Germany Leitungskongress – 2

We have completed our first day of load in and it did not disappoint.  Walking into the venue for teh first time, we started with a blank slate and by the end of the day, had accomplished a herculean task.

At a certain point, our team decided it was time for lunch and while we were eating, we could hear the band rehearsing the songs for each session, preparing for the 7000+ people attending later this week.  The band and vocals are made up of 6 band members and 6 vocalists; they are the face of the conference.  The thing that struck me was that there were about 100 technical artists working to facilitate the efforts of the 12 people in the room next door.

I have never been so taken aback by the number of technical artists relative to creative artists on stage.  It is close to a 10:1 ratio…10 “support” people for every person on stage.  It was a visiual reminder that it takes a ton of all different kinds people to make an event happen, even more than were represented by the ones I could see yesterday.  This idea alone feels like a future blog entry.

The beautiful part about this production, is that we are all doing it for the sake of a compelling vision…helping the leaders of Germany’s church lead more effectively.  Most of the technical artists in this room work in many different environments, at very high levels, yet they choose to use their gifts for something much greater.  Not only that, but they have been jumping in to help with whatever needs to be done.  Run cables?  Got it.  Set up risers?  Done.  Cover unused chairs with duvo?  I’d love to.

The picture of a common goal and a servant’s attitude inspires me every time.

Germany Leitungskongress – 1


Our team from the US has begun the journey to Stuttgart, Germany.  On the ride to the airport, the 5 of us riding on a Willow shuttle, courtesy of Dan Selop, we’re commenting on how few of us there were.  It seemed like last time we were a lot more of us…like the bus was packed with luggage to the ceiling and people sitting on to of each other.

Thinking further back, the first time I went on a serving trip with the Willow Production Team to Germany the team was huge.  Back then, we were a group of technical artists, traveling to another country to help carry the Willow production values to an event that we just happened to be pulling off somewhere other than our church.  It was tons of work and lots of fun, and the goal was simply getting the event up and running and executing the content for 2 1/2 days of the conference.

Fast forward 8 years.  We are bringing the smallest group of technical artists from the US simply because there are now so many local volunteers who have the expertise to pull off the event.  For the team from Willow, the trip this year is still about getting the event up and running, but it is more about the transfer of values and the ideas of what it means to be a part of the Willow Production Team.

After a certain point, mixing one more event in one more venue isn’t enough…at least not for me.  I am really hoping that this trip is another opportunity to release a little more so that the German church can be served Germans.  And looking at our crew list, I am amazed at the talented technical artists I get to serve with, most of whom speak German as their first language, but all of whom speak technical arts as their second.

“we should do this more often” – part 2

In my last post, I talked about an event to celebrate our amazing volunteer production teams at Willow.  One of my key learnings was that we needed to put stuff on the calendar for it to happen.  As production people, we are so used to others determining our schedule of events, and it is important to take control of our calendars enough to make sure celebrating volunteers, whatever other important thing you need to be about, shows up.

Snack carnage

Now it is one thing to put an event on the calendar.  It is another thing entirely to make it worth coming to.  As promised, here is another thing I learned getting ready for our volunteer event:

Spend the time to make it meaningful.  I already mentioned that I am worried about something failing as a reason not to do it in the first place.  Just having an event in someone’s calendar isn’t enough, if it isn’t worth coming to.  How will you use the time?  What is the point of our getting together?  What do we want people to feel when they leave?

Our staff team has a super fun Christmas party each year, and every year I know I have to wrap up the evening and say something meaningful in 5 minutes.  I spent hours trying to come up with the right thing to say.  I have been to enough events where it felt like the people in charge we just winging it, and that feels dishonoring.

Take the time to make something memorable and significant.  Don’t waste the gathering by not casting some vision or encouraging your team.  What they do is significant, and someone needs to pour into them with words.  If you don’t seize this opportunity, don’t waste your time scheduling the event in the first place.

As a leader, invest the time to make each event you plan worth coming to.



Creative Commons License photo credit: droob

“we should do this more often”

We had a volunteer celebration for the entire Willow production team the other night.  It included production teams from all the ministries at our South Barrington campus as well as all of our regional campuses.  It was amazing to see such a wide age range of like-minded people together in one place.  From the minute I walked into the room, I was so proud of the team I lead and get to be a part of.

Aloha January!

While the party was going on, I kept thinking, “We should do this more often.”  The sad thing is that we hadn’t done an event like that in 6 years!  The only reason I know this, is that we gave out production ministry t-shirts with a big ’06 on the back, that I still have.

Reflecting back on this and other big gatherings of our team that fall outside of the every day, getting the job done type of tasks, I was reminded of a few things that I will share over the next few blog posts.  The first thing is:

Just put something on the calendar.

I am not a huge fan of planning large events where I am the one responsible for people having a meaningful time.  What if it fails?  So instead of taking the chance, I tend to never put them on the calendar.  I have noticed that when the word is out, and there is no turning back, there is now a deadline to make something happen.  Retreats, staff meetings, celebrations…you name it.

There are so many things that are good for us to be about, but will never happen unless we plan for them.  The other thing that will happen if you don’t put it on the calendar, is that your calendar will fill up with a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter as much.

