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!

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.

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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.

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“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?

 

Volunteers – 12 Days of Christmas (Posts)

Volunteers are the life force behind any successful church. Without them, not much of anything could happen. While having staff is great, I am not aware of any churches that survive solely on the use of paid staff members. With this immense need for volunteers, it’s important to show them that you acknowledge their sacrifice of time. I’m aware that they are giving it to the Lord as an offering, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for them.  A happy, appreciated team gets much more accomplished than one that’s run out of guilt and pressure.

This Christmas Season, make sure you go out of your way to encourage those that serve so faithfully along side of you.

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Feed Them

Everyone works better when there is food involved. Plan a hospitality area for the team and include their families if you can. Christmas Eve services require a lot more of a time commitment than the average weekend, usually covering dinnertime. Having a place to grab a soda (Pop, Coke, whatever you call it) and a snack goes a long way to keeping volunteers happy.  There is no right or wrong way to setup a hospitality area, just make sure to pamper your volunteers. It really is more the thought that counts (and cookies).

Communication

Communicate early, and often. Just like with rehearsals, volunteers are not always in all the meetings leading up to the service. You have to continually bring them into the loop. A well informed volunteer is much more effective, and may even think of an overlooked area. As soon as I have times for the Christmas services (usually sometime in August or September), I send out my first round of emails letting the group know; that way they can begin looking at their schedules and planning to serve.

Respect Their Time

Volunteers have families, jobs, and other commitments. Christmas is a huge ask, so look for ways to lessen the load for them. One idea is to split serving opportunities when possible. I divide our camera operators up between the services: as long as the video director is on their game, and the camera op has been part of a rehearsal or run through we tend to have very few mistakes.

Most of the time, volunteers will bend over backwards for you if you treat them right. Make sure you’re loving on them extra this season.

In an effort to respect your time I purposely kept this post short.  Join the conversation though and share if you’re doing something special to honor your volunteers this year.

 

Rehearsal Plan – 12 Days of Christmas (Posts)

The holidays are the time of the year when larger productions are being put on. With these larger scale services, it is important to establish a rehearsal plan.

It’s essential to start early working with all the different groups involved. Many times Christmas services are comprised of choirs, dramas, and large worship bands with more vocalists. This requires separate group rehearsals before the technical and dress rehearsals even occur.

Separate Group Rehearsals help vocalists and choirs workout their parts without taking time from the band or production crew. The lighting and video team should walk through the service together, making sure lights are complimenting video and that people who need to be seen are not standing in the dark. These types of one-on-one rehearsals help save time and allow for a smoother technical rehearsal.

Technical Rehearsals are a critical step in the production process that often times get overlooked. They are choppy – and that’s okay, they should be. Lights are adjusted, microphones moved around, and new camera angles tried. For years I have experienced Christmas Eve service rehearsals that are just a copy of the typical Wednesday night run-through. During these times, the band gets a chance to rehearse, but no thought is given to the production side of things. As ministry staff members we have to remember that while we have dreamt about this event for weeks (possibly even months), the volunteers and musicians may be seeing/hearing everything come together for the very first time at rehearsal.

Final run-through/Dress rehearsal should be conducted just as it will be for the service. Practicing it exactly the way it needs to happen, especially the transitions, helps solidify it in everyone’s mind.

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As someone who has been through more Christmas productions than I can count, here are three things I stand by when it comes to rehearsing.

Rehearse Early:
Rehearse early enough to make changes. Even the dress rehearsal should be done several days in advance. In school, our dress rehearsals were always the day before our event … I can only assume it was because the teachers were afraid we’d forget everything if we had a day off. But this isn’t an elementary school Christmas program – production at this level is intense, and “going dark” (to borrow a theatre term) the day before a performance gives everyone a chance to calm down, allowing for a smoother performance. The other thing this provides is a day to make any necessary adjustments. While I do not approve of changes after the run through/dress rehearsal, sometimes they cannot be avoided, and this downtime allows for that.

Be Prepared
When working with volunteers, the worst thing you can do is waste their time (well I guess you could kick them in the shin, but I digress). Have music, flows, and all other required materials printed out and ready to go ahead of time. Also, consider staggering arrival times for your teams. It doesn’t benefit the choir to hear the band warm up and sound check. At Northview, a typical non-Christmas weekend rehearsal schedule looks like this:

12:00pm – Staff
1:00pm – Volunteer Sound and Lighting operators
1:30pm – Band
2:30pm – Vocalists
2:45pm – Camera Ops
3:00pm – Service run-through

Know when it’s “Good Enough”
It hurt typing that.
I know as a creative, good enough should not be in my vocabulary; but at some point we have to force ourselves to stop tweaking, step back, and say it is finished. Always remember you’re working with real people, most who have a day job that has nothing to do with what you’re asking them to do during the service. Sometimes the camera shakes, and the lyrics come up late; or a vocalist forgets to turn their microphone on (why they turned it off in the first place, I’ll never understand). These people are giving their time, and their best for Lord, and we need to accept their offering of service and know when to end the rehearsal, so people can get home.

