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A few months ago, a good friend of mine was the Tech Director in a local church. But one day he walked into his boss’s office and simply quit his job. My friend is a husband and father of one boy and had recently purchased his first house. On the professional side, he always displayed incredible work ethics and commitment to the ministry. But he walked away from a job he’d held for years serving in a local church and decided to pursue a job outside the ministry with a technology company.
A few days later, we had the chance to meet and talk. I was curious to learn from him what had led him to make such a change that would not only affect his job but also his calling. He is a very energetic and creative person, always developing new ideas, and I was certain that when he left the ministry, the church would greatly miss him.
When we met, I asked him a simple question. “Why did you decide to leave the ministry?”
At first, he looked surprised. But he quickly corrected me and said, “I’m not leaving the ministry.”
With relief, I thought for a brief moment that he was not walking away from his calling. But I waited for a more comprehensive answer. Honestly, I was expecting some common answers like needed more money, was in search of new challenges, or even it was time to move on to something new.
Instead, he gave me a different answer. “I lost my passion for THIS ministry.” That response took us into a 2-hour conversation that opened my mind and heart to things I should consider as a pastor and ministry leader.
He explained that the environment he was in led him to lose his passion for the ministry where he served. This came to be as a warning sign. Was it possible that my leadership style could create an environment in a way that volunteers may also lose their passion for the ministry?
In the church tech world, it is easy for us, as ministry leaders and volunteers, to lose sight of WHY we do WHAT we do and instead, focus on things like perfection, excellence and performance ONLY. After all, we are mostly judged by those things. And they are, and should be, part of what we do. But perfection, excellence and performance ONLY should NEVER represent WHY and WHAT we do.
As ministries grow, churches also face an increased risk of replacing the passion volunteers and staff have for the ministry with complex, bureaucratic ways to achieve things like efficiency and excellence. Please, don’t get me wrong. I am all about efficiency and excellence. But I am also convinced that we must make every effort to lead people by our deep passion for God’s purpose in our own lives.
So, what can we, as ministry leaders, do to keep reaching for excellence without driving out the passion our volunteers should have for the ministry where they serve? Here are few things I think may help us to achieve these goals.
Many times we ask our volunteers to know the job and do it well, because excellence pleases God. True, God deserves our best. But remember, first, to serve Him. In any capacity, it is an act of worship.
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ ” Luke 4:5-8
Serving in church should not be associated with a job you do. It requires commitment, energy and sacrifice, so you must find your passion first (this rule can also apply to your job, but I am only referring to volunteer work at church). That is what will allow you to fully experience WHY you do WHAT you do. During my last few years of leading volunteers, I intentionally devoted time to have front and center a clear understanding that WHAT they did every weekend had an eternal value. Even if what they did was done from behind the scenes, the reality of its value never changed. In church, real excellence is driven by a true passion for what you do for God and others.
People most likely will follow ministry leaders who display real and genuine passion for the ministry they serve. Many times, people will come to you first because there is something attractive about your ministry to them. For example, if they like kids, their initial feeling may be to serve in a children’s ministry. If they have some interest in technology, they may feel like serving with the tech team. The problem is that these initial feelings do not usually translate into long-term commitment. Anything driven by passion will generate commitment, because now the person doesn’t just do something they like, now they serve with PURPOSE. Ministry leaders must display they passion for the ministry they serve so other can see and follow.\
Sometimes ministry leaders feel that for some unknown reason, volunteers are less interested in serving, or maybe less committed to the schedule. Maybe it is because more and more they feel like they are part of a transactional environment instead of relational ministry. God designed us to have a relationship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.) and each other (Romans 12:9-10 – Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.) When serving in ministry, relationship should be the driving force behind how people serve with you in the first place.
If you were watching the ABC network after 11 pm on December 31, 2016, you saw what has been called one of the most disastrous New Year’s Eve performances in recent live broadcast history. Soon after Mariah Carey started her vocals, she stopped singing. Mariah remained onstage throughout the entire song, and it became clear that the vocals coming through the sound system were from a recording. Overall, this was a very bad moment for a live show. Now blaming and finger pointing are going around, in an attempt to explain and/or place blame for what happened.
As I thought about what happened, I asked myself, Is there anything I can learn from what I saw on TV that night? Could it affect how I do my job and how our tech team enhances our weekend service experience?
Leading people into a time of worship does not happen only from the stage. What we do behind the scenes is a big part of the worship service, and it is not always noticed. But you and I know the value of what we do every weekend.
DISCLAIMER: I know it may be odd to use this experience to make a comparison to a worship experience. The environments and goals are complete opposites. So let me make very clear, this blog discusses the technical side of what we do in churches every week, and it is nothing beyond that.
