120 Days ago…

I did the scariest thing I have ever done. Yes, more terrifying than asking my in-laws to marry their daughter, scarier than watching my sons being born, and yes, even scarier than that time I ate at Waffle House 5 consecutive nights.

120 days ago I walked into my bosses office at one of the best jobs I’ve ever had and said, “It’s time for me to leave.”

God in his infinite wisdom had made it very clear that my time at Northview Church had come to an end. A time that I could have kept going at for an addition 5+ years. I loved my job and the people there. So many memories, so many friends. I wrestled hard with God for weeks leading up to that decision and every time I doubted Him, He showed up in a bigger way to prove my fears wrong.

I didn’t have the faith just to walk away; I had a family and a house payment, so I needed a paycheck as I am dependently wealthy. Thankfully a job was provided as well, a job that I wasn’t anticipating but had “I’m God, and I’ll take care of you” written all over it. Now, here I am, 120 days later and God’s plan in all this continues to unfold and little by little it makes sense.

Where did I go? Well, I’m glad you asked.images

Allow me to introduce you to CTS. Here I wear several hats as I found out I have a lot to learn. I am now the Project Manager for the installation department. I take a church that has hired us to do an upgrade and walk with them through the process of installation and training. CTS is a great company, and I am blown away by how they treat their employees and the churches they serve. This has been a change for me and caused me to stretch but in all things God is good, right?

 

I am also staying busy writing for my various favorite publications. Church Production, Worship Facilities, and Technologies for Worship have all graciously allowed me to stay on their radar and contribute.

In all this change, I was reminded of why I got into the Audio/Visual arts in the first place. I wanted to help churches. While my tradition into the secular world was one, I fought very hard against, I am finding myself engaging in more ministry opportunities than ever before.

I will leave you with this while I am not at a church currently in a serving role; I am still very much active in the tech community. I hope to continue to reach churches through various forms of media including this blog while working at CTS. My promise to you is that my advice will alway remain unbiased as it relates to integrators.

Thanks for taking an interest in where I am, and I look forward to connecting with you!

Make sure to follow me on Twitter: @shaunrmiller

 

 

 

Lonely Island of Tech Directors

Previously Posted on Churchproduction.com

I have written in the past about how being a tech director can be a lonely gig, and how it’s important to find a community for your own spiritual health. My heart has lately turned more outward, though, and I have been looking at the community as a whole. I’m not sure about where you live but from here at my church I can see two other churches, and beyond that I could easily walk to four more. I think the saying about swinging cats and hitting churches comes to mind here (not sure why you’d swing a cat at a church, but I’m open minded.)

Here is my question: Do you know the tech person at the church closest to you? Do they even have a tech person? Maybe they have a volunteer that is doing the best they can and is feeling overwhelmed.

I love Jesus’ prayer in John 17, where he is praying for unity of future Christians as he has unity with the Father:

20 “My prayer is not for them [current believers] alone I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

I am a big believer in the idea that we’re all on the same team. I’m at a non-denominational church, there is a Methodist Church on the corner, and Lutheran Church on another corner, Christian church in the other direction. For me, I am far less interested in what divides us as Christians, because I can rally around what unities us and that is Jesus Christ.Here in the Indianapolis area we have a group of tech directors that meets every month for lunch. Sometimes we’ll have a leadership lesson, other times we just get together and talk.

Often, the conversation is just too good to interrupt. The great thing is that it doesn’t matter the church, your size, or if you’re paid staff. So many different bodies of believers are represented it amazes me. I’ve made some great friends through this monthly get together. I’ve also made some great friends by just pulling up to a church and walking in and introducing myself. Through this, I’ve been able to come alongside them and help them out in their ministry.Like I said before, we are not islands in the tech community. You (yes you) need community for your own spiritual well-being. However, you may also be a blessing to someone else who does feel like an island, just by reaching out. Learn from what makes our churches unique from one another and how we can help each other out. Find ways to partner together, because can almost guarantee there are more unchurched people in the neighborhoods around you than all the churches in the area have seats for.

We’re not in competition; we’re on the same team. Go in Peace.

Lessons Learned – Guest Speakers

I learned a great lesson this past weekend. We’re in the middle of our summer series at church called the “Summer Spectacular.” Our senior pastor is on a sabbatical to celebrate his 15 year anniversary. Because the church still goes on in his absence, he asked a bunch of his fellow pastor friends to fill in. We hit the ground running with these speakers a few weeks ago, and I love the energy, and fresh perspective they are bringing!

When my pastor preached, those of us on staff and the volunteer team know almost exactly what he is going to say weeks ahead of time. He stands in basically the same spot and we know what vocal cues to listen for to advance slides or anticipate changes. Not that his style is bad by any means, but we’re accustom to it because he’s our pastor. We’re only getting to meet our guest pastors hours before the service.

