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!

 

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?

 

Maintenance Plans – 12 Days of Christmas (Posts)

Proper maintenance of production equipment often gets overlooked due to time and budget. Even though church equipment doesn’t get beat up like gear on a tour, (unless you have a portable setup) it still requires continual upkeep.

Know your lamp life – Projectors and “Intelligent” Lighting all have a set number of operating hours that must not be exceeded.Lamps that are aging become volatile and can explode inside the equipment causing damage. I can also guarantee that the lamp will go out in the middle of your service … every time.  Check out this video from Northview:

That was one of our back screen projectors: the lamp exploded shooting glass in all directions. Luckily, the unit is kept in a room alone so no one was in danger.

Keep an eye on your inventory – This time of year is perfect for taking inventory on your stash of gaffer’s tape, lamps, batteries, etc. Make sure you have enough of the little things to get you through the holidays. I try to stock up on in-ear foamies for the musicians, as well as lamps for music stand lights, and Clorox wipes to disinfect the microphones after every use.

2012-09-07 12.16.37
Me repairing microphone cables

Keep a backup – I realize it’s unreasonable to keep backups of every piece of equipment you have. It’s not common to find a church with an exact spare soundboard just sitting in storage. But with so much that is digital these days, make sure you keep a backup of all your files. I keep a USB stick locked up with ALL the equipment settings: from the soundboard, speaker processor, and wireless microphone system to the lighting and video consoles. I then upload the files to a cloud-based system like Dropbox or Google Drive. If something catastrophic happened, you can recall settings after repairs are complete or a rental is brought in.

 

Create a Disaster recovery plan – This is a big task, but has huge pay off! A disaster recover plan is simply a binder or online document that everyone on your team has access to. In it they should be able to find solutions to issues such as, “no audio coming from the sound board.” The solution would be to check mutes, and whatever other steps go into your particular situation. Keep it simple for the holidays. Maybe just give the basics – that way, if you get sick from eating gas station sushi on December 23rd your team knows what’s in your head.

 

Everything you can do on the front end to prepare for the big services will ensure a much smoother and less stressful experience for everyone.

 

So you saw my projector explode. What is something that has failed during a service for you that everyone noticed?

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Story

As a child we would all gather as a family at grandpa and grandma’s house on Christmas day. There we would eat, share gifts, and enjoy each other’s company. The highlight was when grandma would recite the Christmas Story found in Luke 2 from memory. I can still picture her standing in the living room saying, “And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

She was an amazing woman and I miss her very much. As a tribute to her and in honor of Christmas I have posted the New King James Version of Luke 2.

Merry Christmas,

Shaun

 

Christ Born of Mary

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Glory in the Highest
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them,and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seenHim, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

It Takes Two – Preparing for Christmas

Sometimes you learn from other’s experiences, but sometime’s you learn by making the same mistake twice. This year we thought our Christmas eve service would be rather “simplistic” and therefore there was no need for two nights of rehearsal. Typically we would dedicate a night for Tech and Band to work out their various areas, then the second night would be run throughs. This is really how it needs to be, regardless of the production intricacy level. However this year, we thought because the service was on the “easier” side, we could do it in one night. 30 minuets into the rehearsal it became evident that, that was a poor decision – one we won’t make again.

Having time to work through lighting cues, lead guitar parts, and video timing without the pressure of getting the transitions down right or feeling stressed really helps the whole service come together. As an audio guy, I really need this time to tweak and dial in the mix. The lighting guy has free rein to make adjustment and finalize his cues (as long as the band has their music stands lit up.)

So, do yourself a favor and don’t under estimate the time it takes for everyone to just get their minds around their part of the service. Give them adequate time, then when it’s time to actually see it all come together you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Merry Christmas and Happy Services!

Keeping the Christmas Spirit

This time of year, I quickly find myself becoming Scrooge, “Ba-humbug” -ing the season. I used to live for Christmas: I love the lights, trees, and snow. To me there was no such thing as too much “Christmas.”

Now with deadlines, guidelines, and long hours, I can become grumpy – sitting in the corner losing my reason for the season (loosely based on REM’s Losing My Religion).

For those who work in church life, you know – this is our busy season. Some of my extended family  still don’t  understand that this is my job. I’m not just going to church [5 times on Christmas Eve] because I feel like it. I can’t blow off the services to come to Uncle Franks house for the holidays. The stress builds among family and co-workers, and if not addressed in a timely manner, someone may Vesuvius all over the place.

So, going into this season, I just want to encourage all of you who are gearing up for a busy holiday season, to do 3 things:

  1. Take a deep breath – You will get through it. Even though I am convinced that some difficult-to-setup artificial trees should be charged for crimes against humanity.
  2. Remember why we do this – Christmas Eve may be the only time a person steps foot inside a church. Keeping your mind focused on the end game will make that 70th box of ornaments being carried up three flights of stairs, not so heavy.
  3. Christ is Love – He would not want this time of year to lead to anger and frustration with your brother or sister. Everyone has times of frustration at work, and I have found that it helps to deal with the situation immediately. Allowing it to fester only makes it worse…much worse. I have been known to yell out, “SAME TEAM” when arguments are brewing; everyone needs to be reminded that we are all working together towards a common goal.

I pray your season will be merry and filled with joy & peace.