Planning Team – 12 Days of Christmas (Posts)

Christmas is a big deal, especially in the church. It’s when congregations see the largest increase in attendance, and it is the best time of the year for us church programmers to make a big difference.

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Northview Planning Team

We are joyously proclaiming the birth of Christ: God making good on his promise of a savior. That kind of event requires the biggest party of the year! We also welcome many non-regular churchgoers that feel coming to church during the holiday season fulfills their Christian duty for the year.

Because churches are catering to two very different groups during Christmas, you have to plan for these services with a little more finesse than you would an average Sunday. No matter your approach to Christmas, it is imperative to tell the gospel story in such a way that it remains fresh and engaging to your most knowledgeable attendee, but is also easily understood by the guest who has no idea that God came to Earth in the form of a baby. There are many video clips you can use or drama pieces that can do just this. (Check out the Christmas Series Resource page for ideas.)

It may even be as simple as just reading the Christmas story:

 

As I mentioned before, reaching such a variety of Christians and non-Christians alike requires planning and skill. It is critical to form a committee or group and to plan out your holiday services as early as possible. (July is not too early).

 

Here are some general tips that can help you get started:

Who should be on your planning team? 

That is entirely up to you; there is no right or wrong answer. I have been involved with teams that were large and encompassed most every staff member, as well as small two-person teams where we nailed down a plan and presented it to the senior pastor. At Northview, our team is led by the creative arts pastor (Creative Worship Ideas) and involves a rotating group of staff and volunteers.

In short: whether your team is made up of 2 or 15, the key is choosing people who want to be there and who come prepared!

How long should you meet?
Set a time limit. That way there is pressure to perform as well as well as light at the end of the tunnel. I suggest setting up a series of two-hour meetings. Spend the first-hour brainstorming a new service idea, and the second hour working on the implementation of the service that was brainstormed the previous week. Never leave an implementation meeting without action items for the team.  Try forming subgroups at the brainstorming meeting to run with the main elements of the service, and present them back at the implementation meeting a week later. Doing this saves on time as a whole, and gets deeper involvement from the entire team.

Feel free to leave a comment with any planning team questions you have, and make sure to check back each day through November 12th for more ways to keep your Christmas planning on track!

Christmas Series

Tomorrow starts my first series on this blog and I’m very excited. I’ve wanted to do a series for a while and began planning a few months ago, with the prodding (and support) from my (extremely successful blogging) wife Samantha – I figured this was the perfect time to release it. I love the Christmas season, and so what better way to kick things off than with a Christmas Series.

I’m calling it the “12 days of Christmas (Posts) ” clever, I know. I’ll cover a range of topics related to the biggest time of the year in the tech/production world. I can’t even count anymore the number of Christmas productions I’ve been apart of, and I hope that my experiences over the years can illuminate an idea for you to share with your team.

Christmas Series @ Northview

Nothing I have to share is earth shattering, I wouldn’t be that full of myself. However this is the season where we in the church get to begin telling the greatest love story ever written, and that my friends is earth shattering.

Please sign up for the updates, I promise I’ll be real with you just as I have in all my earlier posts. Learn from my mistakes, and go make your own, (that’s the best way to learn, isn’t it?) you have my permission.

Day 1 starts tomorrow. All the content is ready, and I hope you’ll share it with your friends that are in church ministry. You can sign up for updates here:


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.)

Leading at Home

I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about how to lead at work, however recently, I turned my focus to the home. We showed this video at church as part of our sermon series, “A Journey Home.” The video depicts how words spoken to us as children can have a lasting impact on our lives. Every time I see this video, I get emotional thinking of how easily what I say as a parent can stick with my son. I want to be a great dad, and I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that I have been called to be a leader, not only at in my professional life, but more so in my home. I am doing my best to make sure that if my little guy wants to play, they know that they always come before “Daddy’s Work.”

Take a lesson from this video and make sure your kids know you love them. Make sure that as you lead your teams in your profession, that you’re also pouring yourself into leading at home.

 

 

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Know your gear…

We recently upgraded our analog monitor console that had an emotional breakdown for the last time. Earlier this year, just before rehearsal on a normal saturday afternoon, it began pouring out the magical blue smoke. This causing two of us to carry it, running across the stage to the loading dock trying to get it outside. Turns out it was still salvageable, and a few weeks later back into the mix it went.

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Life was fine through the summer, until again, during a Saturday rehearsal the board had another break down. This was proving to become a common occurrence for the 12-year-old console. The decision was made to finally replace it, and a week later the new and improved digital console was in. But that is not the point of this post.