This past weekend we had Mike Breaux, Pastor of Heartland Community Church in Rockford, IL as our guest pastor. He was funny, challenging (sermon-wise not to work with) and an all around genuine guy.

Mike Breaux preaching at Northview Church
Mike Breaux preaching at Northview Church

I thought I had crossed off all my check marks preparing for Mike’s arrival. I had his mic and backup mic ready and tested. I knew he wanted a tall pub style table versus a podium and that he didn’t need any special AV hook up on stage – Easy right? Well, I learned I needed to add something else to my list for future speakers.

We use a large TV on a rolling cart as a display for the pastor’s notes. That way we don’t have to go full screen on the I-Mag, which takes away the image of the pastor for the video venues and campuses. Instead, we do a two shot with the camera and show the TV with the scriptures or illustration on it.

Example of Two Shot - showing TV with Scripture on it.
An example of Two Shot – showing TV with Scripture on it.

 

 

Our stage has spike tape all over it, marking where the vocalists stand, where the podium is supposed to be placed, and even where the TV is to be parked. We even spiked the table slightly to the left of where the podium would go.

Pastor Breaux took the stage, and I quickly realized I had not anticipated that he would favor one side of the table over the other. I made an assumption that he’d stand on the right side of it. This made the TV useless for our purposes of using it with I-mag.

Luckily, no one lost their salvation or their job over it, and my rock star team made the adjustments for Sunday morning.

Having all these guests come in are a great way to keep things fresh for our congregation. But it also keeps us production guys on our toes. Two weeks previous the pastor went off script and called for a video out of order, for a group that is used to reading a script, we put up the wrong video. The video director assumed the service director was just calling the wrong number video. It was like a scene our of a cold war movie where the missile silo operators struggle with the orders to launch.

Mistakes happen and we roll with them, 99% of the time, no one in the audience notices them. If we can learn from them and be better in the future, then there is no sense dwelling on them.

What is something you’ve prepared for and then realized after it was too late you forgot something?

 

 

Easter T-Minus 30

Easter is coming, whether you’re ready or not. The countdown has begun and it’s T-Minus 30 days now.

5647221685-LI love Easter – it’s a celebration that never gets old. In the production/tech world, this is our chance to pull out all the stops. Doing this usually leads to many moving parts working as one to create a large scale “production.” Keeping those parts in order can take some massive juggling skills. Being someone who is blessed with ADD, I get easily distracted. Because of that, I work very hard to create systems to keep things in order and help me grow in my project management skills.

Project Management, could be a post in itself – and it will be – it is the first step I take in leading my team through the process of preparing for Easter. The key for me is to not look at it as though it is this enormous project, but break it into manageable steps. Instead of boring you with all the little things, here are the big three I am working on to make sure I’m prepared. These can then be broken into smaller tasks using a web based software called Teamwork.com.

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Outside Help

Have you ever said something to someone and have them brush it off, only for them to accept the idea when presented by another person? While that may be frustrating, I have found it can be helpful when working with production in teams. Getting a fresh perspective from an outsider can be just the boost your team needs. This is exactly what we did at Northview last week when we called in some outside help.

2014-03-16 08.41.17

We have been talking for quite some time about how we can better our team members – both staff and volunteer. We could send everyone to a conference, but the reality of getting volunteers to take vacation time to go to a conference isn’t very likely. Plus the sheer cost is a real concern as well. This is where I started thinking about having someone come to us.

A few years ago I met Chris at a concert that was happening at Northview. I was blown away by his ability to mix that concert. Hands down, he had one of the best mixes I had heard in all my years around audio. I immediately emailed him after the show asking for tips to improve our mix, because this guy was good. It became very evident that I needed to bring him in for a hands-on intensive training. Lucky for us, his current tour is on a break and he was available.

Now, I’ve been mixing sound for 12+ years. I’ve toured the country working in arenas, at festivals, and countless churches. I know my way around a slew of audio consoles, and have trained more people than I can count. When Chris cleared our console, setting it back to zero, I could feel my brain going blank. I don’t mix regularly anymore and could sense my stress level rising. With Chris walking me through his method of mixing, I had killer sound (using Virtual Soundcheck) in a matter of minutes. I had a lot of bad habits to break, and new things to learn. 2014-03-14 16.19.21

Over the course of 3 full days, we sent multiple volunteers and our staff team through this one-on-one training, which has drastically improved our weekend mix. His fresh eyes and ears looking over the elements of our PA system were a huge help.

2014-03-16 09.03.28

I am not trying to shamelessly self promote myself here, as I offer this type of service to churches. I want to show that no matter where your experience level is, having someone come in with a fresh perspective can be very beneficial. For what we paid to bring someone in, we saved thousands over sending people to a conference. We also would have never gotten the one on one training, or fresh eyes on our equipment from a conference. (Not saying conferences are bad, I love them, but they have their place).

