whoever said collaboration would be easy?

I was just thinking about this past Christmas production, and my initial thoughts have been focused on how well the service turned out and how many great comments I’ve received.

If I think a little longer, I start remembering all the things that didn’t go well. All the long days, all the delayed decisions, all the budget issues, all the creative differences, all the hard conversations…all the, all the, all the.

If I stretch my memory far enough back, it is quickly apparent that most large event processes that I have been involved in have been flawed in some way. There are two conclusions I can draw from this…either I’m the common denominator and I’m the problem, in which case I should probably consider a different line of work, or pulling off large events is hard work.

My friend Blaine Hogan and I have talked a few times about the fact that collaboration is hard work. In Genesis 3, God said that as a consequence of the Fall, the ground would now be cursed…meaning that we would be toiling long and hard to make anything. Work would be difficult.

As a nine on the Enneagram scale, I work really hard to make sure that everyone is happy, which I realize is not actually possible, especially in a large event collaborative process. Somewhere along the way, I assumed that everyone needs to be happy for a process to go well. The reality is that, while these two things aren’t mutually exclusive, neither one is the ultimate goal.

Did the event we were collaborating on, work? For those of us in church production, did the service help move people closer to Christ regardless of where they are on their spiritual continuum? I agree that it is too simplistic to say that the “product” is the only thing that matters, since if the process is bad for long enough, people won’t stick around to do it again.

For me, every event comes with its own set of challenges and each event also comes with a list of things to learn from those challenges.

True collaboration takes work…to brainstorm, to work with constraints, to trust each other. It also requires tenacity to learn from the past, so that we are always creating better processes to get to the finish line.

Easter, here we come!



AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Alex De Mey

the defining characteristic of church production

At many churches today, the level of production value rivals many other live shows. The bar has been raised over the years to the point where the types of equipment and the people operating them can play in just about any arena.

If our gear is the same, and the quality of people’s ability is the same, is there really a difference between doing production outside the church and doing it for the church? Are we just facilitating a “show” at church or is there something deeper?

For the sake of this particular post, I’d like to quote Jesus from the book of John to explain the difference people should notice between a production team with a Christ-centered approach and one that isn’t:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

I don’t know about you, but this verse doesn’t jump out as the first verse I think of to describe any production ministry at a church. Production as a people group, are not well known for this idea of love. We are however known for cynicism, passive-aggresive behavior, and the infamous one syllable answer “no”.

What would our teams look like if this verse were more the norm? What if the production team at your church set the pace for loving one another?

How do we get from where we are to this lofty idea of loving each other?

It can be as “simple” as treating each other with respect. To go out of your way to serve the needs of the people on stage. To respond in every situation with grace. To assume the best of others first.

Loving one another is not easy. It is much easier to just tolerate people. This can lead to bitterness and can breakdown relationships. Technical artists and creative artists working together can be challenging enough without the added layer of barely tolerating each other.

We both need each other. We have a chance to change the world through using our gifts in combination…together. Our impact can be exponential if we can figure out how to love one another.

What would your church look like if the production team were known for the love they showed to each other and to the people they came into contact with?



Attribution Some rights reserved by sfxeric

we all want the same thing

I’m a technical artist.  I want the execution of the service to be flawless.  You see me as a  uptight, perfectionistic, idea crusher.

You are a creative artist.  You want to keep things loose and organic.  I see you as lazy with a lack of regard of what it really takes.

These are pretty severe extremes.  I’m not sure that we ever talk in these terms, but they do tend to exist on some levels, on many teams.

I would argue that in reality, we are closer than we appear.

I believe that in most of our churches, the technical artists (the people in the booth) and the creative artists (the people on stage) essentially want the same thing.  We want to create an environment where God moves in our services.  We want to see our gifts and talents used in ways greater than ourselves.  We don’t want to fail…we want to succeed.

The challenge is our perspectives.  I have a list of things that really matter to me that you don’t seem to care about at all.  And you have your own list of things that I frankly don’t care about either.  From these perspectives, when we start talking about how to make our services amazing, it is no wonder that we experience some tension.

