Good Neighbor Weekend

I am going to brag on my church (Northview) here. This weekend we conducted our annual Good Neighbor Weekend. We canceled services and sent the entire congregation out into the community to serve. Why I love being at Northview is that we believe enough in what we preach to put it into practice. Jesus calls us to: “…Serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).

The group I was in this morning was serving on the South-Side of Indianapolis. We were landscaping a community area in a neighborhood, and it was amazing. Not because we were landscaping but the neighborhood’s reaction to us. They were coming out of their houses to bring us coffee – one guy even made a cake. Another family joined in to help and opened their home up to people needing a restroom. This community was shocked that a church on the North-Side that they had never heard of, would come love on them. It was a true blessing.

 

The effort and man hours it takes to organize this is incredible. Our Outreach team spends months getting places for the church to serve, getting people placed in groups and so on. I have to say their team is impressive. I had it relatively easy this weekend with a small band and 2 vocal mics to deal with at the send off party. They had to get 4,000 people to sign in, form groups and then travel to their location to serve. My hat is off to you Outreach Team!

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Acts 20:35

The other reality of the matter is it costs a lot of money for the church to put this on. It’s a whole lotta faith that our leadership has that our people will remember to tithe. Even though we’re not meeting as a body for a structured worship service, the bills still have to be paid. As our Lead Pastor Steve Poe (@pastorsteve) said at the commissioning service, “We decided it was more important to get out and serve .” That is why I love my church. We’re real.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”- Dr. Suess

 

Finally, this isn’t a once a year thing for us. This is the only time we shut down church as a whole, but there are always projects to be done, and people to love on. I know going forward I am going to make sure I am more involved in making a difference. I tend to get very caught up in my own ministry and its needs and not see the world outside the church. The Scripture is true: You’re more blessed when you give than when you receive. 

Why are you still reading this? Get out there and serve someone.

Need and idea on how to get involved? Check out the Good Neighbor Site 

[twitter_hashtag hash=”gnweekend,gnweekn” number=”10″ title=”Good Neighbor Weekend Tweets”]

Back to work (soap box speech)

I am back to work today after some much needed time off. It was a great time of reflection for myself and a time of healing for my family. See, in my previous post I discussed coming face to face with burning out. I was able to use this time to show my family how important they are to me, even more than my job. To prove it, I left my phone off, purposely didn’t check my email, and just spent time with my wife and young son. It was refreshing. I came back into work today to prepare for the weekend service, over the past several months this time preparing has been done by the “Grumpy Tech Director” because resentment and bitterness was welling up inside me. Today, I kid you not there was a song in my step (the assistant technical director wanted to slap me). God refreshed my spirit, I feel awesome and empowered to go about the work I have been called to do.

As I pulled into the parking lot that after a week off, I noticed that the church was still here. Now I know that seems silly to notice a 100,000+ square foot building, but I have somehow convinced myself that if I took time off the church wouldn’t survive. This ill-conceived need causes me to have a such a hard time unplugging from work. The weekend services won’t happen if I’m not there, the volunteers won’t know what to do if I am not there to lead. That’s pretty prideful isn’t it? To think that without me, God couldn’t meet his people is pretty outrageous pride. God has showed me that He’s in control and He wants me to rest. God rested on the 7th day and the universe didn’t fall apart did it?

I recently talked with a volunteer on my team. At one time he was a full time tech at another church in town. He shared with me that he had gone 2 years without taking a break. Working weekends, mid-week rehearsal and all the other things that go into the job. I feel so bad for him, because now, he’s just beginning to get back into church. These kind of work habits snuffs out your spirit like a candle.

I encourage you to take that vacation, use your day off, remove yourself from work. There is never a good time to take a vacation – there are always big things going on, crises will always happen. Believing in that false “need” that things won’t work if I’m not there is a dangerous place to get. What I have found is that coming in fresh from a vacation allows me to be much more productive. Now I know many people who say that coming back from vacation just adds stress. Don’t let that keep you from taking that time. No matter what you tell yourself, your body and mind needs you to take that downtime.

