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don’t say someone’s “no” for them, part 3

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Given the title, it shouldn’t be a shock that there is a part 1 and a part 2 to this. In part 3, we’ll look at a more subtle way that I can say someone’s “no” for them.

When a pastor asks me for something that seems undoable, my knee jerk reaction is to NOT tell them how difficult something might be, I just do it. And as a result, I’m saying “no” for them.

For me, I feel responsible to make stuff happen, so I don’t say no.

When someone had a crazy idea that I wouldn’t know how to do with our current resources, I would spend the only capital I had: my time. I would kill myself make an idea happen, without ever talking to the idea person about the costs involved. I used to make an assumption that the person asking knew what it would take and they were asking for it anyway.

By not having a conversation about the cost of an idea, I was wasn’t giving them an opportunity to say “no”. I generally assumed the answer would be “yes”, so I didn’t bother asking.

Then one day, I had an idea of my own.

When my boss would have some crazy idea, I would try to imagine how I could get him to say “no” to his own idea. At first look, this might seem like I was pulling one over on him. In reality what happened, is that I learned how to present several options and let him choose.

Instead of being deceitful, I ended up learning the valuable lesson of providing solutions to the challenges instead of just killing myself to pull of the idea and then becoming resentful and bitter.

Sometimes my boss would say “Yes. We are going to do it.”, but more often he would pick one of the more doable options.  Over time, I noticed that he would choose doable over “no” pretty much every time.  I also noticed that when he said we needed to move ahead with something that seemed undoable, I knew he wasn’t taking it lightly.

This pattern helped us develop trust over time. We started to see each other’s point of view as essential to make things happen. Instead of feeling like we were always on the opposite side of a problem, we acknowledged that we were coming at from different vantage points, and we celebrated it. We needed each other.

When we say someone’s “no” for them, we short circuit the opportunity to get to true collaboration.

don’t say someone’s “no” for them, part 2

It's a No!

Yet another post about saying “no” for other people. (check out part 1 here)

This one is one is based on a stereotype of tech people everywhere: We always say “no”.

Usually we say it with attitude. Many times we don’t even hesitate; it just comes right out of us.

“Hey I have this idea to..” “NO!”

We don’t even wait for the punch line.

I think this comes from being overwhelmed by the task we already have in front of us, and from a general misunderstanding of what we actually do by the people with the ideas.

I think the reasons that we jump to “no” so quickly only perpetuate being overwhelmed and misunderstood.

With our production team that works the weekend service, we have been doing a lot of work on becoming one team with our creative team counterparts.

When we say “no” so fast, it doesn’t allow the creative team into our world. They will never understand what is going on under the surface if we never open up the conversation about why we are overwhelmed.

Contrary to what I used to think, people with awesome creative ideas tend to not to fully understand what it will take to pull it off…that’s what we are there for. I think this is the way God designed us to work together. But it only functions properly if we open the door to what is really involved.

Opening yourself up requires, well, opening yourself up. To either acceptance or rejection. Either becoming more like one team or becoming more separated.

Working production in the local church requires some relational risk taking. Without opening yourself up to the possibility, you are shutting down the very thing that will help your creative and technical arts work the way God designed it.

Take a chance. Don’t say “no” immediately. Talk about what is really going on. You might be surprised by the response.

 

 

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photo by: smlp.co.uk

don’t say someone’s “no” for them, part 1

Bill Hybels wrote a book called Axiom. It is a collection of leadership values that he uses to help make decisions. From a leadership standpoint, I have found it to be invaluable. I say it is a must read. He does a great job of distilling leadership principles into easy to remember phrases.

Say No to Yes

Don’t say someone’s “no” for them, is one that I need to remind myself of often.

There are a few different ways that I say people’s “no” for them and I’ll reflect on some of them over the next few posts.

the big ask

When I am looking for volunteers to help with an event, I tend to not ask, assuming they will say “no”. I’m saying “no” for them.

Whether it is because I don’t think an event is worth someone’s time or it’s too much work or it is something I personally wouldn’t volunteer for, I make choices for other people all the time.

We are getting ready for an event in a couple weeks that I assume nobody would be interested in volunteering for…so I didn’t ask. After getting to a point of desperately needing people, I realized what I was doing.

On one hand, I was saying “no” for everyone by not asking. On the other hand, I was depriving them of an opportunity to use their gifts. Gifts that God has given them to serve the local church.

By not asking, I’m making assumptions about people and I’m not giving people to choose.

Is it because I don’t have a vision for how God wants to use people for His purposes in the local church?

Maybe it’s because I don’t like rejection. If I never ask, then nobody can say “no” to me.

The Body of Christ was designed for us all to play a part; to participate. By not asking, and saying “no” for someone else, I am stopping God’s plan for His church from happening.

I need to ask, and let people decide for themselves.

I need to ask, to give people a chance to participate in what God is doing at our church.

I need to ask.

