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

 

 

 

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!

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!

Think on Your Feet – 12 Days of Christmas (Posts)

This post is important to me. As I constantly strive for better ways to manage productivity, this one is key. Now as you start reading, you may think this doesn’t apply to you. While technically this is geared for churches with production staff, it can still work for volunteer leaders.

The Standing Meeting – a scheduled, recurring, “standing” meeting. You can schedule them daily, weekly, or for whatever time frame works for your team. Here’s the part I love: no one sits down. Everyone remains standing. Seems simple right? This idea ensures the meeting will be short and to the point, since no one likes to stand unnecessarily. This style isn’t a new concept, and it doesn’t work for all meetings, but it does help me keep things moving.

I do not have a disdain for meetings, what I do hate is wasting time in meetings. When a group of creatives gets together it’s so easy to rabbit trail and ADD the meeting right off a cliff. Ten minutes later, you don’t even remember where you were going and may call off the meeting for lack of direction.

With so much happening this time of the year it’s important to keep everyone on the same page, but also productive. Standing meetings are the perfect way to accomplish this.

standup

Here are a few tips for productive standing meetings:

Get progress reports: Know what each person or team is working on. Might I add that this isn’t the time for micromanaging – it’s simply to share information and keep everyone up-to-date. The point is so everyone knows what Person A is working on and how that might affect the rest of the team.

Give clear directions: Do not end the meeting with confusion. This just leads to more meetings… Why would you want that? Instead, make sure each person has an understanding of what they’re supposed to be doing and the direction their tasks are heading.

Delegate and Set Deadlines: You can’t do everything yourself: I know, I’ve tried. Empower your team members to run with key elements of the season. Not only will the job get done more efficiently, but delegation shows that you trust in your team. Having deadlines for said delegated elements just gives everyone a goal to reach. Each person needs something to strive for, and deadlines provide a measure of success.

Bottom line: keep your meetings to the point and productive.

What do you do to keep meetings moving?

 

Limit Activities – 12 Days of Christmas (Posts)

December is known in the church world for its unending “ask.” Every ministry needs tech help for their parties or events. As a people pleaser and overall nice guy, this is the season I tend to see everyone but my own family. Being busy this time of year is expected, but it shouldn’t kill you. There are givens: Christmas Eve services will happen, rehearsals will take place, and there may be a party or two you need to attend. The key, though, is moderation – you only have a finite amount of time, and if you’re dead before Christmas you’re no good to anyone. Most churches do not have a large staff body, most of you reading this post right now are probably the only tech on staff or you’re the go-to volunteer. Things like video creation, choir media (making CD’s or uploading to the web) and stage setup all fall to you before you even get to the actual services. I have been there, and am still there in many respects.

tangled-christmas-lights_2
“Little knot here, you can work on that.”

Here are three ideas to limit the Christmas Chaos:

Empower some volunteers for the season: I always envision myself deputizing several key members of my team to help reduce the overall burden. Allow these key people to run with the Christmas activities that happen around the building.

Plan early: We all know Christmas is coming as it does every year, right around the 25th of December. Get yourself a big calendar for the wall. Start blocking off known dates, like rehearsals and services. This will help give you a bigger picture of what you can realistically take on. I realize for most of us, a vacation is out of the question during this season, but plan time off. Even if it’s just an afternoon, you need time to recoup your energy. In a 1926 interview, Henry Ford discussed his experiments with productivity … his conclusion was that after 40 hours of work, the employees’ quality of work diminishes (Read more about Diminishing Returns Here). A long lunch, a quick nap, or just going for a walk can help clear the mind and refresh you.

Practice saying no: This is so hard for me. I hate the word NO. Internally, I feel like it leads to people looking at me like I’m an ogre. I know, though, that I don’t have to be seen as a jerk for letting people know I cannot take on another project. It not only protects me from burning out, it protects others from getting a shoddy product. If I can’t put adequate time, resources, or brainpower into something in order to do it right, then I have to say no. Practice saying it in the mirror, it won’t help but it might at least make you laugh.

As Christmas approaches, try seeking out those key decision makers that haven’t gotten with you yet. Let them know that you’re planning ahead and need to know what they’ll require during the holiday season. Anything you can do to avoid the last minute asks will greatly help.

What’s the biggest last minute task you’ve ever been given?

 

Bad Candy

Back in March of this year we had the privilege to host Tim Hawkins in concert at Northview. He was hilarious and a really great guy to work with. One of his routines revolved around bad candy that people hand out at Halloween. I can so relate. While I never had the wax bottles filled with goo, I did throw away trash bags full of those peanut butter and hair candies.