Last Christmas I wrote a post about adding tech rehearsals to Christmas Eve services – check it out here.

Also, be sure to check out the Christmas Resources Page.

How do you approach rehearsals? Join the conversation and share below.

 

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!

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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Creating a Strong Production Team

As I talk with fellow technical leaders I am often asked, “How do I grow my team?” Beyond bulletin announcements, ministry fairs, and just talking with people. I have found that you have to build a healthy environment in your existing team first. Then they will be your best recruitment tool. Here are the three things I have learned the hard way in building a healthy team.

[box] Communicate – Keep your team in the loop. Often times as staff members it’s easy to forget that our volunteer leaders aren’t in all the meetings you are. Like the hallway conversation, where sudden changes get made. I try to send out a weekly update to the entire team. Sometimes I video it, other times I don’t scare them with that and just type a newsletter. Then if there are any service order changes I know of by Friday I sent a message through Planning Center to the team that’s serving that weekend. [/box]

[box] Be Honest – Nothing makes a volunteer run from your ministry faster than being lied to. Now this doesn’t have to be a flat-out, deceitful lie, but they don’t know that. I have messed up in the past, forgot to schedule someone, forget to program a video, or not tell someone they don’t need to come in. All seem little, but human nature is to save face, make a quick excuse for why something happened. Honesty is always the best policy when working with volunteers (or anyone for that matter.)   [/box]

[box] Be Dependable – Follow through with what you say you are going to do. Show that you value the time they are giving. I have told people I would have the schedule out by a certain day, or host a training time and just failed to follow through. That hurts your team’s confidence in you. They are looking for reliability and want to know their time matters. [/box]

With your existing team running smoothly, new members have a better time getting involved and staying active. No one desires to be a part of a dysfunctional team.

Check out my post on Recruiting Volunteers Here 

Want to talk about more ways to build your team? Contact me!

Finding Focus

Recently I had the privilege to hear Bob Goff, author of Love Does, present at the 2013 Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. (This year’s summit drastically impacted my life both at home and at work, so expect to see several posts coming from that as I process all that I heard.) One point in his presentation that really stuck with me, he said every Thursday he quits something. Knowing that his life are already busy, he stops doing something or delegates a task each week and challenged us to do the same. I wish I could do it justice, but hearing him talk about this was very funny.

Thinking at first that it was only a funny punchline, a segue into the real point he was making, I brushed it off.  I later began to think it was a great idea, and a way to regain focus in my life. I figured it couldn’t hurt to start finding things in my life that I can quit. I knew right off the bat the first thing I could stop doing, so I am trying it…TODAY.

I shut down the second computer at my desk, cleared off the three monitors I like to hide behind and am quitting the idea that I can effectively multi-task. I kid myself thinking that I’m getting more work done having the computers, monitors, laptop, iPad, kindle, and iPhone on my desk. The reality of the situation is that I have the attention span of a squirrel on a sugar high. I bounce from one thing to the next, not really finishing anything. When people come into my office, my eyes are always drawn back to that email that just came in, or something shinny that I thought I saw on the screen. With just my laptop and a piece a paper on my desk, I can free my mind to stay on task a little bit more. When someone comes in, I can close my laptop, and give them my full attention.

This seems like a great idea, however, just in the time that I started writing this, I have distracted myself and wanted to start something that just popped into my mind. I am having to force myself to mentally stay on topic and task. Admitting I have a problem is the first step correct? I should try to find a multitaskers anonymous meeting somewhere. I have decided to end the charade, and come out from behind my LED radiating monitors. To embrace who I am and play to my strengths instead of enable my weaknesses.

What is something you can quit to bring breathe back into your life?

On a side note, I wrote this post by hand which I haven’t written more than a post-it notes worth of content since high school. It was quite freeing and I look forward to how I can rely less on technology and be more intentional.

Thursday Motivation

I’m not one that’s big on motivational posters. I would be the guy to hang a funny Demotivational one in my office. This one however actually inspired me.

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It’s knowledge I already had but yet a good reminder.

You have to be willing to GO after those things you want or you’ll never get them.

You won’t become a great at something just sitting alone on your couch. It takes a determined spirit and hard work to attain success.

You have to ASK otherwise the answer is always no.

To many times I’ve been afraid to ask because I already “knew” the answer was no. I kept my dream to myself in fear that asking for help would be greeted with a closed door. Realizing that the answer is always “No” when I do not ask really causes me to check how afraid am I really. Am I willing to give up on something because of a single word? Ask – you never know what doors it will open. 100% of questions never asked aren’t answered (look at me being all motivational.)

You have to STEP forward or you’ll always be in the same place.

Here again, I have had fear hold me back from making a step forward – fear of rejection or failure. That first step can always be hard, but making it can lead to huge reward.

Hopefully you find some motivation in this as well. I pray God has given you a dream to go after.

What are you going after?