This experience also acted as team-building time for us. Those of us that went through the training are energized to continue to get better. Maybe the pro for you is a tech from a church across town, it could be me (Consulting,) or the trainer from a manufacturer. Either way, I encourage every church to invest in their teams and find a way to get some on site training and bring in some outside help.

How do you learn best? Share it with me won’t you?

3 Things To Do Before January

The new year is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking of all those resolutions you want to make. You know the ones you make with the best of intentions and then get side tracked only a few hours later by the cookie aisle at the store. That one might only be me, but I’m sure you can relate somehow.

Here are the three things I am doing to start the new year off.

1. Choose a Word
A few months ago I was reading about the idea of choosing one word to focus on during the year instead of a laundry list of wishes. Since I’m already blessed with a short attention span, creating a list of things I want to work on is overwhelming. Plus, weight is always at the top of the list, and I should be working on that anyway, not just because it’s January.

For 2014 I’ve chosen the word BRAVE. As I have grown this year as a leader, writer, and a father I have learned that I can be cowardly at times, (I am singing, “If I…Were the King…Of the Forest” right now incase you care.”) I habitually back down from confrontation and find myself doing anything I can to keep the peace. I cannot be an effective leader tis way. Which is why I want to work on it in 2014.

Like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone, “This is it, Don’t Get Scared Now.” I need to step it up and be courageous this year. 


Sarah Bareilles – Brave

2. Establish a Goal
Choosing a word to focus on for the year is great, but I need to set some goals to ensure I’m living it out. Goal setting is a proven method for improvement. It helps direct your focus and attention towards the results. While it may seem like I’m cutting hairs between setting a goal and making a resolution, I’m not. Resolutions tend to be large statements and  according to a New York Times article, by March, only 50% of those who made a resolution are still sticking with it. Goals are smaller, attainable  things. Think of it as the difference between a resolution of “I’m going to lose weight in 2014” and a goal of “I’m going to lose 2 pounds a week.”  Goals just have a more achievable ring to them.

3.Road Map How to Get There
I have a word, I have a goal, now what? I need to establish a plan of attack. How will you lose those 2 pounds a week, or in my case not back down from confrontation? Having a plan will help me stay on track and give me a of  measuring results/progress. Now your plan will look different from mine, the important part is writing it down. Writing out your goals and the plan for attaining them is a powerful way of  motivating you to stay on track. (Check out Michael Hyatt’s post on this here.)

That is what I am working on before midnight December 31st. I write my goals and the results along the way in EVERNOTE where it syncs to the cloud so I never lose it and keeps it password protected.

Have you given any thought to what word is right for you in 2014? Share it with me in the comments below.

Happy New Year!

With Great Anticipation…

Tonight I sit in my office at home, unable to sleep. Not because I have had too much coffee, or from heartburn keeping me awake. I’m awake because I’m to excited to sleep. In a few hours my small family of 3 will become 4.

I’m amazed that even though we’re adding to our family, love multiplies. I do not have to love Shane less to give love to Shiloh.

I wasn’t blogging when my first little man was born, but over the years I have written many letters to my first son Shane. He is such a blessing to me. I promise to get back to church and production related stuff soon, but I’m overjoyed now and have to share.

Shiloh,
I want you to know how much I love you. Though we haven’t met in person, I have dreamed about you, prayed for you, and even talked to you. You don’t respond with words, but as I would place my hand on your mommy’s tummy you would kick and roll with excitement. That gives me such joy, I can’t wrap my head around the fact you’re alive in there. In a few hours, I will hold you in my arms and look at the miracle that you are. I have wondered what your personality will be like. Will you have your mother’s ability to organize or my sense of humor, will you have my eyes or her nose? So many questions that never have to be answered because they have no bearing on my feelings for you. I will mess up buddy, please forgive me. I don’t do it on purpose, but what I will do is everything I can to be a dad you’re proud of. I want to be your hero, and your friend. Shiloh, you’re about to change my world and I welcome it! I love you buddy.

– Dad

 

Do you hear what I hear?

Christmas is here, and after today it’s time to put away the CDs, delete the playlists and in my case store the vinyl records. But while we’re still officially in the Christmas season, I need to air some issues I have with one carol in particular. This carol used to be a favorite of mine, then as I sat in my car one day waiting for it to end, listening intently to the words I found myself scratching my head.

According to ASCAP’s (THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS) Top Ten most played Christmas songs of this year, the only song that mentions Jesus’ birth comes in at number 8. Hearing this deepened my frustration since the song “Do You Hear What I Hear?” is not an accurate representation of Christ’s birth. (See what the other 9 songs were here)

The song plays like a game of telephone, starting with the night wind asking a little lamb, “Do You see What I See?” then the lamb asks the shepherd, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” The shepherd goes to the “Mighty King” in his palace warm and asks, “Do You Know What I Know?” The King then declares to the people everywhere, “Pray for peace people everywhere…The child, sleeping in the night, will bring us goodness and light.”