 

 

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make the right behavior easier

I really enjoyed the book “Influencers” by Joseph Grenny, who was a speaker at this past year’s Leadership Summit at Willow Creek.  Here’s another great quote from the book:

Make the right behavior easier and the wrong behavior more difficult

When I think about what separates great production from bad, much of it can be solved by following this great advice.

When I was doing set up in a rented high school theater we had a difficult time getting rehearsal started on time. After years of frustration, I started keeping track of how much we could actually accomplish in the time we had available. Not surprisingly, we were trying to cram too much stuff into the short amount of time we had, with the people at our disposal.

What we ended up doing was figuring out what a “normal” set up looked like, so that we would know if we needed more people or more time to get it done for rehearsal to start on time.  We made starting rehearsal easier by figuring out how to get there.

For years, when we would play a video in our services, the background music would overpower the people speaking.  So now we split the talking from all the other audio, so that in the moment we can adjust in the moment.  We also check the videos on Friday to make sure they look and sound good, so that we aren’t scrambling around on Saturday afternoon to fix a problem.

I recently helped at a fundraising event. There were lots of wireless mics involved, which are typically unreliable at this venue. While I suggested we shouldn’t use them, the organizers of the event overruled me. Guess what, 3 out of 4 mics failed during the event. With every speaker standing behind a podium, we could have eliminated 95% of the risk by using a wired mic.

Now that I’m reading back through this post, it is less about right and wrong behavior and more about reducing error by eliminating points of failure; building systems to minimize “wrong behavior”.

In your world of production, how can you develop ways for your team to have good outcomes and avoid bad outcomes?

 

 

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Isaiah’s words to technical artists

“Build up, build up, prepare the road!
    Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” – Isaiah 57:14
I love this verse.
Even though it was written thousands of years ago, it feels like a rallying cry for technical artists in the local church.
It is why we are the first ones in the building each weekend, and the last to leave.
This past saturday, I bumped into one of the founders of our church. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. He asked me why the production team was there so early. I told him that’s what it takes to make our services distraction free.
He thanked me and the team, and went on his way.
We were practicing Isaiah’s words.
Being in a dark auditorium before anybody else is there can be lonely. But it is what it means to live out “removing the obstacles.”  Staying long after everyone has gone home is another version of this.  We are just setting ourselves up for the next opportunity to “Prepare the road.”
What you do matters, and it is way bigger than you being the one dumb enough take the crap job.
Building up the stage; building up the graphics; building the lighting plot; is all apart of creating an environment for people to have an encounter with God.
When you are wondering why you are the only person left after a rehearsal, remember Isaiah’s words:

 

“Build up.  Remove the obstacles.”

 

photo by: Moyan_Brenn

your identity

I had the privilege to help lead the Technical Director’s Retreat at the WFX conference in Dallas this year.  If you have never heard of this or have never been, this part of the conference is worth checking out.  It is a chance to hang with other TDs, staff and volunteers, from churches big and small from all over the place.  I love it because it is a place that I can be reminded that what I do matters, and that I’m not the only crazy one.

Anyway, at this past year’s event, I talked about the story of the sisters, Mary and Martha, and their encounter, or lack thereof, with Jesus.  Here’s a refresher from Luke 10:

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I don’t know about you, but this story baffles me…at first.  Then it starts hitting a little too close to home.

While Martha was doing what she was made to do (I’m sure she had a hospitality gift), somewhere along the way, she had turned the party into the most important thing, instead of Jesus.

And since the party wasn’t going super great, she was losing it on her sister and on Jesus.  My guess is that her identity was wrapped up too much in what she did and not in Jesus.

I love that I have had the privilege over the years to work at a job that I love and feels like what I was made to do.  Unfortunately at times, this becomes more than what I do but I derive my worth from how well I’m doing at my job.

I do need to do a good job.  I want to do a great job.  How God sees me has nothing to do with this.  Whether I succeed or fail.  Whether there is feedback or a missed graphic, God still feels the same about me.

Am I so wrapped up in my role as a technical artist in the local church, that I lose sight of my true identity?

 

 

 

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is Jesus just a job to you?

I have been working in production and serving in the local church for most of my life…like 3/4 of it.  Whether it has been as a volunteer or a staff member, I have spent quite a bit of time in church.
Last week, pastor Eugene Cho came to speak to the Willow Creek staff.  He talked about a few things, like the fact that his youngest son’s name is Jedi!  As a Star Wars fan, you have my attention!
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One thing he said in particular hit me pretty hard.  He read from Luke 7 where Jesus is having dinner at a Pharisee’s house.  While he is there, a sinful woman comes in an anoints Jesus’ feet.
It is a story that we have all heard before, but Eugene pointed out that this house is full of a bunch of religious leaders, who are watching and listening to Jesus from a clinical, almost academic perspective.  Here’s a group of people who’s full-time job is God.  Understanding the law, following the law, making sure other people are obeying the law.
They aren’t engaging with what Jesus is trying to teach them, they are just pulling apart the details.
As technical artists in the local church, I think it is really easy to fall into this way of encountering Jesus.  We are in the room, but we are only aware of the things that we care about.  Are the graphics working?  What is the mic placement like?  Do we have the CCLI number for the song at the end of the service?  I’ve talked about this before, but the gifts that we have been entrusted with, helping create environments for people to experience God, can put us in a place where we only experience Jesus through the lens of production and not as simply a Christ follower.
If I were honest, sometimes I check the box of “going to church and getting fed” just because I am at work.
If I were still honest, I am not really going to church and I’m not getting fed while I am at work.
If I were honest one more time, I would admit that I can go for long periods of time not developing spiritually.
As a group of people who spend a lot of time in church but aren’t really “at” church, we need to be more intentional to be around Jesus in other ways.  We need to look for opportunities to experience God in less clinical, less academic, less work related ways.
What is one thing you could do to make Jesus more than just a job to you?