Whatever your beliefs are of Halloween, I hope you and your family have a fun and safe time. Here in Indiana weather is causing many cities and towns to change the trick or treating times to Friday.

Also, has anyone actually found a razor blade in their candy or is that an urban-legend?

 

Bad Experiences

I saw this video posted on Imagine Church‘s Facebook page last month and thought it was brilliant.

What are you doing to avoid giving guests at your church a “Bad Experience?” I remember when I was dating my wife, I attended church with her family while visiting them on my off days while on tour. I sat next to my fiancée in the hard wooden pews, while waiting for the service to begin. The pastor took the stage after worship and asked if anyone had brought a guest. I was quickly identified as a guest and asked to stand. This was a horrible first impression. I was a pastor’s kid, I had been in church all my life, but this went too far.

There is a fine line in church between making a guest feel welcomed and making them feel awkward. Like a sales person at a store, some people want left alone while they shop, while others would like you to lead them around and show them what they want. It takes a special group of greeters/ushers to tell the difference and allow people to feel comfortable. I am one of those people who would rather find my seat in the back than have an usher escort me to a spot in the middle of a row down front. That is just me, there is nothing wrong with asking for help either. The key as church leaders is to train our welcome teams to be helpful and not overbearing. Allow new guest to get acclimated on their own terms.

I have seen churches with multiple levels of greeters, allowing people to seek out the kind of welcome that makes them feel the most comfortable. Many people are coming into church with preconceived ideas about what they’ll experience. Whether that comes from years of being dragged to church as a child, or seeing it done poorly at another church, people bring their bad experience baggage with them. Help them to leave it at your doorstep this Sunday. Give them an experience they’ll tell their friends about.

What’s a bad experience you’ve had? Share it with me below.

(The video above is property of Imagine Church; they own all rights to it.)

A Good God

I feel that this question of “How can a good God, allow bad things to happen?” is asked a lot recently. People looking for answers, and explanation, and a reason to keep on believing. While I do not have great answers or insight into this. I did  come across this short thought from Max Lucado and it just struck me as important to share. As we live out our faith, we meet trials and struggles all along the way. It is easy to blame God, ask how or why something happened. As humans, our minds cannot always see the big picture, what’s going on in the “upper story” as my Pastor, Steve Poe often says. The upper story is what God is doing beyond our current comprehension or current circumstances.

Just last week I was heading to speak at my first conference ever. I was nervous, but excited. While on my way there, I received word that my grandfather, a man who I regard as a hero, was suffering a heart attack. How could this be, I remember crying out to God on I-465, demanding that this not be happening.

Here’s what Max Lucado has to say:

[box]

“God at times permits tragedies. He permits the ground to grow dry and stalks to grow bare.

He allows Satan to unleash mayhem. But he doesn’t allow Satan to triumph. Isn’t this the promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV)?

God promises to render beauty out of “all things,” not “each thing.” The isolated events may be evil, but the ultimate culmination is good. We see small examples of this in our own lives. When you sip on a cup of coffee and say, “This is good,” what are you saying? The plastic bag that contains the beans is good? The beans themselves are good? Hot water is good? A coffee filter is good? No, none of these. Good happens when the ingredients work together: the bag opened, the beans ground into powder, the water heated to the right temperature. It is the collective cooperation of the elements that creates good.

Nothing in the Bible would cause us to call a famine good or a heart attack good or a terrorist attack good. These are terrible calamities, born out of a fallen earth. Yet every message in the Bible, especially the story of Joseph, compels us to believe that God will mix them with other ingredients and bring good out of them. But we must let God define good. Our definition includes health, comfort, and recognition. His definition? In the case of his Son, Jesus Christ, the good life consisted of struggles, storms, and death. But God worked it all together for the greatest of good: his glory and our salvation.” [/box]

I love the line that says “He doesn’t allow Satan to triumph” I know recently as my faith has been growing, Satan is trying anything he can to have me remove my focus from Jesus. I truly believe that he did not want me speaking to those people, who came to learn how to mix sound better for their worship services. But God used that time on my way to the conference to reset my focus, and ensure that I was relying on him and not myself.

How is Grandpa? He’s fine, there wasn’t any evidence of heart damage from the heart attack. He received a pacemaker and at 88 years old, he is back home enjoying life. God is good.

(An Encouraging Word from Max Lucado – Source)