So what do we do about this tension?  I don’t think we can wish it would go away, because as Andy Stanley says, it is a tension to manage.  I would maybe go one step further and say that it is a tension to celebrate.

When we look at our services, it takes the full range of talents and expertise to make it all work.  Musicians, lighting designers, worship leaders, CG operators, pastors, audio engineers…the list could go on.  Without each of these people contributing their part, the whole thing wouldn’t work.

God made each one of these people a certain way.  He wired each one to care about certain things and not about others.  He created the camera operator to see interesting compositions and the vocalist to interpret music with their voice.  With each skill and each type of person, there are corresponding development tracks and preparation techniques and execution requirements to achieve the desired outcome for each discipline.

With this diverse group of people comes…wait for it…a diverse group of people.

To isolate ourselves and only care about our own process is not how God designed the body of Christ to function.  Yes, we all need to care deeply about our talent, but we also have to be willing to let go of our grip for the benefit of the whole.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

When you boil it all down, we all want the same thing:  God to move in our services through my individual contribution.  

We all have different contributions with different needs.  

How can I fight for what I need, while at the same time celebrate you fighting for what you need?

We all want the service to be great, we just have different ways to get to great.

over communicate and don’t undersell

I am continually amazed at how expensive production equipment can be…I can only imagine what non-technical people think of the prices!


We have been in the process of upgrading a space here, and we are choosing to not go for the best long term solution, but rather a really solid intermediate step.  In other words, we aren’t even talking about wireless mics or changing out the 4:3 screens for 16:9 or doing any sort of lighting upgrade; and it is still a ton of money.  Just for the basics of audio.

I have learned (or relearned) a few things in this process.

If I think it is expensive and I understand what needs to happen technically, imagine what it is like for a non-technical church leader who only understands that it is going to cost a lot.  I probably still haven’t done a great job of this, but I have been trying to over communicate what can and can’t be done, and why things cost what they do.

The leaders at my church, and yours, need to know that we are being responsible with the money that has been donated by the congregation, and that what we are purchasing will advance the ministries of the church and not just be a bunch of cool new toys for the tech team.

The other big thing I have gotten a new perspective on, is that it doesn’t help anyone if I undersell the idea.  If after working through what is needed, I shouldn’t back down from the realities of what needs to be done.

As a type 9 on the enneagram scale, it turns out that I don’t love conflict.  When I get into situations where people are pushing on why things need to cost so much, I find myself trying to figure out how we could do it for less.  While working hard to make things the least expensive they can be is a necessary exercise and a responsible way to spend the church’s money.  However, if it needs to cost a certain amount in order to achieve the desired results, there is no reason to try to hide or down play that.

So maybe to summarize what I’m learning, over communicate and acknowledge that equipment is expensive.  But also, don’t back down from what is needed to achieve the desired results.  If the needs of the ministry cost “x”, don’t undersell to “y” and then not really help the ministry.

nostalgia is a dangerous form of comparison

I just read an article in the Chicago Tribune about a guy who took a trip through Europe using the EuroRail pass.  It turns out he was reliving a trip he took 30 years ago, just to see if he could do it now that he was 20 pounds heavier and had gotten used to staying in nice hotels and eating great food.

As he was living through the challenges of traveling for 15 days through Europe as a middle aged guy, he realized that all his memories of his previous trip were perfect.  He had fabricated a trip where nothing bad happened, and the experience was once in a life time.

This reminded me of a quote from Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly:

Nostalgia is a dangerous form of comparison.

For Alan Soloman, the traveler in this case, trying to compare his most recent trip to his first one might have ruined the entire experience for him.  Realizing that his brain had fabricated a fairy tale of the earlier trip, helped him to enjoy the ups and the downs of his train trip through Europe.

In my context, I often think back onto my days at Kensington Church as without flaw.  Even here at Willow Creek, we can sometimes get caught up in reliving the glory days.  This makes me think of a couple things.  One is that, like Alan, most of what we remember is made up, and never quite happened.  The second is that while we can learn from the past, only talking about the past doesn’t help move things forward.

