it’s worth it

I gave an interview for a local magazine the other day.  Being interviewed always makes me a little uncomfortable, but I agreed to it, so I gave it.  It was a local magazine highlighting local businesses, and they were interested in knowing more about the Global Leadership Summit, hosted every year at Willow Creek Church.  They wanted to talk to me about the technology involved to pull off a live broadcast event for North America, and then how we rebroadcast it to people around the world.

Eggsravaganza 2012

Sitting in front of the blank page of this blog, already worn out from the stress of the Easter production coming up, a question from this interview popped into my head.  I’m not sure if they asked the question or if I just started talking about it, but the idea of “Why do you do this?” came up.    Hopefully the answer I gave will help remind you and me why being worn out from Easter matters.

I could do production almost anywhere, for any reason.  Many of the people I work with do some free lance side work, and it is generally corporate meetings or product launches.  At the end of the day, these meetings are all about making more money for shareholders.  The side work is helpful for a couple reasons.  One is that it helps to earn some extra money for individuals from time to time.  The other reason is that it is a great reminder of the privilege it is to work for a purpose greater than shareholder value.

As you live out the run up to Easter, remember that we get to do this!  You can work your butt off and be just as tired as you feel now, all so a company can make more money, or you can do it all so that people can hear the gospel message.

Whether you are on staff at your church or a volunteer, you are investing your time for the sake of people.

[Pause.  Think about that.]

Lives will be changed forever by your efforts this week and next.

[Pause.  Picture someone you know.]

All those long hours you are putting in or will put in, are for the sake of those who are far from God and will hear of his love for possibly the first time. 

[Pause.  Let this thought help you to the finish line.]

In case you don’t hear it from anyone else, “Well done.  Way to go.”

[Pause.  Believe it.]



Creative Commons License photo credit: University of Delaware Alumni Relations

lowering the bar

I hate this idea.  I hate using it as a title for this post.  It goes against everything in me as a technical artist.  I don’t consider myself to be a perfectionist, far from it.  You can ask anyone who has helped me with a home improvement project.  I want things to be done the best they can, but perfection takes too long…and is impossible.

Talking about production in the local church, when things can be done well, they should.  If something is within my power to accomplish, I should do it.  This is a lot easier said than done.  Enter the picture:  picking up kids from school, a less experienced volunteer behind the console, just coming off a week of working 5 nights in a row, bad footage, blown bulbs in the perfect light…and the list could go on.  There are tons of obstacles that get in the way of doing an excellent job; some inside and some outside of our control.  These cause us to make decisions on lowering the bar.

Lowering the bar isn’t exclusively a technical question.  Many times we lower the bar by staying late to get an edit just right and not going to our son’s basketball game.  We can lower the bar by neglecting our personal development by working non-stop on the urgent all the time.  We tend to lower the bar by not talking honestly with our worship leader and stuffing our frustrations too long.

For many of us production types, we have a singular focus, and that is technical excellence.  We don’t want to hold up rehearsal.  We don’t want to be the bottleneck.  We want to be able to accomplish the impossible without help.  For us, lowering the bar equates to not doing our best all the time on the task before us.

Maybe we have defined success the wrong way…or at least not completely enough.  Success means the technical arts in the local church need to include developing new volunteers more fully; it needs to include how engaged we are with our children; it needs to also include us as individuals becoming more like Christ.  Does this mean we exclude always increasing our capacity as technical artists?  No.  Does this mean we stop trying to raise the bar, because excellence honors God, reflects his character and inspires people?  No.  Do we lower the bar because it’s too much work to keep it raised high?  No.

Becoming a mature technical artist in the local church requires us to define each day what success looks like; where we are going to choose to raise the bar and where we need to choose to lower the bar.  These are not easy choices, but choices that need to be made none the less.

being in 2 places at once

I struggle with this…being everywhere at the same time.  Running from meeting to meeting.  I am usually on time to the first one, but then late to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.  I feel like everyone is waiting for answers from me and can’t do their jobs well.  I am a bottleneck.


Am I crazy?  Or is this just something that comes with being a leader?  Am I a control freak?  Do I have a difficult time letting go?  Do I have too many opinions?  Am I involved in too much?  I’m not even sure what the point of this post is, except that I am struggling.  By trying to be everywhere at once, I feel like I am nowhere all the time.

Those of you who read this, and know me, this is probably not news to you.  Often waiting for answers to emails that have by now been buried in my inbox.  Or waiting in my office for me to show up to a meeting that I scheduled with you.  Or even just walking by my office and never seeing me in there.

Is the answer shorter meetings?  Is the answer less meetings?  Being involved with less?  Saying “no” more?  More disciplined meetings?  Less personal interaction?

For those of you who have figured out how to be everywhere at the same time, what is your secret?


Creative Commons License photo credit: Mrs TeePot

how would ninjas do this?

The other day, my team and I participated in a thought exercise that Steven Sample, author of the book “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership”, talks about.  When he was faced with a particularly difficult challenge, he would try to imagine how a lady bug would solve the problem, or even how a dishwasher might think about solutions.

DAY 28/366: Watch Your Back

The idea was to try and think differently about how things get done.  Not to just think differently, but think in radical terms, to free your brain from constraints and preconceived ideas about how things are done or should be done.  I decided that I would consider how ninjas might do production at my church.  It was a fun exercise, and most of the ideas, if not all of the ideas we had were ridiculous and impossible or both.