Start with jut your day off, then a weekend, then a week. Ease yourself into it, I assure you, you’ll never be the same. Take it from a recovering work-a-holic.

 

Burnout

Burn out is all to common in today’s church. Maybe it has been rampant for years, but I am only familiar with it going back as far as 1995 or 96 when I started getting involved. Those in ministry know that Christmas and Easter are busy and there are no complaints from me there. The problem comes in when every week is like Christmas, and there is no rhythm to the work load. This leads to burn out. I have looked burnout in the eyes twice in my ministry time. I have been so close to burn out, I offered it a Tic-Tac.

I love to work hard, and it doesn’t help that in the church I am paid to do the thing I would work just as hard for if I was a volunteer. So, in a way I am predisposed to burning out if left to my own. Burnout leaves only two options in my mind – Option 1: Leave that Ministry or Option 2: Realize what it is, seek help from those you trust, and fix it. I have tried both options, Option 2 is by far the better. Option 1 leaves you bitter, angry, and hurts relationships. God has not called us into ministry so that we can be used up and tossed aside. He wants us to be healthy and productive, but how do we get there?

This past week I had hit a wall, our team was down a guy and before us was not just any mountain of work, this was back to back mountains. There wasn’t a nicely paved path either to ascend to the top. Due to situations out of our control our buffer window on these two projects had collapsed and both had to be done simultaneously. Now, a week of hard work isn’t bad, but this work was on-top of my already full plate. I had finally hit a wall and this left me zombie-esk wandering around the building in a sleep deprived state. With weeks of 10 hour days being a “DOer” I’d come home, open the laptop and put on my “Leader” hat for another 5 hours. I was seeing my family more via FaceTime than in real life.

When you hit a wall, it hurts…

My ministry was left bloody and hurting, wondering what was going on. Suddenly I was not doing my job for the glory of the Lord. Resentment had taken hold, anger was brewing and frankly I was about to Auto-Tune the sermon and walk away. I was no longer a team player, I was a team complainer. This is a very dangerous place to be in ministry. If left untreated it leads to wounds that are very hard to heal. Knowing this, I reached out to the leadership team above me. Surely, they do not want me to fail, surely they don’t want my job to cause a disruption in my marriage. But why were they allowing this to happen? Can’t they see what’s happening to me? It turns out that as tech people, we’re very good at making what we do seem simple. We blend into the background – we’re the closest thing you’ll see to an actual ninja. We make it look easy, and we push until the job is done. I have yet to meet a tech guy that keeps banker’s hours. Our schedule is based on projects not work hours.

I cried out…

God is very creative in His timing. This past weekend while I’m hitting the wall, my senior pastor preaches a sermon on “Play” a sermon about having margin in your life. (I highly encourage you to watch it here.) This sermon, empowered me to go to my leaders, and in tears tell them I need their help, or I was going to suffer from total and utter burnout. They heard me and without going into details of all the fixes, I am writing this post from time off that was granted me, and with much higher morale. I found out through just talking to those in leadership over me, how valued I was to the team, how much my sacrifice meant to them and that I was not just a mule hired to get the job done.

Preventing Burnout…

Preventing burn out is a team sport. I really takes you understanding yourself, and your leadership understanding your limits. I love what I do, so I tend to become a work-o-holic, pushing through to complete my tasks. I don’t always see what I do as work so those lines get blurred as well. Since as I like to say, I “*Make miracles happen,” (with complete humility, of course) my leadership has a lot of trust in me. That trust usually means more and more responsibility. Then with the added responsibility I don’t want to let them down even more and a vicious cycle  ensues.