As a technical artist, much of my existence involves working with other people’s ideas.  Not that I don’t have my own ideas, I just don’t exercise that muscle very often.  Because of that, it is easy to reach back in time and just compare what isn’t working today with what worked in the past.

How can I stop using the past as a solution for the future?  

Understanding the past is essential for not repeating the same mistakes over and over again, but the future needs new ideas and new thoughts.

what works today may not work tomorrow

OK, I promise this is the last post about 37signals.com’s values, mostly because it is their last value…long-term contracts are obscene.  Check this out:

No one likes being locked into something they don’t want anymore. Our customers can cancel at any time, no questions asked. No setup/termination fees either.

5553480697_bc32ed241b_bWhile those of us involved in the technical arts in the local church don’t really deal with contracts in the same way, I love the heart behind this value.  It doesn’t make any sense to develop a system or a process or a product, and then make people use it, even when it ceases to meet the needs of the moment.

As the person that needs to figure out how to get ideas turned into actual things, it can be really easy to want to lock in that idea early, so that I can have time to get it done.  Over the years, I have gotten so attached to something I have been working on, that I will hang on to it even after it has ceased to be useful.

Whether it is a meeting schedule or a process for getting ideas brainstormed or how our production meetings are structured, I have noticed that it is very easy to get attached to these things.  Not because they are useful anymore, but because that is how we do things.  This gets us into having a “contract” that we’ve locked our “customers” into, even though it doesn’t serve their current needs anymore.

We always do it that way. 

Does anyone know why we do that?  Is it time to re-examine some of the “givens” that we have been working under?  It might turn out that there are great reasons for some of what we do.  It might also uncover the fact that we have a process that is outdated and needs to be re-imagined.

At the baseline, production exists in the local church to support the ideas of the service creators.  Are we set up to support these ideas or are we set up to support the ideas of another era?

If our processes and “contracts” aren’t what people need any more, why still doing them?  When was the last time you looked at how you are doing things and really evaluated their effectiveness?


AttributionSome rights reserved by xcorex

can’t have one without the other

In the last post, I talked about the two kids who fought over an orange and eventually figured out that one wanted the peel and the other wanted the fruit inside.  In a similar way creatives and technical artists want two different parts of the same whole: a great process or an amazing end result.

104314187_c3aecdd45b_zWe both want the service to be amazing and moving, yet we both have a very different focus for how to get there.  So how do we go after this ideal from our different vantage points?  Here are some ideas:

Technical Artists:  Explain what you need

For you technical artists out there, in order for the process to get better, you need to be talking with your creative counterparts about what you need.  And not just a list of demands, but a conversation about why certain deadlines matter or helping people understand why the budget is bigger than expected.

If your process isn’t the best now, is there something you could do to help make it better?

Creatives:  Work hard at giving your team what they need.

Most technical people I know aren’t just making up deadlines and budget numbers out of thin air, they actually mean something.  If you are someone who is creating services, work hard at understanding what a process could look like for your production team, then work really hard to provide them with what they need.

If the technical artists on your team feel like you are doing your best to make the process the best it can be, this will reap huge dividends in teamwork and relational equity.  You’ll suddenly have a group of technical artists who are excited about helping your ideas become reality, which unfortunately isn’t a common experience.

Creatives:  Explain what you need

For the process to be good, the production needs to have a great understanding of what you are thinking.  More important than this, is a willingness to enter into dialogue about what’s possible and what isn’t, without feeling like your idea is being attacked.  For technical artists to help make your idea a reality, we need to hear your ideas and your passion for your ideas, in conversational form rather than just a one way flow of information.

If you can help technical artists get a vision for your heart and intent, you will open yourself up to being amazed at what an engaged production team can do to make an element or event far more than you originally imagined.

Technical Artists:  Work hard at giving your team what they need.

