pace yourself

As a tech person, I love to go to concerts and shows to see how people are using technology.  A couple things usually happen.  I’m inspired, then depressed.  They have way more money than me, they have tons of great content to make better through technology and they have months of time to rehearse and nail the timing and precision of each cue.

With the weekend rolling around with predictable regularity, it seems impossible to pull of what I see on TV or at the latest touring show, yet that is what we have many times been asked to do, with less time and less money.  For many years, my tendency was to go for it, every week; to push the envelope and do something new and hopefully amazing.  I was trying to chase after what I saw out in the “real world” and to accomplish what I thought people we asking me to do.

As time passed, I began to realize that I couldn’t keep up the pace.  Doing something incredible each week started to take it’s toll.  And for those of you who know me, you know that my wife started saying “come home early” because of this crazy treadmill I had jumped on.

Here are a couple things I learned:

Don’t make everything new and cool.  Doing something new always takes way more time than you planned, simply because you have never done it before and have no real idea how to plan.  Along with that, it is generally more expensive than you planned.

All that said, some of my most memorable times in ministry involved me trying something new and cool.  Sure I was at work until 2 am.  Sure my budget was depleted.  Sure my kids didn’t recognize me any more.  But I had been a part of doing something that helped move people closer to Christ, and potentially changed their eternity.  As an added bonus, it was also pretty cool.

I think we all need to go for it every now and then.  If my whole life was just maintaining the status quo, I would go crazy.  I don’t know about you, but I was created to dream and to think outside the box from time to time, and always coloring inside the lines doesn’t sound like the way I want to spend my life.  So what can we do?

Pace yourself.  In exercise, it is important to stretch yourself beyond what you normally do in order for muscles to grow.  Learning and growing as a human being requires you to push past normal to do something out of the ordinary.  I run on occasion.  When I just imagine pushing myself to the limit every time I exercise, my hips and knees start to hurt.  Our bodies need time to recover and adjust to the new, just like our lives need time to recover from pushing ourselves, after Christmas, after Easter, after that crazy.

I know that I have written a few times about figuring out what normal is and maybe this seems like a contradiction.  If you haven’t figured out normal, your normal will become like mine was, crazy, every moment.  It isn’t possible.

As you push your technical self from time to time, what was a stretch yesterday is normal today.  What you wouldn’t even think of doing a year ago now seems pretty ordinary.  Doing something incredible every week can’t be sustained, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go after the dream every now and then.



revisiting normal

I am on a flight back from an event where I facilitated a table of TDs from local churches.  It was amazing time to connect with people who are in similar situations and have similar challenges.  We spent a lot of time talking about what is working well, what isn’t, and there was a particular subject that kept coming up.  Either these TDs were at a church where you were required to work at least 6 days a week, or a TD was at a church where they had 2 days off, but they rarely took them because there was too much work to get done.

Changed Priorities Ahead

This seems pretty normal in church production and it is one of the contributing factors to such widespread burnout and bitterness among TDs.  What can we do to change this trend.

Be realistic about what can be accomplished in week.

Someone at my table said that his senior pastor jokes with him that what he does is so mysterious that the TD doesn’t even really know what he does.  The role of TD is like being an auto mechanic.  We all need one, we don’t understand what they need to do to fix our car, but we just write the check.  We need to be ruthless to quantify what we do for our bosses, so that we aren’t just complaining that we work too much.  Take a month and keep track of every hour that you spend editing videos, updating Planning Center, cleaning your storage closet, whatever.  This exercise will help you get a handle on where all your time goes, as well as providing documentation for the people who lead you, to help them understand what is involved.

What can only you do?

Once you have all this data, sit down and figure out what you uniquely contribute and should be doing, and what things could you delegate to someone else.  This is a good place to start trying to figure out what needs to be done and what you should stop doing.

What is mission critical?

If you schedule is overfull, you will need to eliminate some things.  Sit down with your boss and go through the list of things that you spend your time on.  Get help to determine what you can stop doing and what is critical for church to continue to happen.  This can be a difficult exercise since everything seems mission critical or else you wouldn’t be killing yourself to get it all done.  The other challenge will be that your boss might have a different set of priorities on what is critical and what isn’t.

