Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Month: May 2009 (Page 1 of 3)

The Porch

Those of you that follow me on Twitter probably remember that a few weeks ago someone on the creative team had the idea that we should have a porch in church for one weekend. It actually makes more sense than it sounds at first; our theme for the weekend was The Front Porch: Practicing Hospitality. It was part of a series called Renovation: Turning Our House Into A Home. We’ve been talking about different “rooms” in a house and using that as a jump-off point for a given theme.

Anyway, we thought it would be good to have a porch as a visual metaphor for what we were talking about. The trick was that it had to actually support people. And be repurposed later. My initial “in my head” design was going to be really simple. A quick 1×4 deck skinned in luan, punch some 4×4’s through to raise it up and make into posts for railings. Simple and easy.

Then they said that they wanted people to be able to come up on the porch and write on it. They also wanted to re-use the deck portion of it as a teaching platform down the road. That made things a little more complicated. First, the “legs” needed to be removable from the decks. Second, the whole thing needed to support perhaps half a dozen people per section. Third, the entire assembly could not rack and collapse. And it needed to look like a porch.

Off I went to Google SketchUp. First off, I should note that if you haven’t played in SketchUp, you really should. It’s free after all, and it’s a great way to design things in 3-D. I’ve been playing with it for a few months now, and really like it. It has some quirks, but hey, it’s free. I’ll also point out that after doing the design, cut list and material list, we went to Home Depot and bought material. When all was said and done, we had an incredibly small pile of cut-offs, 1 extra 2×4 (which I bought just in case) and didn’t have to make a single trip back for more material. There’s some real benefit to planning ahead.

Here’s what the framing looked like:

Everything was designed to be easily assembled and disassembled. click to enlarge Everything was designed to be easily assembled and disassembled. click to enlargeThere are 4 “deck” sections, assembled out of 2×4’s, glued and nailed together. I then used construction adhesive and screws to secure 3/4″ plywood to the framing. That gives me a 4 1/4″ high “platform” once they’re repurposed. Perfect. The legs were built from 4×4 douglas fir posts, 2×6 girders and 2×4 diagonal bracing. Because the entire thing needed to come apart afterward for storage, I used various angles and plates from Simpson Strong-Tie. Great stuff that. I hand-cut the stair stringers out of a 2×10, and used 2×10’s for the treads. This was the finished plan.

What it was supposed to look like. click to enlarge What it was supposed to look like. click to enlargeThe railing is just 2×4’s and 2×2’s glued and nailed together. I used PL Premium construction adhesive for everything because I wanted it to resist racking and hold together if someone leaned up against it. The railing is designed to meet code, just because I’m a geek.

So those were the plans. As often happens, the best laid plans run into a small snag. When we started setting platforms in place, it became clear we didn’t have quite the run length in the room we thought we did. We were about 4′ short, in fact. Someone suggested turning one of the platforms 90 degrees and running the stairs off the end. We tried it and it worked like a charm.

I don't know who the guy is, but I could not get him to stop walking back and forth in front of the porch. click to enlarge I don’t know who the guy is, but I could not get him to stop walking back and forth in front of the porch. click to enlargeWe set rocking chairs there to make it more porch-like. In this design, it worked exceptionally well. The short ell created by turning a platform gave people a little more room to move around each other, and gave us a nice corner to set a rocking chair. Here’s what it looked like during a service.

Even with dozens of people on it, the porch didn't move an inch. click to enlarge Even with a dozen people on it, the porch didn’t move an inch. click to enlargeEveryone was quite pleased with the final result. It took a couple of long days to build and paint, and we had some great volunteers come in to help with it. And now we have a few teaching platforms that will make it easier for people in the back of the room to see the teacher. It’s what we call a win-win-win.

Sustainability

The word sustainability is all the rage now. We hear talk of sustainable forest management, sustainable building, sustainable manufacturing. It’s finally come to our collective attention that the resources on this planet are not inexhaustible, and we had better figure out how to live within our means, so to speak.