It got me thinking about how we go about doing production for our church and the ministries that we support.  So much of what we do and how we do it is a function of either how we have always done it or because we are processing things based on production values alone.  During the exercise, nothing really popped out as wrong thinking or that there needed to be crazy changes.  What did jump out to me was wondering what matters to our church, especially when it pertains to production.

I do a lot of defining expectations for my team, mostly based on my production perspective.  I can’t remember the last time I asked the church leadership what they expected from my team.  Is audio consistency the highest value or is volunteer involvement the most important thing?  Is a short rehearsal critical, or should we allow for more time to work through the kinks?  Is having cameras pointed at the wrong thing a problem, or do we need to increase our level of camera work?

I am feeling pretty sarcastic even asking these questions!  As a production person, I am guessing we would all answer these questions in a similar manner.  However, if you have chosen to invest your production skills in the local church, at the baseline you know that the point of all this production is to help to facilitate life change.  If all you cared about was production values, you could go on tour or work for a production company or any number of places, where there is more money to do things at the highest levels.

I’m not saying that excellence doesn’t matter or that production doesn’t have a place in the church.  On the contrary, I am very passionate about the role that technical artists play in the life of the local church.  However, my passion and values have to be balanced against the passion and values of my church.  What is my church about?  How does production fit into how ministry happens?  How do we have an appropriate level of production without just spending money on the newest gear, that may be exactly what we think our church needs?

How many assumptions do you make about what your church leadership thinks about production?  When was the last time you asked the question:  “What are the expectations?”  Take a look at what you and your team are about and try to imagine how ninjas would get that done.



Creative Commons License photo credit: dcosand

stuck in the middle

Ever notice how production people don’t completely fit in anywhere?  In a creative brainstorming meeting, we are the ones trying to figure out how to make something happen.  In a operations meeting, we are thinking creatively about how to get something done.


On our team, we have been talking quite a bit about the operation side and the ministry side of our church.  Typically there is a line drawn down the middle, showing the two sides of what makes our church run.  For many people, it seems easy to classify the accounting department as being on the operations side, and the youth pastor on the ministry side; the person cleaning the facility after an event on the operations side, and the worship pastor on the ministry side.

When it comes to production, we have a foot in both camps.  We are intimately tied to the ministry that is happening all over our church, but we are also figuring out more practical operational type things also.  In a single meeting we are brainstorming new ways of making an element in the service better through the technical arts, while we are also trying to figure out how to fit all our inputs into the channels we have.

In a creative meeting, there is a whole side of me that is thinking about how to plug in 4 giant inflatable moon walks for a middle school event and which circuits I am going to plug them into so that I don’t blow a fuse, all the while someone is asking me if a worship set list will work or not.

This can lend itself to me feeling like I should just be sawn in half, so that the part of me that needs to deal with the operational side can focus on it, and the creative side  of me can just sit in the moment.

The reality is that God created me to live with a foot in two worlds; to understand two different perspectives in any given situation; to think differently from anyone else at the table.  Instead of wishing that more people thought like me, I should relish the thought that I am the only one with my perspective and that the way I think is vital to my church functioning properly.

If you are a technical artist in the local church, you know what I am talking about.

How can you fully embrace what feels like a split personality?  What can you do to function more fully as who God made you to be? 


Creative Commons License photo credit: whlteXbread

a positive “no”

As a technical artist, I sit in a lot of meetings where seemingly impossible ideas are flying all over the place.  In those situations, I have to work at letting the sky be the limit for as long as possible.  This isn’t easy.  I immediately start going into “figure it out” mode, and since many ideas can fall outside the realm of doability, I can tend to squash the brainstorming process.

Don't Do Anything Sign

I have noticed over the years, that because I don’t generally carry the burden of whether an  idea is a good one or not, or whether it will actually make a service better or not, it has been easier for me to list all the reasons why an idea won’t work, and not offer up any suggestions myself.  In my mind, I had thought to myself:  “Its your job to come up with the ideas, and its my job to execute.  So just come up with another idea.”

Somewhere along the way, probably “when I was at Kensington”, I realized that I wasn’t really interested in simply executing someone else’s idea, but I wanted to be a part of creating something together; to bring the best of all the art forms together and make something amazing.  Now the goal was collaboration, and just sitting back and waiting for workable ideas to come my way wouldn’t work any more.  Just saying “No.  What else have you got?” became obviously unacceptable.

Now, when I am in the sky’s the limit situations, the goal is to take the ideas and make them work.  To not just say something can’t be done, but to help figure out other options for creating the same idea.  To be a part of the creating it, instead of killing it.

As a tech person in brainstorming situations, how do you think you are viewed?  Do people expect you to shoot down their idea?  Or can’t they wait to share their idea with you because you’ll figure out way a way to do it, or to tweak the idea into something workable, or to make the idea better?

At the end of the process, maybe the answer is no; maybe the idea isn’t possible.  However, along the way, have you fostered the idea that you are a “no” tech person, or have you been a problem solving team player working hard to make the service the best it can be?



Creative Commons License photo credit: Lynn Friedman