The song starts simple enough, wind talking to lamb, that’s believable right? I can even get past the lamb talking to the shepherd, I am sure it gets lonely out there and they may have conversations all the time. When the shepherd goes to the king is where the wheels begin falling off the bus. The writers of the song go the extra mile to let us know that the mighty king lives in a palace warm and the that this child is freezing in the cold. What do they suggest to bring the child? Blankets is what you want to say as a human with a heart. But… NO! Silver and gold, they declare that they need to take him silver and gold. I guess maybe he could buy a blanket with his new-found fortune? Also, why not offer to bring this child into your palace so warm that just HAD to be mentioned earlier?

Now to the Jesus stuff, if this song is about the birth of Jesus, the writers are cray, cray (that means crazy in case you’re lost). We know from the Gospel of Matthew that Herod the Great was king at the time of Christ’s birth. He was not about to welcome the birth of the savior and gave orders for  the child to be killed. Herod also never met the shepherds, only the Magi who saw the star, not the shepherds (A star, a star, Dancing in the night, with a tail as big as a kite.)

This song that I thought held such rich meaning to me in the holidays, is actually a horribly inaccurate retelling of Christmas Eve. It now ranks right between Marry Did You Know and  Christmas Shoes.

I will let it go for the next 11 months, I promise I won’t dwell on it. There are more important issues in the world for me to devote brain power on, like figuring out who the heck Randolph is in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Merry Christmas!

9 Services and a Baby

I love this time of year, it evokes such memories and warm feelings. Now I am not looking at Christmas through rose-colored glasses and I haven’t spiked the nog. My past is dented with some not so cheery memories but I choose to move past those. The Christmas I choose to remember is full of happiness.

There is a reason that even the music of this season is timeless, it takes to a place of pure joy. Whether it is Bing Crosby or Michael Bublé singing, you can picture yourself in the song. I am in my happy place.

Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post Cover – Via www.saturdayeveningpost.com

Since I work at a church, this is also our busy season. I am in service 5 of a 9 service run that will encompass my week of Christmas. It’s a lot of work, but it is my favorite time of year because of the meaningful work we do. We have planned and rehearsed, laughed and fought, but in the end things are working like a well oiled machine. My team here at Northview are amazing and make it a more magical place to be than Disney World. The guys I lead and work with are a huge blessing in my life.

Here is the opener from this year’s service:

While on the subject of blessings, my wife and I are also celebrating the impending birth of a baby this week. Our second child, Shiloh Miller is due to arrive on the 27th and I could not be more excited! His big brother is ready for him to be here too. Our lives will be very different this week and I’m ready for it. (We’re also happy that it’s Jesus’ birthday too)

Finally, I appreciate you the reader. Many of you have commented, shared, or told me in person how much you enjoy this site. I cannot tell you how humbled I am by the fact that you read this, the ramblings of an ADD amateur writer. I thank you, and am excited to continue writing in the new year.

From myself, my wife, and our two kids, have a Merry Christmas!

 

Now Rest! – 12 Days of Christmas (Posts)

I would say do not read this post until December 25th, but that would defeat the reason for posting it now. I want to wrap this series up by giving you permission to rest.

Take a cue from these animals. Photo By: jenyac
Take a cue from these animals. Photo By: jenyac

I’m not your boss, but I’m still telling you that you need to take it easy for a bit. If you have been around the church for even a short amount of time, you know that there are busy seasons and slower seasons, an ebb and flow to the schedule. However, it often seems more ebb than flow. Your church will most likely see a huge increase in attendance over the next few weeks. You’ll feel the urge to continue the production level that has happened all Christmas as a means of “attracting” them to come back after the new year. Without getting into a “church is not a show” conversation I want to caution you from not taking time to breathe.

Maybe ease into the next series with some single messages (One ofs) that don’t require a large amount of staging. It’s very important to make sure that the many hours put in over the month of December are compensated with some much deserved relax time in January.

I like to use the first part of January to let my guys work on whatever makes them feel good at work. Everyone has that project they wanted to accomplish all last year but couldn’t find the time. Well the clock has started over and it’s best to get it out-of-the-way first before everything else begins piling on.

Also make sure you spread the accolades. Thank the volunteers, thank your staff, and please, don’t forget to thank the spouses who gave up time with their husband or wife so they could be at church. You can never say thank you enough in these situations.

Well I hope your services go off without a bang? Unless you’re using pyro then I hope it’s awesome and know I’m jealous.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Now Rest!