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve had well over a dozen interviews and conversations about job possibilities. That means I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my ministry philosophy. One thing that I’ve started articulating more in recent days is the concept of sustainability. Not in a raw material sense, but in a “how can I do this job for the long-run” sense. It’s a cliche to be sure, but the phrase, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” is true as in ministry as it ever was. As I thought and talked about this concept, it has become clear to me that we need to run at a sustainable pace.

Before we get to what a sustainable pace is, it might be helpful to think about what a sustainable pace is not.

 

  • It is not working 60+ hour weeks, week after week without a break.
  • It is not working 7 days a week for months on end.
  • It is not working 52 weekends a year.
  • It is not mixing (or lighting, or directing, or whatever) all 5 services, every weekend, all year.
  • It is not working 51 weeks, then taking a week off.

Have you ever noticed that the very best preachers don’t preach 52 weekends a year? Most preach 35-40 weekends a year (the really good ones anyway). The reason is not that they’re lazy; it’s because they know they need time away from the pulpit to stay fresh, creative and enthused.

Why is it that we expect ourselves to be at FOH every weekend, all year long? Worse yet, why do some of those same preachers expect that of us? Let’s face it–that’s just nuts. Take it from someone who A) loves mixing and B) would do it every weekend and C) has done it every weekend in the past (I mixed every weekend for almost 3 1/2 years some time ago)–that schedule will burn you out. In fact, after that stint, I ended up leaving the church and took 6 months off from serving anywhere. I was as burnt as 5-minute toast. I almost gave up on the church and the technical arts.

Sadly, I still fall into the trap of thinking I need to be there every weekend or church will not go on. My guess is that it probably would. There are number of reasons for my wrong thinking, and over the course of the next few Fridays, I’ll be unpacking some of what God’s been showing me with regard to setting up a sustainable ministry lifestyle. Because I don’t want to find myself in a cycle of burning out, taking a year off, then working too hard, burning out, taking a year off… Instead, I want to look back 5 years from now and feel like I’m doing well, and could do whatever I’m doing for another 5 years. The only way to do that is by keeping a manageable pace. Stick with this; I think it’s going to be an interesting discussion!

Off-Site Remote Controlled Servers

This one falls right near the line that separates “pretty darn useful” and “because I can.” Since I’m now charged (for another few weeks anyway) of administering a Leopard Server, I need some way of running said server from home. Mainly because I don’t like driving to the office at 9 PM to run software updates, check on backups, look in on my RAID or do other things that require me to control the computer, I needed a way to remotely control the computer.

Leopard server offers a few cool tools for doing this, but unfortunately, none of them allow me to take direct control of the machine with a graphical interface. Sure, I can SSH in and use terminal to do just about anything, but that would require me learning Linux commands and I’m a little too busy for that. No sir, what we need is remote access.

When you’re on a LAN, the Mac OS (and by extension Leopard Server) offers a great utility called Screen Sharing. You can share any screen of any Mac running 10.5 or higher. It’s super-easy and works like a charm. In fact, I often sit at my MacPro (with dual 22″ monitors) running a screen sharing window to the server on one monitor and another one to my MacBook Pro on the other (which is all happening in 1 of 6 Spaces–normally other things are happening on the MacPro as well–I’m a geek, and I digress).

Sadly, Screen Sharing requires one to be on the same subnet, and that means a VPN doesn’t qualify. However, it occured to me that Screen Sharing is essentially a gussied up VNC (Virtual Network Control), and it only takes one checkbox to enable other VNC clients to control the screen. So I checked the box and went home for the night. Actually, you have to enable a password for the VNC control as well. Can’t be too careful.