It is important to come to an agreement on what will and what won’t get done.  Mike Sessler, from Coast Hills Church was at my table and he recommended Andy Stanley’s book “Choosing to Cheat“, as a great resource for figuring out how to step back from working too many hours.

Letting go

For each of us to be in this for the long haul, we have to be ruthless with our time.  The list will never go away.  there will always be more to do than time to do it.  The abundant life that Christ offers us requires us to let go of control of certain things.  Are you willing to let go of some good things and hang onto only the most critical for you and your church?

There are times when long hours are necessary, but living with no margin to refresh, recharge and recenter yourself will ultimately only hurt you, your ministry and your church.


Creative Commons License photo credit: add1sun

the golden age

I was on a flight recently where I watched the movie “Midnight in Paris”.  The basic idea is that the main character is unhappy with his current sitution and dreams about a time in the past that seems more like a golden age.  People were more interesting, amazing things were happening, it was basically more perfect.  Through some mysterious method, he ends up in the 1930’s, in the very magical time he had been wishing for, and he is hanging out with all the amazing people he was only dreaming about earlier that day.

When he gets to this better time, he meets someone who is dissatisfied with her current situation, and dreams of a different golden age, of an earlier time.  Spoiler alert:  the main character realizes that he needs to start looking at the present as a golden age and live a different way.

As the people on my team are all too familiar with, I can tend to look back to my years at Kensington Community Church as my own Golden Years.  Even on our team at Willow, it is really easy to look back to the past and think about all the amazing productions we have been a part of and think back to a more magical time.

Looking back is interesting to me, because I am pretty sure things are never as amazing as I remember.  And if I fast forward into the future I would guess that people will talk about the era that I live as the best and most perfect time to be involved in production in the local church.

Seeing this movie and thinking about how much golden era thinking I do, and those around me do, amazingly, just like the main character in the movie, I started to realize that now is the Golden Era.  Now is the chance to create something that will effect people now and in the future.  Now is the opportunity to stop wishing for something from another era, and to create a whole new era, now.

Regardless of what era you are living in, it never seems quite like we are living in amazing times.  But what if we started to act like our era was the most incredible time?  What if we lived life, right now, like we believed the current era was special?  Golden years are great to look back on, but looking back doesn’t do any good unless we let them inform what our present can look like and what the possibilities of the future could be.



Creative Commons License photo credit: moleitau

a sleepless night

The other night, I woke up at 1:30 and couldn’t sleep, which is not normal for me.  When this happens, the thing that usually puts me back to sleep is reading.  It doesn’t matter what the book is.  It could be amazing or boring.  Both kinds will put me to sleep.  So I picked up my e-reading device and started reading.

Now,  no offense to Gary Molander, but I figured his book “Pursuing Christ, Creating Art” would do the trick.  Instead of falling back to sleep in 5 minutes, against all my expectations, I couldn’t put the book down.  One of the many sections I read was called “Missing the Mark”, where Gary talks about how easy it is for artists to be critical of the people in leadership over us, and it hit a little too close to home.


I was most awake during the section called “I Can Struggle to See the Big Picture”.  Gary says:

“I think my stories are the biggest, and the most important stories being told.  The lead visionary of the organization sees the clearest portrait of the organization’s story.  I do not.  The key leader gets ticked when the organization isn’t reaching its full potential.  I get ticked when my software takes too long to render.”

I am one of the first people to admit that production isn’t the most important thing all the time, but these words put this into an even brighter light.  When I think of the reason my pastor gets me graphics late, or that he wears a shirt that a mic has a difficult time clipping to; knowing that he is worrying about a mountain load of things that never even enter my mind, puts all the “short comings” into perspective.

We all have a lot to think about and plan for.  Our job as technical artists in the church is to care deeply for the things we were created for and then to execute to our best ability.  Our pastors need us to do that each week, otherwise the church wouldn’t function properly.

We must also cut our pastors some slack.  They have more going on than you or I could imagine.  I want him to care as much about my area as I do, and so does everyone else that works for my pastor.  Our pastors are carrying a mammoth load that I cannot comprehend.

Next time you wish your pastor cared more about your stuff, pray for them.  Pray that God would help them shoulder the burden of leadership to lead your church where God wants it to go.


photo credit:  Some rights reserved by igb