As more work is being done of the process side of the equation, it is important to acknowledge all that work the creative side is doing, by rolling when the changes come.  With the creative team working hard to give you what you need on the front end, now it is time to give them what they need, which is a willingness to make whatever changes are possible to make the service the best it can be.


The orange is made up of the peel and the fruit.  You can’t have one without the other.  A service is made up of creative content and the technical arts, and in most of our churches, you can’t have one without the other.

As we get closer to understanding the needs of each other, our services will only get more and more effective…and we’ll enjoy working together.


AttributionSome rights reserved by Muffet

how great services are like an orange

There are two sides to any large event.  There is the event itself and then there is how we get to the event.  For many production minded people, the process of getting to the event matters more than the event itself.  Without great process, chances are high that excellence in  production will have to be sacrificed.

76057601_e6b2c1799e_zFrom a non-production stand point, maybe we could call it the creative stand point, once we see the idea, if it isn’t good we need to change it.  At the end of the day, if something isn’t working, who cares if the process was amazing.  So what often times happens is the process is the first thing thrown out the window in the light of making something that is actually worth making.

As a leader, I am always trying to balance out the needs of production…process, with the needs of the service or event.  I tend to lean on the side of doing what is necessary in the moment to make the service happen.  However, I have noticed that when we have really tried hard to make the process work, then change plans, I am much more ready to do whatever is required.  If the process has been bad, I am usually worn out from all the changes I have already had to make and I tend to be less willing to do whatever is necessary and still have a good attitude.

Unfortunately, the natural wedge that exists between creatives and technical artists is made wider by bad process.

To a creative, process feels like shackles that hinder creativity, while process is the life blood of the technical artist.

For a creative, being able to adjust in the moment feels like a non-negotiable, while the tech artist wants to know everything that is going to happen so they can prepare.

Like the two kids who fought over an orange and eventually figured out that one wanted the peel and the other wanted the fruit inside, creatives and technical artists want two different parts of the same whole.

How can we work on giving the other what they need, so that we can have the outcome we all want, which is to partner together to help create life changing moments for people?



AttributionSome rights reserved by Muffet

carry one another’s burdens

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Honestly, I want to apply this to other people.  “Hey you!  Carry my burdens!”  I want the benefits of other people fulfilling the law of Christ, without having to stretch myself.

6801058060_2609eb388a_zMany times, other people’s burdens have the potential to be heavy.  And many times my burdens are heavy enough without adding someone else’s problems to the pile I’m carrying.

After reading this verse a few times, I have realized that it doesn’t say, “Let others carry your burdens.”  The way it is worded suggests that someone has to start the carrying of other’s burdens.  If we all naturally jumped in to help each other, Paul wouldn’t have offered up this command.

So if everyone is feeling like me, that I want someone to carry my burdens, there is potential that nobody will lift a finger to help each other.  Unless…Unless I do something about it…Unless you do something about it.

How about we stop waiting for someone else to make the first move to lift a heavy load, and go after it ourselves?

Instead of waiting to be understood, what if you went after understanding?

Instead of wishing that someone would help with a big project, what if you jumped in to help with someone else’s project?

In the world of the  local church, there are some unfortunate, but very real barriers between the technical and creative arts that need to be broken down.  That won’t just happen magically.  Someone needs to make the first move to carry one another’s burdens.

Let it be you.



AttributionSome rights reserved by Kal111

wishing things were different

I run into fellow TDs who wish things were different.  That they had different people on their teams, or a different sound board, or a different drummer on the 3rd rotation of bands.  If I only had “____”, then things would be great.

Church Saint Eugénie in BiarritzI recently wrote an article about this idea for Sundaymag.tv, a free online resource for people pulling off services every weekend to encourage and to help raise the level of creativity at your church.  Check it out here: Waking up to Opportunities.

One of the cool parts about this blog is that is isn’t just about tech stuff, but it covers leadership, creativity, worship…basically every area involved with making weekend services happen.  It has the potential to be a common resource that you and your creative arts counterpart to both access and help foster discussions for working better together.

Check it out.


Attribution Some rights reserved by Eusebius@Commons