From System Preferences, select the Sharing pane, the click on Remote Mangement. Use Computer Settings to get to the VNC menu. From System Preferences, select the Sharing pane, the click on Remote Mangement. Use Computer Settings to get to the VNC menu.
Once there, enable VNC control, and pick a password. Once there, enable VNC control, and pick a password.From home, I fired up my VPN (Virtual Private Network) that I set up on my Astaro ASG120 security device. It’s using PPTP protocol, and is quite fast. Then I launched Chicken of the VNC (get it, Chicken of the vnC? geek humor, I love it!), and it immediately saw my server. I typed in the password and like magic, I was running my server–which is located 6.7 miles from my house. Sweet! You can also use Chicken of the VNC to control Macs running OS 10.4, though it’s not as elegant as the built-into 10.5 Screen Sharing.

Now, one could argue that enabling VNC control is a security breach point. However, someone would first have to know the IP address of the server (which is not published anywhere since we’re not hosting a site there), know a username and password to get in via VNP, know the username and password of the VNC connection and know the username and password of the admin account on the server. I feel reasonably safe, especially since we’re not guarding state secrets.

You could also use this trick to screen share a presentation computer for troubleshooting from home if you have a VPN connection to your network. With a fast enough connection, you might be able to run ProPresenter from home, but that’s another post.

*Warning* Make sure your network is secure before opening this up. Have multiple layers of hard to crack passwords and usernames in place before allowing this or any remote access to your network or server. Just so you know…

Taking Flight With Creatitivity

A few weeks ago, Abingdon Press sent me this book to read. First of all, I was pretty jazzed that they would send me the book; apparently I meet the criteria of being a well-known enough blog now–which is really cool. I was also excited because I love to read, and I’m always game for a free book.

While not every book I read bears mention in this blog, this one does. The reason is simple; it’s a good book worthy of your time. The full title of the book is Taking Flight With Creativity: Worship Design Teams that Work. It’s an appropriate title because the authors, Len Wilson and Jason Moore (founders of Midnight Oil Productions) do an excellent job of describing exactly how a worship design team should be structured, what they should do and what they should not do. They leave plenty of room for customizing the process to work in your church while still giving useful guidelines for getting started.

Here are a few quotes I found interesting:

People in our time still listen best when spoken to in a familiar language. That language changes over time, and those in ministry must change with it.

Teams that work allow empowerment, because creative people won’t hang around an environment where they are told, explicitly or implicitly, what to do.

Good communication and plenty of lead time on major changes will ease the pressure and frustration felt by the tech director.

It is of the utmost importance to remember that what we do in worship design teams is possibly the most important thing we’ll do in life.

The authors use the metaphor of the first flight at Kitty Hawk as a vehicle for moving the book forward. It’s a stretch at times, but a useful metaphor nonetheless. The first section of the book, “Are we meant to fly? Discovering a strategic approach to worship,” talks about the need for a design team in the first place. This is one area where a lot of churches need to grow.

The second section, “Building the areoplane: Putting the worship design team together,” outlines the cast of characters you’ll need for a good design team. Most the people you’d expect should be there, pastor, worship leader, tech director, but there are a few surprises.

The third section, “Taking flight: Achieving Koinonia,” walks the reader through the process a creative team should take. From first becoming a small group to the weekly decision list and brainstorming, the authors take the reader behind into the planning room and let us observe.

The book wraps up with a final section on the maintenance and troubleshooting of a design team.

Having been on several design teams, I was very encouraged by this book. I could see many areas were we’ve done things well, and some areas where we need to improve. If you don’t currently have a worship design team at your church, or do but it’s not functioning well, give this book a read. It’s not long, and you could easily finish it in a few evenings if you were motivated. Most importantly, it’s well-written and engaging, traits that are often missing in books in this category.

Keynote Master Slides

One of my favorite things about Keynote it that Master Slides actually work. I’ve spent hundreds of hours in PowerPoint only to be forever frustrated with their master slides. Sometimes they worked like I expected, sometimes they didn’t work at all. When I got my first copy of Keynote a few years ago, it was life-changing. It occurred to me that some people might be out there duplicating slides and changing text instead of simply using masters so I thought I’d run through a quick example or two on how we use them.