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This weekend, through a minor configuration change, I manage to wipe the output settings to the band’s In-Ear monitors, not once, but twice. Sending me into an internal panic. See, I didn’t setup the board. I let one of my guys do it, so that he’d get experience and frankly he loves that kind of stuff. This left me out of the loop, which was my fault. Now with the band and vocalists looking over my shoulder, I had to keep calm and patch the board, all 32 outputs.

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Because of the great work Kyle did setting up the console. I was actually able to re-patch everything quite quickly. However, it got me thinking what a risky move it is to have gear that plays such a vital role in our weekend service and to not know it inside and out. As tech people, whether on staff or a volunteer, we must make time to learn our equipment. If you’ve been around technology for any length of time, you’ll know how frustrating it can be at times. Knowing how it’s supposed to work, will help move troubleshooting along when needed.

Take a lesson from my faux pas this weekend spend some extra time learning your gear inside and out. I know I’ll be cracking the manual of our monitor console at Northview.

Morale of the story: Know your gear.

Guest Mixing

I had the awesome privilege to fill in for a fellow sound engineer at another church this past weekend. I rarely get to mix anywhere other than Northview anymore, in fact I can’t remember the last time I have since coming on staff. I need to get out more – I really do, I realized this weekend that my mix had become complacent in a way.

Guest Mixing at MPCC
Rehearsal at MPCC

I know exactly how the sound system at Northview sounds, and things have become so dialed in and digital (meaning everything’s saved) that I don’t have to do much more than just push faders it feels like. It’s like going to the gym and not adding any weight to the machines. While yes I am “working out,” I’m not bettering myself.

Guest mixing over at Mount Pleasant Christian Church (MPCC) this weekend was a big shot in my arm, and a bit of a smack across my face. It woke me up and inspired me to make some changes at Northview.

Three Takeaways:

  • You don’t know everything. Getting outside your circle of influences can really open your eyes to some new ideas.
  • You’re in someone else’s house. Be polite, and remember you’re there as a guest. Don’t try to fix everything, and ask before you do try to change something.
  • Network with their team.  Be careful not to cloister yourself away. Get to know their team, talk about their victories and celebrate them. Who knows you may get an idea to steal, I mean “borrow.”

I would urge all church sound engineers to get outside their auditoriums and mix at other churches. I guarantee it will open your eyes and make you a better sound engineer. If only to teach you other kind of equipment. I was fortunate enough to get to mix on the same model console as I have at Northview. However it was setup completely different from how I would run it. That’s not a bad thing, I’m not where the buck stops for sound board layout. The great thing with digital is, I was able to save their settings and lay it out like I wanted it. Then after the last service Sunday, I recalled what I saved at rehearsal and they’ll never know I was there.

So get your ears out there and change-up your surroundings. How often do you mix outside of your normal auditorium?

 

 

Always Test It!

A few weekends ago, I made a mistake. Granted, I make a lot of mistakes, but usually only I see them. Not this time though, everyone saw this fail. Not to sound overly dramatic, and to put it in perspective, no one lost their salvation, and most people didn’t pay much attention, but I did. It was one of those things that as soon as it happened, I knew what was wrong and that I failed to test it ahead of time.

At Northview, we use a 50″ TV on a cart that’s positioned just behind the pastor. This is for the sermon notes at our satellite campuses. Using the TV we don’t have to cut away from the pastor’s face to show the notes.

Normal protocol is to test the TV during Saturday’s rehearsal, and with everything else going on that day it just didn’t happen. I know that had we properly tested it, I’m sure it would have worked. But since we didn’t karma was working against me. The pastor began his message with the TV still on stage flashing “No Signal” and the call was made to get it out of there and the problem was quickly rectified off stage for the next service.

Like I said in the beginning, no one was eternally harmed by this mistake, it did catch the pastor by surprise since he was counting on interacting with the TV during the sermon. It did however make me reevaluate my internal checklist and rule that nothing untested makes it into the weekend service. Putting the time in, and making sure all the little details are accounted for makes the bigger picture of the entire service come together.

Once we have made it past the first run through, things need to be set. No more swapping mics, or trying anything new. It is time to do it, just as it will happen. Plan for the unexpected, such as, I always have a backup mic ready to go, (that gets tested as well.) That way if something was to go wrong, we already know what to do. So the moral of this story: Always Test It!

Always Test It!
Stan standing next to TV with no Signal

If you were at that service a few weeks ago, and watched that TV roll on, then back off, I confess. It was my fault. I add that to the list of mistakes that I can now laugh at like the helmet-cam (another story.) We all make mistakes, and things happen. It’s how we handle it moving forward that defines us.

Have a funny mistake that you’ve learned from? Share it with me!

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:

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“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)