Similar to “If you build it they will come” from the movie “Field of Dreams”, if you put something on the calendar, you will be prodded to make something happen and your volunteers will come.

Plan something.  Put it on the calendar.  Trying and failing is better than not doing anything.  Your team needs you to take a chance.

So now it’s on the calendar…now what?  Check out my next post.

[Disclaimer] – I didn’t actually put this particular event on the calendar, my team did…while I was on vacation.  They just told me we were doing it. :)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Rosa Say


I have written about this before, so I’ll try not to sound like a broken record.


Going into any big event, as a production person, I would like to nail down every detail and then execute those details exactly.  Having been at this for a while, I have come to appreciate the reality:  we can only know so much about what is really going to happen and there will always be a certain percentage of unknowns.

I personally translate this to mean that I can probably only know 80% of what is going to happen…at best.  The other 20% just up for grabs and I need to let it stay up for grabs.  Now that I understand that this is how things go, I want to plan like crazy for the 80% I can know.  In my situation, this looks like:  Who’s in the band?  What instruments are they playing?  What songs are we doing?  What is the form of each song?  What is the stage layout?  If I can know it, I want to.

When I am fully prepared for the 80%, I am ready to handle the 20% that I can’t plan for.  How many of you get to service time and and then things happen that nobody planned on?  Stuff just happens sometimes, and I would rather be ready to handle it.

So often, we do a bad job of being fully ready for the 80% and so can spend extra energy during rehearsal on that stuff, instead of working on it when there isn’t as much pressure.  This looks like:  inaccurate cue sheets, extra band instruments at the last minute, people not knowing all their words, disregard for deadlines, etc.  When I am spending all my time during rehearsal trying to play catch-up, I don’t really have anything left for the changes that happen in the moment, and to me, those are the ones that matter.  So many of our most moving moments are last minute and unplanned.

I can only speculate on what is behind all this.  I have a sense that all this preparedness is difficult for people who want things to remain organic, in the moment and not feeling over-produced.  I also know that creativity and inspiration can hold out until the last minute.  Unfortunately for the production side of things, we can’t really get our stuff rehearsed without there being a plan.

I realize that this has turned into a rant.  What can I do about this?  What will help me feel prepared for the 80%?  Keeping after it.  Not giving up.  Continuing to push for being prepared as possible.

Helping to create a great service is the goal, doing it while not restricting the creative arts at every turn feels important…doing it while not dishonoring the needs of the production team feels just as important.

We all need each other.  If you are a worship pastor, understand that your production team wants to create amazing services with you, but have certain needs that feel like handcuffs to you.  They aren’t trying to paint your worship set into a corner, they just want it to be incredible, and can only do so much if everything is last minute or not fully prepared.  If you are a technical artist, understand that asking for 100% accuracy in a production meeting isn’t possible.  Figure out what can be figured out, then relax.

How the creative arts and the technical arts work better together in 2012?


Creative Commons License photo credit: Mary-Kay G

resolve thyself

What is it about January 1st that gets people reevaluating their lives?  I’m doing it.  Why?  It is just one more day on the calendar, but there is something about the beginning of something that makes me want to take a hard look at my life and figure out how to make it better.

Stones and Pebbles

Without stopping, or just slowing down, and examining 2011 how can I hope to improve on the areas that need improvement?

Usually around this time of year, I think about the illustration of how to fit a few big rocks and a tons a pebbles into a bucket.  If you put the small pebbles in first, the big ones will never all fit.  If you make space for the larger rocks first, there will be plenty of space for the smaller rocks.

I know that my life is full of small pebbles.  They seem to be everywhere.  I am pretty good at just making space for those things  simply because I haven’t taken the time to figure out what really matters to me.

Being a production person, I spend a lot of time reacting to other people’s plans…small pebbles.  As technical artists in the local church, much of what we do is responding to the needs of the moment…small pebbles.  This part of my existence is inescapable.  But what can tend to happen for me is that it becomes my entire reality.  As a leader of a ministry, I can’t afford…my team can’t afford for me to get wrapped up in only responding.  If you are leading a team, they need you to spend time on bigger issues.  Improving a process…large rock.  Planning retreat…large rock.  Recruiting more volunteers…large rock.

One of my ideas for my own life, involves a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Guard well your spare moments.  They are like uncut diamonds.  Discard them and their value will never be known.  Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”

I can’t tell you how much time I can waste, simply because I don’t have a plan for how to use my spare moments.  I don’t want to waste them this year.  This doesn’t mean I can’t relax or take it easy, but it does mean that those moments will be strategic instead of just happening because I haven’t thought it through.

Coming up with a plan is one thing.  Sticking to it is an entirely different matter.  Here is the kicker for me:  the power that God used to raise Christ from the dead is available to me.  This past weekend, Blaine Hogan, one of Willow’s creative directors quoted 2 Peter 1:3 in the service:

3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Spending time coming up with the resolutions necessary for a full life is one huge hurtle.  Sticking with them is an entirely different the challenge.  When I am faced with the choice of following through with a resolution or disregarding it, I have been trying to remind myself of the power at my disposal to choose what I have resolved to do.

Have you set aside time to identify what the most important things in your life are?  

When you do, remember that God has given you everything you need for a godly life.


Creative Commons License photo credit: DaveLevy