You probably know that we use ProPresenter for all our presentation to screen. However, we use Keynote extensively to create many of the slides that end up there. The most obvious use is for sermon notes. We have a wonderfully talented designer that produces all of our themed graphics, and part of that package is a notes background. I take that background, drop it into my Keynote masters (most of which simply have to be tweaked from series to series) and the presentation operators make the graphics. Here’s how it works.

The first step is to create a presentation that matches your screen resolution. We present at 800×600 (because it doesn’t require SD video to be scaled much). You can start with any of the Apple-supplied templates, but I recommend the basic white or black background. That will give you what you need without a lot of extras you don’t. Next you’ll need to view the Master Slides.

From the "View" icon, chose Show Master Slides. From the “View” icon, chose Show Master Slides.Once you have them in the sidebar, you can select them and start editing. Nearly every master slide will include a Title Text and a Body Text box. Those become the basis for my masters. You can change the fonts, shadow, color, position, size of the bounding box and a host of other options. New in iWork 09 is a checkbox that will auto-shrink text in a text box to fit the confines of the box. This can be a great help for scripture slides.

I have created a whole series of masters that accommodate almost any likely sermon note slide request. And when a new one does come up, I’ll make a new master for it. Last week’s Keynote file becomes this week’s with a simple name change. The masters stay the same.

Every time we change series, I drop the new background it the masters slides. I first delete the old one (no sense having it in there slowing things down), paste the new one in, then send it to back. I’ll make any text position, format and color changes to match the design and we’re done. I recommend hiding the Master slides once you’re done editing. It’s way too easy to select one when you’re building a show and think you’re creating a slide when you’re actually editing a master. Don’t ask me how I know this.

In use, masters couldn’t be easier. When you click on the + button, a new slide is created. From the Masters menu, choose your template.

We'll select a template, in this case Scripture. We’ll select a template, in this case Scripture.Once the slide is created, you simply double click each text box to edit. You can type whatever you need to in each box, though I find that time-consuming and error-prone. Since our pastor normally sends us a Word or Pages document with his slides, we simply copy and paste–with a twist. If you copy text from a Word.doc, for example, it’s likely to be 12 pt. Times. When you paste that into your master text block it will appear as…12 pt. Times. What gives? I thought masters worked in Keynote? They do, but you need to paste correctly.

Once you double-click on the text box, Right-click and select “Paste and Match Style” from the dialog box. That will format your pasted text exactly the way the master text box is formatted. Perfect!

The key to cutting and pasting. The key to cutting and pasting.Once you get a good library of Master Slides, it takes but minutes to get the sermon notes formatted and ready for the screen. Once we’re done creating the slides in Keynote, we export them as JPG files, import them into ProPresenter and display them from there. We could also play out from Keynote, but I like the easy, random access ProPresenter affords in case the sermon changes.

Podcast Production Pt. 1–Recording

I like to get out and go for a walk just about every day. And ever since I bought an iPod Touch, I have really enjoyed listening to various sermon podcasts when I do. As a church techie, I don’t often get to really listen to a sermon; normally I’m busy tweaking other things and can’t focus much on it. So the opportunity to hear 6-7 sermons (or perhaps a geeky podcast like TWiT) has been great. Most of the time, anyway.

The other day I was listening to a well-known pastor’s podcast (you would instantly recognize his name). I have got to tell you, though the message was great, the audio was not. I could tell the originally recorded audio was rather marginal, and the MP3 encoding was done at such a low bitrate that the artifacts were very distracting. As a long-time audio geek with a great desire for quality audio, I thought I would share the  process we use to put together a really good sounding podcast. This week we’ll touch on recording; next week post-production; and in two weeks, I’ll share my encoding secret sauce. In case you haven’t picked up on the new format for the blog, Monday’s are now Audio days.

The first step in getting a quality podcast is to get a quality recording. This involves several components, not the least of which is the choice of microphone. We use a DPA 4088 cardioid headset microphone. I’ll warn you, it’s not cheap. It is, however, the best sounding headset mic I’ve ever heard. The Countryman e6 is another popular choice, as is the AT 892. Personally, I like the sound of the 892 better than the e6, though some complain it’s harder to fit. What you don’t want is an omni-lav.

It’s not that an omni lavaliere can’t sound good–the Countryman B3, Tram TR-50, Sony ECM 77 and other sound fantastic–it’s that when used in a live PA setting, they tend to pick up too much room noise. So you hear the preacher’s voice, then you hear the echo from the PA. All this extraneous sound wreaks havoc on the low-bitrate encoder and leads to annoying artifacts. If at all possible, stick with a good headworn mic, or in some cases a handheld (providing it’s used properly).

If you can, I recommend recording from a Pre-EQ direct out. The reason is this; you typically have to do a fair amount of EQ on even the best speaking mics to keep them from feeding back and sounding good. All that EQ will not benefit your recording. You can tweak the EQ later in post if you need to, but you can’t put back what you previously took away. We don’t currently do this because of the way our system is set up, and I’m not really happy with it. It was on my list of things to address, but I don’t think I’ll get to it. If you have to use a record out, or another Post-EQ send you can get away with it, but it’s not optimal.

The next step is a good recording. You can record straight to a computer, and that’s what we did at Crosswinds. I bought a good sound card to use as an input source (don’t use the 1/8″ line in jack if you can avoid it–far too noisy), and recorded straight into Adobe Audition. USB and FireWire interfaces are also excellent (and more flexible) options. Recording to a CD-R is a possibility, though I would recommend doing some post-production on it. I really like solid-state recorders. We have a Marantz PMD660 that records to Compact Flash. With a 1 Gig flash card in it, we get several hours of record time. While it will record to an uncompressed WAV file, I’ve found the high-bitrate MP3 option sounds just fine. I record at 44.1 KHz since my podcast will end up at 22050 Hz and getting there from 44.1 requires less rounding (as compared to a 48 KHz recording), and theoretically anyway, fewer artifacts.

The Marantz PMD 600. A great little digital recorder.

The Marantz PMD 600. A great little digital recorder.We used to record to an Alesis HD24, which sounded great but was a pain to use because files were transferred via a slow, 10 Base-T ethernet connection. It took a good 20 minutes to pull down the 400 Meg file every week. Using USB 2.0 on the Marantz, it takes 20 seconds. I like that.

Please promise me you won’t record to cassettes any longer. I’m on a mission to eliminate cassette audio distribution. I even told the few people who used to buy them at my previous church that I would buy them a CD player if they would switch. There are so many better options. Use them.

So that’s step one. Next week, we’ll talk a little about post-production.

Confessions of a Workaholic

This week, I did the unthinkable. I postponed 2 projects and took a few days off.

Hi. My name is Mike. And I’m a workaholic. I would say a recovering workaholic, but  just as quickly as I think I’m “recovering,” I’m back at it again. And don’t look at me with that “I can quit anytime” look on your face. Sure you can. That’s what I keep saying. Let’s not fool each other–we’re techies, we’re driven, we work too hard.

  1. Not sure if you qualify? Consider these questions:
  2. Do you feel guilty if you put in “only” 45 hours a week?
  3. Have you worked more than 50 of the last 52 weekends?
  4. Do you remember the last time you took a few days off?
  5. Do you secretly feel the rest of the staff doesn’t work as hard as you do?

Come on, you know what I’m talking about. It’s pretty rare that I meet a church techie that doesn’t currently (or hasn’t recently) feel near the edge of burnout. And that’s a dang shame. I would argue that our rate of effectiveness is inversely proportional to how much overtime we work. Sure, we may get more “done,” but I don’t think we’re more effective. I find that when I’m working 55-60+ hours a week, I start neglecting my volunteer staff, I don’t take time to just sit and think and be creative, and I don’t have time to take in any input. My soul starts to dry up and I slowly stop caring about what I’m doing.

