfberger, Eric Metaxes, Michael Herbst, and Bill Hybels.



This is the view from back stage.  This is my 4th Germany Leadership Summit, and I think it is the most engaged I have ever seen a group of German leaders.  Through the leading of Matt Lundgren, the band and vocalists helped people engage in worship in a way I had not experienced before.  There is nothing quite like 7000+ people singing a beloved hymn in one voice, regardless of the language.



Here is the view from the FOH production booth.  Seeing so many people in such a big room, I still can’t believe that I have the privilege to lead a team to help facilitate such an undertaking.  It was a little humbling to think that the space I get to work in everyday fits about as many people as were in this arena…crazy.


I think I have one more post about this conference.  Coming soon…

Germany Leitungskongress – 3

I realize that this is 10 days after the fact…I was telling someone that doing a conference in Germany is like being in an alternate reality.  Normal doesn’t exist, it is just all about making the conference happen.

Wendesday, January 25th, rehearsal day 

It was nice to have a later call time today.  Because we started load in on Monday, we were able to come in a few hours later this morning.  Instead of sleeping in, Darren, Chris, Scott and I went for a run through a park near by.  It was nice to experience something normal during this week of crazy hours and tasks that I don’t normally find myself doing.

Wednesday started with sound check, then music rehearsal, an opening celebration dinner where the WCA Deutchland team welcomed the volunteers from all over the world, followed by drama rehearsal.  Here are some pictures from the day:


  1. “Be Here Now” – We recreated Blaine Hogan’s piece from the 2010 Leadership Summit.  Ryan Trommer, who did the original animation, rebuilt it in German.  It was acted by Carsten Steir with direction from Mark Demel.  We were laughing because the video was created with Blaine as the actor, and Carsten was a little taller, so some of the words were slightly obstructed.
  2. Volunteer Welcome Dinner – Karl Heinz-Zimmer welcomed everyone, and Bill Hybels cast some vision for all that God has done in Germany over the 15 years these conferences have been happening.  The creative arts and production teams get their food first, since we eat as fast as we can then get back to rehearsal.
  3. Christy Anderson took a misstep and injured her foot.  The WCA team rallied around her and found doctors that could help her.  After her first ever ambulance ride, and some liquid ibuprofen, she is doing much better, directing the stage team from the seated position.
  4. Nathan Miller has done an amazing job at monitors…as usual.  Lena Belgart, one of the vocalists was sceptical when she heard she would have to use in ear monitors, but now she is as convinced as the rest of us, that Nathan is really good at what he does.  This year, we were able to rent Shure wireless mics, so Nathan and our super star audio volunteer, Mark Gilbert, were able to do amazing work with great equipment.
  5. A picture from near the back of the room.  We had to set up a delay PA (d&b!) and delay screens for the people that were furthest away.
  6. My view from the front rows.

One or two more posts to follow.