With that said, many of us need to consider our weekend services as LIVE events. In fact, that’s what they are. These LIVE events rely heavily on technology, including high-end projection systems, IMAG, HD camera operators, online broadcasting, multi-campus viewing, live broadcasting, etc. Looking at our weekend services as LIVE events does not take away the value of the worship experience in our lives every weekend. But we are the production teams for LIVE events. This means we need to understand our jobs as programming and production teams with checks and balances to prevent technical failure from taking away the full experience worship service can be.
What we saw on live TV on New Year’s Eve is a great reminder that the audience members are the ones who really suffer themost when things go wrong. I don’t think those of use watching on TV and those in New York right in front of the stage hoped for something to go badly wrong. On the contrary, we all hoped for a great show, something that would blow our minds technically and vocally.
We don’t expect a worship service that blows our minds technically and vocally when we go to church every week. Instead, we come together with the expectation of meeting God through a meaningful time of worship. Sometimes this includes watching a powerful video testimony, hearing His word through a spoken message, and more. We want to have all this with NO DISTRACTIONS, and that pretty much sums up our job. It happens from both sides, on stage and off stage. When your tech crew understands the importance of meaningful rehearsals, good communication, and backup plans, you won’t be able to always prevent things from going wrong. But when things happen, you will be able to resolve the problem faster and more precisely.
These are my thoughts for today. Feel free to comment, share and connect.
Have a blessed day.
Check out my video chat with Shaun Miller about church technology and infrastructure.
About Shaun: I am a tech nerd with a passion for ministry. I started in ministry at the age of 10, when I could hardly see over the Mackie SR32•4 VLZ Pro mixing console my church had. I quickly fell in love with all things production related. Lights, sound: I even miss the dual slide projectors with the remotes taped together so you could advance them simultaneously. I am now the Project Manager for CTS Audio in Brentwood, TN. Here I have the opportunity to spend more time with my family and have a broad reach in helping churches succeed.
One of the greatest joys of the ministry I get to lead is that its success depends one hundred percent on a team building mentality. We have much less chance to succeed without this mind set, so from beginning to end, we focus on the idea that serving together is better than serving alone.
Every year, Night of Worship is a great time of celebration through songs and devotion. This special night gives the Worship and Arts Team the opportunity to add more creativity to our stage and lighting design, projection elements and video work, compared to what we usually do for our regular weekend services.
At our church, nothing is more important than content—including song lyrics, printed text or spoken word. Everything else adds to how we deliver this content. So, once the songs are chosen and the devotion topic is outlined, I design a stage and all the elements to go with these, based on what is really important.
For this year’s Night of Worship, I designed a stage that would draw focus and enhance the experience without generating distractions. For instance, I used 18 moving lights – MAC101. But they moved very little, however. For each song I used the lights to create a scene, instead of making a lighting show with them.
That is why FOCUS is so important when it comes to worship services. Another aspect of lighting the stage has to do with not focusing so much on the band and focusing instead on the singer or worship team delivering the song. At times it’s appropriate to highlight a musician or two, but nothing is more important than directing the focus of the audience on the topic and where the message is being delivered.
The same principal applies to projection. Environmental projection was done in 4 columns (2ft x 16ft). For the main songs during our Night of Worship, I used a single image or video. Changes on graphics only happened when they absolutely made sense with the song and message.
Here is the list of equipment used for the Night of Worship:
18 MAC 101 (LED moving lights)
1 Christie DLP 7000 lumens Projector
1 Christie DLP 6000 lumens Projector
1 Pro Video Player – (environmental projection content)
4 LED Washer
Over 30 Stages Lights (leko, Source Four, etc.)
PHOTOS by Chris Williams
Every weekend at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, several projection volunteers control the presentation screens during the services. They advance slides, open new documents, and make sure the mouse arrow or computer desktop never show up on the screen.
The projectionists are responsible for displaying graphics and images that appear on the screens. These include videos, sermon slides, worship lyrics, and anything else that appears on the screens. The projectionists must be aware of the order of the service and at the same time be ready to make changes at a moment’s notice. Most importantly, the projectionists try to anticipate the needs of the congregation and have the song lyrics displayed just before the worshippers need them.
That is why, from time to time, we invite all projection volunteers to come together for a training session on ProPresenter, the software used to control and display slides and videos. During these training sessions we cover basic principles of presentation, as well advanced setting and features that can enhance any presentation during a weekend service.
ProPresenter 5 training will be offered to all volunteers at Mount Pleasant Christian Church on May 17, 2015, at 6 pm.