silence to violence

I have been a tech person in the local church for the majority of my life.  Can I really be that old?  Yes, is the answer.

When I look back into the dim early years of existence, I remember a time when I used to get pretty frustrated with people.  I mean really frustrated.  Having the music director add an instrument at the last minute would send me over the edge.  Getting a call late on Saturday night to bring some large thing the next morning would usually send me into a fit.  People repurposing equipment without telling me would also get me all riled up.

If I think about it, much of the things that drove me crazy were people ignoring my boundaries.  I felt like no one had any respect for my life or what I needed to do my job well.

From the outside looking in, what most people saw was me going from “silence to violence”, a phrase I read in Joseph Grenny’s book Influencers.  To the people I was working with, they knew me as a pretty quiet person, until I would suddenly explode.

From my perspective, it seemed like I had communicated my needs to people, and that they should have known that they were violating our agreements.  I need all the band information on Friday, so that we can come up with a plan for how we are going to make it all fit on Sunday morning.  Or because we are portable, I need to know what you need thrown on the trailer by Saturday morning so that the volunteer driver can make sure it makes it to church.

In reality, I wasn’t communicating.  At least, not on a regular basis.  I made assumptions that other, non-technical people understood my world as much as I did.  It turned out that they just didn’t care.  And not in a bad way.  The reality is that they have a ton of other things to worry about just making their own thing happen.

How can I communicate on a regular basis what I need to get the job done well without seeming like a nag?

The creative people we work with will always have ideas that outpace the realities of the equipment we have and the time available.  And they should have these ideas.  It is our job as technical artists to foster these ideas and help shape them into what can be accomplished.

Instead of hearing an idea and getting silently angry because there is no way to do that with the resources we have (and you should know this), we need to communicate often about what is possible.

The idea generating people aren’t out to get you, they are just trying to generate ideas.  Have you ever tried to come up with idea out of thin air?  It is not easy.  Let’s not make it more difficult by passive aggressively wishing people would consider the technical feasibility of their ideas.  That’s your job.

For the partnership of the creative and technical arts to work, we need lots of communication.  Don’t hold it all in and then explode.  Work things out along the way, with grace for each other.

photo by: gnuckx

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.

does God speak…to me?

When was the last time you heard from God?  When was the last time you were listening for God’s voice?  As a tech person, I tend to find myself back in the booth just trying to facilitate what other people have heard from God.  Hearing from God is something that happens to other people.

I have been reading my way through the gospels and right now, John the Baptist has just seen Jesus for the first time and says “This is the Son of God.”  Throughout this encounter with Jesus, John is saying things that we would consider not normal:  doves descending, voices telling someone what to do, God’s son showing up.  Again, these are all things that happen to other people, whether that’s in biblical times or just other people I hear about.

I got to thinking, that I don’t expect anything remotely like this to ever happen to me.  I live my life, I make choices, I pray, I journal, I go to church…but I don’t typically expect to have God speak directly to me.

The sad part, is that I would say that I have had at least 5 encounters with God that I can’t explain, and yet I still assume that God speaks to other people and I just facilitate that.  My life would be very different if I hadn’t responded to those promptings.

What would my life look like if I really expected God to speak?  Or what if I slowed my life down enough to actually have space to listen for His voice?

Now I’m thinking, it is one thing to hear God’s voice, but John the Baptist actually did something about it.  He got down to business baptizing people, wearing burlap and eating locust.

Taking this a step further, what about the promptings I get that I don’t act on?  What would happen if I followed these promptings and trusted God for the outcome?

I feel like this applies beyond big life decisions to every day life.  I had a season in my life a few years ago where I felt very unsettled and wanted God to give me the answer to what to do with my life.  Instead, every time I asked the question:  ”God, what do you want me to do with my life?”, I would put my pen down and wait for an answer, and it was always something like, apologize to this person for what you said yesterday.  I would get so frustrated.  I’m not doing that!  Where’s the big answer?

Eventually I realized that if I am unwilling to follow a prompting to apologize to someone or to give a gift anonymously to a person or write a blog post about hearing from God; why would I think that God would entrust me with some bigger life altering word.

 

 

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