Be Authentic

Image courtesy of Dee Bamford

Image courtesy of Dee Bamford

This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It came up last week when I had the opportunity to attend at the Seeds Conference at Church on the Move. I heard it in several of the sessions, and I experienced it all week long. Everywhere we went on campus, people were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about helping us out. There is a joy in serving at COTM that seeps out like the fragrance of a flower. We all know that everything rises and falls based on leadership, and this joy in helping others clearly comes from Pastor Willie George himself. Throughout the week, I saw him sitting and talking with various pastors and church planters. Unhurried and undistracted, he encouraged those guys with no expectation of anything in return.

The creative elements of the conference were also authentic. If you look closely, and talk to the team, you will find out that much of the production elements are based on something else. Whitney George said in his session that there is nothing new, but there are new things through you. Those guys are masters at taking something they saw somewhere else and adapting it to their situation. 

Don’t Simply Copy

One of the big mistakes I see churches doing is going to another church or a conference, seeing something cool and trying to straight-up copy it. That seldom works out well, mainly because the church doing the copying usually doesn’t have the resources of the big church or the conference. 

The other problem with simple copying is that everything looks different. The people who are best at adapting ideas will make sure that whatever it is they are doing fits the ethos of the church. When you try to copy without adaptation, your people will feel the disconnect between what the church should be and what it does looks like

Know Who You Are

Of course, being authentic presupposes that you know who you are as a church. I feel like many churches today suffer from multiple personality disorder. The lobby was lifted from one church, the sanctuary from another, the set from another still, the kids area from still another. Because all the ideas came from different places, there is no consistency. And when the various ministries are silos unto themselves, there is no consistency of message there either. 

As the technical leader, you may not be able to solve all your church’s split personality issues, but you can be sure that everything you do on your stage matches the mission and vision of the church. This means adapting ideas to suit your church’s culture. 

For Example…

Andrew Stone and I both grew up in the ’80s and share a fondness for lush, rich reverbs with long tails. Having heard his mixes and talked with him about his process, I set about to take the essence of his technique and apply it to my church. Now, you have to know that there was not a fondness for long reverbs at my church. In fact, it was more like whatever the opposite of fondness is. 

Thus, I couldn’t just layer up three or four reverb units with 5-8 second reverb tails on them like he does. But what I was going for was the essence of his technique. The thing I found so intriguing was the layering effect of stacking multiple reverbs, each to deliver part of the frequency spectrum. So that’s what I did. I stacked up a few reverb units, played around with the high and low pass settings, and pretty much everything else until I came up with a great sounding reverb that didn’t sound like too much reverb to my leadership. 

Had I simply insisted on copying the technique with the justification of “this is what COTM does…” it would not have gone well. But as it was, everyone loved the sound, and I was able to create a more expansive vocal sound that still fit with our church’s ethos. Was it my own personal preference? Not necessarily. Was I happy with the result? Yes. 

Of course, being authentic takes time, energy, thought and work. Which is probably why so few bother. But if you’ll put the time in, the results will be worth it.

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.

Clarity

Photo courtesy of MeganLynnette

Photo courtesy of MeganLynnette

This post is another in the series of things that I took away from last week’s Seeds Conference at Church on the Move. They do a great job of bringing in speakers who can speak to larger issues of the church, and those issues can almost always be distilled down to concepts that apply to production team. Such is the case today.

Patrick Lencioni spoke on Thursday and not only thoroughly entertained everyone with his humorous, ADD style, he spoke some great truths. There was way too much content to summarize in a single post, so I’m going to focus on a single facet of his talk, Four Disciplines of a Healthy Organization. I’m going to change healthy organization to healthy production team. These concepts work if you’re fully volunteer, fully paid or a hybrid. In fact, these concepts work for pretty much any team. 

Create a Cohesive Leadership Team

Nothing will demoralize and drive a team to dysfunction like a dysfunctional leadership team. And when I say leadership team, I’m talking about whoever is leading the technical/production teams. That may be a TD, a volunteer TD or a team of staff. Even if you are the only staff member, it would behoove you to recruit one or two volunteers to be part of your leadership team. It’s imperative that as leaders, you are all on the same page. 

When a team senses that it’s leaders are at odds with each other, they will either play one against the other to get what they want, or give up and go home. Neither is a good option for you. 

Create Clarity

Lack of clarity is the second thing that will drive a team crazy. When people don’t know why it is they are doing what they are doing, they are not effective. They can even be destructive. The vision of the production team needs to be crystal clear so everyone knows exactly why they do their task. This is important for the big tasks like mixing and the small tasks like setting the stage. The why questions are the most important, yet we tend to spend the least time on them. When building up your team, spend as much or more time on the why as the how. Once people know the why, the how will come.

Over-communicate Clarity

Most leaders don’t like to over-communicate anything because they think it’s redundant. But here’s the thing—and I’ve said this before—most of your team doesn’t spend their days dreaming about the vision of the church or production team. They have jobs, families and friends. They have their own dreams and plans for the future. If you want them bought into your clear vision, you need to share that vision all the time. 

Reinforce Clarity

Seeing a pattern here? When you see someone who is doing what you want them to do, reinforce that. Publicly. Look for as many teachable moments as possible. If one of your audio guys takes the initiative to straighten up some cables on stage, thank them for that, and remind them why it is so important to maintain a clean, safe stage. It will feel like you are saying the same thing over and over, but remember, many of your team only volunteer once or twice a month. You may say it six times a weekend to different people, but that may be once a month for each person. When you start hearing your team repeat the vision to new team members, then you’re making progress. Just don’t quit, because they need clarity reinforced, too. 

Author Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” It’s up to us to do the reminding.

Patrick has a new book out called The Advantage and while I haven’t read it yet, it’s on my list of books to read this year. If you want to be part of building a better team at your church, I suggest you give it a read. I’ve read several of his books and have yet to be disappointed.

Roland

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Creativity Re-Imagined

Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee

Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee

As most of you know, I had the privilege of attending the Seeds Conference at Church on the Move in Tulsa last week. It truly is my favorite conference of the year, and I again came away inspired, challenged, encouraged and humbled. We had the opportunity to meet many of you and I was touched by all the words of thanks and encouragement. 

While COTM does some amazing production work, that is never the focus of the conference (or their services, for that matter). As I found two years ago when I was there, this year, the best content of the week was delivered in the sessions. The speakers talked on a variety of topics, most not directly related to technical production. However, I’m going to translate several of them for you into how we can improve our technical ministries. This will take a few days. But it’s going to be good.

One of the first sessions was led by Whitney George, Executive Pastor of COTM. He was formerly in charge of the creative arts teams, and as you know, did a bang-up job. He spoke on the concept of creativity, and challenged us to think differently about it. 

Creativity Is Not Art; It Is Problem Solving

A lot of people will tell you they are not creative. That’s because we’ve typically defined “creative” as creating art—graphics, paintings, video, music, sculpture or the like. But Whit defines it differently. In his mind—and I tend to agree—creativity is problem solving. And that manifests itself in many ways. 

Most of the best technical directors are incredibly creative. They may not be Photoshop or InDesign wizards, but the way they approach production problems and challenges is amazing. Figuring out how to get the band on in-ears with an extremely limited budget takes creativity. Coming up with a cool set look that enhances the series takes creativity. Helping a volunteer figure out the proper timing for advancing song words takes creativity. 

Technical artists are some of the most creative people I know; that’s why I often refer to them as technical artists not just techs. Elegantly solving the myriad of problems that come up every week takes incredibly creativity. If this is you, take heart, you are a “creative.” 

Creativity is a Discipline, not Magic

I really like what Whit said about this one:

“There is an implication that if the process is magic, then I can't be held responsible for doing bad work. If they have access to some magic I don't have access to, I'm off the hook.”

He told the story about Joel Houston who was apparently mugged in New York City. While he was willing to give up his wallet, he hated to lose his phone because he had hundreds of song ideas on it. Whit asked how many of us had “hundreds of ideas” for anything? 

I get asked all the time how I come up with ideas for blog posts, especially 3x a week. My answer is that ideas are everywhere. I have a couple of lists that I maintain with what is probably close to 100 ideas. Many of those ideas will never be written because they’re terrible. But I know I have a few dozen that will work. I have developed the discipline of looking for ideas everywhere I go. I even still keep an Evernote notebook of set ideas even though I’m not creating sets very often anymore. Just do it. 

Creativity is Not the Absence of Limitations, it’s Leveraging Those Limitations

Many of us see our pastor as a limitation to our creativity. If only he would let us use haze, then we could go great lighting work. If only he would let us turn up the volume, then we could deliver great mixes. If only he would let us use motion graphics, then our song words would look cool. 

It’s easy to get large-church envy, especially when you’re in a smaller church. If you only had the PA Andrew Stone does, or the lighting rig Daniel Connell does, then you could do great work. But I know those guys, and I know that while they fully appreciate what they get to do, they have also had to work on some pretty crappy rigs during their careers. But that didn’t keep them from doing great work. 

I’ve had the opportunity to mix three shows on crappy PA’s with crappy mixers over the last few months. Each time, people came up unsolicited and told me they had never heard anything sound so good in those rooms. The lack of a Digico SD5 and an L’Acoustics PA will not keep me from delivering a great mix. This is because I’ve learned the secret to leveraging what I have. 

Don’t let limitations be an excuse. Find ways to make it great regardless. That is when your creativity really shines. 

There was another whole section to his talk, but you’ll have to wait for another post, or for it to appear online to get the goods on that.

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.