During the 2-1/2 hour training session, we will cover:
Even if you don’t yet serve on the Programming team you are welcome to attend this training session. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the greatest challenges for Programming Pastors and Creative Arts Directors when comes to stage design is how to keep the stage look fresh, new, and current. A colleague once told me that at his church, he was required to change the stage look every week. I cannot image what a challenge that was for him to come up with a new design from one week to another.
As much as I understand the advantages of walking into a new and fresh worship environment every week (and there are only a few), making stage design such a high priority in your church could be a sign that you are focusing on the wrong thing when comes to weekend worship service.
See, I don’t think that the goal is for our congregations to leave the worship service every week saying how nice the stage looked. Instead, we hope our services are so engaging that people leave with a sense of a bigger connection with God than when they came in.
Stage design and special elements are definitely part of that experience, but not the main thing. Instead, just like everything else related to a worship service, stage design needs to fit into the substance and content. It should not be a distraction, but it should fit seamlessly into the whole environment of your church’s worship experience.
My experience has taught me that one formula that works really well is to keep it simple and make it excellent. A simple design has a great deal of power and impact on people when it is presented with excellence. So, during our regular weekend services, we focus more on excellence then how complex, different, and fresh the worship is designed.
When the focus is content, people’s lives are impacted by the message of each song, special element, video, and sermon. When good content is absent, we then look for artificial ways to fill the gap with fresh, new, and current looks and elements. Yet without good content, these things alone are without purpose and won’t impact and lead people to Christ.
Every weekend, we should be very intentional about everything we bring to our stage design. Here are few things that, when done correctly, can impact your worship experience and without modifications from week to week:
1. Projection: When programming the background for worship, select images and motion videos that complement the message of the song. Sometimes, you can go to the extent of creating your own background utilizing Adobe After Effects or Final Cut Motion, customizing 100% your presentation. Displaying the lyrics with meaningful backgrounds can be powerful during a worship service.
2. Transitions: Create transitions between songs and service elements (i.e., videos) that make sense and are seamless.
4. Lights: Make your stage lights complement the overall look on stage. Provide a good balance between the worship team, and ensure that the worship leader is well lit. (Quick tip: moving lights don’t have to be moving all the time.)
5. Stage Design: Build a stage design that makes sense with the current sermon series or fits a season. The biggest issue I personally see with stage design in churches is doing too much and adding too many elements that only get in the way. When comes to stage design, less is more, and consistency is key for success.
Doing those things can create a big impact in your weekend service and will bring consistency in quality from one week to another. When comes to the worship experience, nothing is more important than content, and that content must be delivered with excellence. By keeping it simple, you will have the a greater chance to achieve the goal to lead people to Christ, and they will grow closer to God through a service done with intentional simple elements, delivered with excellence.
Every year, we want to provide, in the best way possible, a great worship experience to thousands of people who come celebrate Easter with us on 2 campuses and also on the Online campus. During this year’s Easter celebration at Mount Pleasant Christian Church, we took visual worship to new levels. During the months of January and February, I spent some time with the Worship and Arts pastor working on elements and details for this special service.
By the end of February, I had the stage layout designed and ready to go to production. However, during a meeting with our senior pastor in March, we talked about new ideas. It is important to say that my pastor was ok with the first stage design, and he never asked for it to be changed. But as we discussed new ideas, I made the decision to change the design so we could provide a better worship experience. This change happened four weeks prior to Easter weekend, so I don’t consider this a last-minute change, but at that point we had to move fast and make arrangements to meet the deadline.
Basically, all programming elements together are a complement to the music and message, so it is important that these elements don’t cause distraction to those participating
live and via broadcast. That needs to be the goal when using stage elements, lighting, and projection. Here is how we put these elements together for Easter services:
When it comes to programming, less is more (most of the time). During the song “Broken Vessels” (video below), you will notice that we used one single image throughout the entire song. This was a time when we wanted the focus to be one hundred percent artist and song delivery.
There are times when you will have the opportunity to extend to more than one image per song, but it is important for you to know when to use less to open all the space for the simplest ways you can use to deliver the message during a worship song.During baptisms, we projected videos of the confessions of faith on the large cross. These were the highlight of the weekend. The videos gave a face and a voice to those being baptized. My pastor has already mentioned to me that we will do this again, given the response we received.
If your church offers an online broadcast or a video venue, it is important to customize all content to those watching live so they also feel they are part of the service and get the most out of the worship experience. For instance, all baptism videos projected on the cross were reformatted for those watching on video. Also, the lyrics for every song were in the lower third of the viewing screen. Basically, all of the content showed live was adapted and displayed to meet the needs of worshippers participating online.
Next up… Patriotic weekend!
Few more pictures (by Chris Williams) from Easter weekend: