A Healthier Christmas

It’s Monday, December 31. Christmas Eve was a week ago—which means one of two things for the average church technical artist. Either you’re feeling rested, refreshed and ready to take on the new year, or you’re still sitting on the couch in your pajamas eating peppermint bark and watching The View. The Christmas season can take it’s toll on the church tech if we’re not careful. For me, this year is ending in a vastly better place than last year, and there are reasons for that. Hopefully some of this will be helpful if you’re still crashed on the couch. 

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Christmas Gone Wrong

Last year was a tough year for me; my ATD had left for a better gig and I wasn’t able to bring a new one in. All my contractors had also left town, and my volunteers weren’t ready to make a huge contribution to audio yet. We launched into a whole new Christmas Eve service that was supposed to be simple, but was anything but. I has also hurt my back at the beginning of December, which slowed me down a lot. By 12/31/11, I was still lying on the couch, only I had finished all the peppermint bark and had moved on to the wretched Russel Stover variety pack. It was a dark time.

It required the better part of 10 months to figure it out, but I think I finally came up with a plan to help avoid that post-Christmas malaise. And believe it or not, it’s not too early to start planning.

Remember How You Feel Right Now

Humans have short memories for pain. Normally this is a good thing (think childbirth). But when it comes to unhealthy behavior, it’s easy to forget how bad we end up feeling when we fail to prepare properly. One of the key things I did last year was to write an e-mail to myself using FutureMe.org. I considered posting that e-mail here, but then I re-read it and remembered this is a family-friendly blog. I had that e-mail delivered a week before Thanksgiving this year. It was a vivid reminder of what happens when I overcommit, fail to plan and take on too much. If you did that this year, document it, and have it delivered to your inbox in November. You’ll thank me later.

Now is also the time to come up with a plan to do next year better. Chances are, while it’s still fresh in your mind, you can think of things that you should have done to make life easier. Write that down. And don’t forget to look at it in October. Yes, start working on Christmas in October and your December will be much more pleasant.

Plan to be Better

Here are a few things that I did better this year that has left me in a much better place. I don’t want this to sound like I’m bragging, or have this all figured out; instead I hope this list can serve to spark some ideas on what might help you next year. 

Start Earlier: Thankfully, we did basically the same Christmas Eve service this year as last, so I knew what we were getting into. By Thanksgiving, our input list was mostly done (it changed a bit, but not much), my starting show file was complete (including starting snapshots for all music), the set was designed, and the schedule for December was in order. All the rental equipment had been lined up and new equipment purchased. 

Three weeks before Christmas, we built the block wall (at least most of it). Two weeks out, we hung the cords for the lights and set up the Christmas tree. By Christmas week, all we had to do was put bulbs in the cords, hang the walls and set the stage for audio. It made for a good week. We even took Thursday morning off, and when Jon got sick and had to go home for a day and a half, it didn’t kill us. I didn’t get my Friday off (like I hoped), but it wasn’t a crazy long day, either.

Enlist More Help: Last year, we were severely limited in people to help. This year, I resolved to delegate more, and not take on too much. I intentionally let a few things go that I normally would have put a lot of time and energy into (though they are not really my job), and I backed off on how much we tried to accomplish. I also had Jon around, who could tackle a myriad of tasks while I was working on other things. Of course, my LD Thomas was there a lot to help as well, and we had a great presentation and video team that committed many hours to making the service great. 

Let it Go: Like I alluded to, I let a lot go this year. Mostly, it was stuff that either wasn’t my job anyway, or high-investment details that no one would notice. At times, we TDs tend to obsess over details that only we notice. Sometimes that is admirable, sometimes it kills us. Learning to discern which is which is an important lesson. I could have spent twice as much time refining my mixes as I did, but given our poor PA and acoustics, I would have been the only person that noticed. That may have made me feel good in the moment, but the time was time I didn’t have, and I would feel much worse right now, and being more worn out on Christmas Eve would have made me more grouchy and less in the spirit. How much is that worth?

I decided to simply relax and try to enjoy the season more this year. I found that by lowering my own crazy-high standards to a level that still surpassed everyone around me, I was able to rest more, spend more time at home, spend more time talking with my volunteers and the band, and feel a whole lot better about the long day when it was done. 

I didn’t resent Christmas this year, which is a big deal for me. I still have a way to go when it comes to keeping a proper perspective, but these are a few ways in which I improved. Hopefully, this will be a catalyst for you if you find yourself in a bad place in the post-Christmas recovery. If you do, get some rest, spend some time in prayer and reflection and come up with a plan to not repeat those mistakes again next year. You’ll be glad you did! And don’t forget, Easter is early this year...

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