  • Communicate your needs, no one knows you better than yourself, if you’re not telling those in authority over you that you’re in danger of overload there isn’t much they can do. They may just think everything is fine.
  • Surround yourself with people who know you. My wife is my biggest cheerleader, she’s also my biggest reality check. I also take part in a monthly Tech Director Lunch, if you don’t have one of these group in your area, start one. This is such a pick me up each month.
  • Establish boundaries and stick to them. I have wanted to full out smack people who tell me, I just need to learn to say “NO.” My response was always, No isn’t an option, I need this job, if I can’t do it, they’ll find someone who can. This is not a healthy attitude, if your church or business is asking you to sacrifice family on the altar of ministry or work, it’s time to leave. I have started forcing myself to turn off my work email on my iPhone when I come home. That way I can still play Angry Birds, but not be tempted to check it. Even if I get a personal email, my work email doesn’t show up in my inbox. I also have a contact policy for when I’m on vacation, Only call me if people’s salvation is at risk. Meaning, if it is going to keep someone from engaging with the Lord that weekend then call me, and I’ll help. If one of the Line-Array falls from the ceiling, you still have the other 2 arrays, people will hear the message. (Realistically, if the Line-Array fell, I would want to hear about that.)
  • Go home at the end of the day. If you’re at all like me, you have a To-Do list longer than Santa’s naughty and nice list. You’re not going to complete it all in an 8 hour day (sorry to be a downer.) Do what you need to do that day and get home. I try to tell myself to work smarter, and as a very ADD person, this can be a challenge. I love starting projects, I need to stay busy, but my family needs me more.

I know these may seem like you have heard them all before and that’s true, you have. I haven’t found the secret formula for weekday success. I am just trying to apply what other people much smarter than I am have implemented. I don’t have this all figured out, but am trying daily to keep a healthy work/life balance and not burn out in ministry. I’m no good to the Kingdom if I become bitter and burned out towards it.

 

What are some ideas you have or use to avoid burnout?

* Disclaimer: I am not calming to be able to pull off actual miracles

 

Let’s Get Together

Tech Guys in churches are islands. I am not sure who coined that phrase but it is so true. The team that is first to arrive and last to leave often goes unnoticed. They are also often times not understood, “What do you mean we need a video switcher? We just bought one 10 years ago.” So while staff meetings are good, and going to lunch with other departments is a great thing, (see my other post: Taco Tuesday) you need some solidarity with like minded people.

Here in the Indianapolis area we have a group of Tech Directors that meets every month for lunch. We gather on the 2nd Wednesday at a central church and meet in their common area. Sometimes we’ll have a leadership lesson, other times the conversation is just to good to interrupt. This time together re-energizes me, it allows me to talk through issues and get new perspectives. The great thing is that it is attended by churches of all sizes, and since we all agree that we’re on the same team we leave denominational issues at the door. We also leave church size out of the conversation, we can talk tech and how things are working, but we want the church of 300 to contribute just as much as the church of 6,000. Through this relationship, we have become somewhat of rental houses for each other. Swapping mics, stage design pieces, and lights with one another to help out.

These relationships are imperative to keeping a healthy ministry going, you cannot survive as an island, so build a bridge and get out there.

Getting what you want…

I grew up watching Merry Melodies in the morning while I would be getting ready for school. Almost every morning there was an episode where Willie Coyote relentlessly chased after that on thing he wanted… the Road Runner. He was ruthless in that en devour. There are two things that come to my mind when thinking about Mr. Coyote, am I chasing after those things I think are important with all my being and are those things I’m chasing after worth it? Willie put so much energy, money, and his life on the line for one dinner. Now I know the purists say that Willie did catch the Road Runner at one point. In the episode “Soup or Sonic” right after being shrunk to a fraction of his original size, clings to the leg of the regular size Road Runner,  he then turns to the “camera” and holds up a sign:

“Okay wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him. Now what do I do?”

While technically he did catch him, he wasn’t in any position to partake in the victory.

For me, I had a dream to be a sound engineer for a touring band. When I was 11 years old I was in the audience of a Newsboys’ concert in my home town and said, “I’m going to tour with them.” 12 years later after spending almost every weekend working for regional sound companies, and then onto small tours out of Nashville. I found myself sitting across the table at catering from Peter Furler and the rest of the Newsboys – dream accomplished. I came to realize though after years of touring, this dream wasn’t what I thought it was, I loved it but it wasn’t for me.

I believe we are called to pursue that passion God has put inside us with all our being. With as much tenacity as Willie Coyote trying to get that one Road Runner dinner. Just don’t forget to stop and take a gut check now and then. Make sure that thing you think you want is really worth it. I thought being a sound engineer is what God created me to be, to be on road. What I am finding is, He’s asking me to use those gifts to pursue the real thing He wants me doing. What I thought was a passion for audio and all things techie is really a heart for people and their relationship to Christ. Being an audio engineer is just the mode He has blessed me with to open the door. So, before you order that next item from the ACME company, sit down and pray, ask God what is your deep down passion. The thing that drives you and keeps you up at night, is it a selfish passion or a Holy one? Open yourself up to God’s ideas, you’ll be surprised at what you can do then.

Are you doing what you thought you would be as a kid? How is God shaping and changing what you’re passionate about? Leave me a comment, let’s talk about it.

I’m not paid to say No

I can already hear your gasps and assume my life is destined for burnout from the title of this post. It maybe, but this a different type of saying no. I am fully capable of saying no, to the church family that asks me to video their daughter’s wedding. I am talking about being open to new challenges and pushing ourselves to be better.

Last year as we were gearing up for the annual Christmas Concert – A musical extravaganza of sorts (video can be seen here). We sat around a long boardroom style table and planned the Christmas season festivities. I took mountains of notes,  jotting down stage layouts, input lists, and a note to figure out how to have 13 vocalists. Snow machines, low laying fog, and lasers were all discussed and added to the list of things to investigate. At no time during this meeting did I utter the words “No, I can’t do that.”

The task set before me was huge, our biggest hurdle was we had over 60 inputs needed and only a 48 input snake. I had to add several extra audio consoles to sub-mix certain instruments and tie in addition wireless systems. Installed additional software effects processing to enhance some of the cover songs we were doing. Having to also get twenty 50 lbs CO2 tanks, 4 snow machines, and 2 CO2 foggers was the easy part.

Rehearsals started and as we hit a few bumps, associated with trying to get everyone’s monitors sounding right. Our worship leader and creative arts pastor pulled me aside. They were curious where these issues where coming from, and if we were going to be ready. I assured them that we have tech rehearsal before the dress rehearsal to address any of theses bumps. I explained that we were going into uncharted waters of what our equipment could do.

My worship pastor asks, “Why didn’t you just tell us you couldn’t do that in the planning meeting?” I responded, “I’m not paid to say no.” If it is at all possible, I will bend over backwards to make it happen. No ones life was in danger, and I knew with time it would work. I say all this because I think to often we as tech people may become stuck in our ways and not willing to push the boundaries of our gear. When it was all over the Christmas season went off fantastically. The snow machines snowed during silent night, the low-lying fog looked fantastic, and the bands were huge.

When you’re approached with a project that is bigger than you think you can handle, don’t jump to NO. See if there are some creative ways to work it out. You’ll find it can be very rewarding.

Taco Tuesday

One of the guys on our Tech Staff started this thing called: Taco Tuesday. It’s a simple process where on Tuesdays we go to Taco Bell for lunch. (Can you see how clever we are?)It started out small, just he and I. Then another staff member joined, then 2 more. Suddenly we’re have to take multiple cars and get there early to save tables. It has become the phenomenon.

I can already hear you asking me to get to the point, and I will please bear with me. I was realizing the other day as I walked the main office corridor at Northview, people would yell from their office, “Almost time for Taco Tuesday?” I was blown away, something silly like tacos on Tuesday has become a staff wide event.

This unforced, non mandatory weekly meeting of friends has been a better bonding agent than any retreat, or staff meeting exercise ever. Sharing a meal together with no set agenda (we have had some crazy conversations) really has allowed people to get to know one another in a meaningful way.

Look around your workplace and invite someone for tacos, it will improve your work environment in no time.