Think about it: God took a day off and rested. Now, I’m pretty sure God didn’t actually need to take a day off. Yet, He did. The challenge for us is that we work on the day most people consider the Sabbath. So even when we take our day off during the week, it’s not really a day off.

Worse, some churches think that because we “only” from 1-7 on Saturday and from 6-1 on Sunday, we really don’t need another day off. Time to re-think that plan. Too many church techies leave a church after a few years because they’re just plain tired. I know… I’ve been there. At my last job, I was working 55-60 hours a week, pretty much every week. I didn’t take a day off for 8 months. I was ready to quit. Here’s what I learned.

We need to take time off to refresh our souls. When we work constantly, we drift into a “git ‘r done” mode. We stop really caring about creating engaging worship experiences and focus strictly on hitting our cues. Eventually others pick up on that, and they follow suit. The whole team, and gathering, suffers. I find the longer I work, the less innovative and creative I am, and even having one extra day off can be enough to jump-start the creative process again.

We need to be reminded that it’s not about me and how hard I work. It’s about working in rhythm with Jesus and letting Him move in and through us. We need to be more about being led than about dropping our shoulder and pressing on.

We need to be in this for the long haul. I’ve seen surveys that indicate that it costs a company as much as $30,000 when an employee leaves. The cost to a church is far greater. When technical team leadership turns over every few years, the volunteers pay a steep price. Many of them become discouraged and quit–and that’s a loss we can’t sustain.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; as a church techie, you’ll never get caught up. So relax! Take some time off. Get outside, breathe some fresh air. Read a book, listen to music, watch a movie. But whatever you do, don’t feel guilty! You deserve the time, you really do.

Run Windows On Your Mac–For Free!

If you’ve read this blog for more than a week, you’re probably aware that I’m a pretty hard-core Mac user. In fact, I’ve been using them longer than some of you have been alive (23 years, and counting!). As much as I love my MacBook Pro (and my MacPro) and the latest version of the OS, sometimes I admit I have to use Windows. It’s the only way to control the M7; it’s how I have to configure our Biamp Nexia system processor; and it’s how I have to set up the Extron switcher.

In the past, I’ve used Parallels (v. 2–didn’t like it, though I hear v. 4 is much better) and VMWare’s Fusion (big fan). But now that the Release Candidate of Windows 7 is out, and is free for almost a year, I thought I’d give another platform a try. I heard about Sun’s Virtual Box on MacBreak Weekly with Leo Laporte. I was intrigued. He claimed it was every bit as polished as Parallels or Fusion and was (wait for it)…Free! So I thought, why not?

This past Sunday, I had an hour to kill before heading in to church. So I downloaded and installed Virtual Box. That was pretty easy. I then set about downloading Windows 7 RC (it’s a 2.36 Gig file, but it only took about 20 minutes). I should point out that it would not download using Safari. Probably an evil Microsoft conspiracy. Using Firefox, it worked just fine (thanks @davidgohome). Installation was pretty straightforward. Win7 shows up as an ISO image, and I plunked it on my Mac Desktop. I created a new Virtual Machine in Virtual Box (VB) and told it I would be installing Windows Vista (Win7 is not on the list yet). I pointed it to the ISO image and said “Go.”

Virtual Box gives you many configurable options, just like Fusion or Parallels. Only free. Virtual Box gives you many configurable options, just like Fusion or Parallels. Only free.At that point, I got a little worried. Every Windows installation I’ve ever experienced has taken hours. Plural. I wondered if I would have to bail on this before I had to leave… Thankfully, it was not the case. In fact, Win7 installed in VB in under 20 minutes. Shocking.

The new "invisible windows" featue. I hope the fish doesn't die... The new “invisible windows” featue. I hope the fish doesn’t die…I booted up Windows and configured my account. I was in. Wow… that was easy! I’ve been playing with it on and off for the last few days and I have a few observations. First, VB is good, but it’s not quite up to the level of Fusion. While it does capture the mouse automatically, I can’t switch Spaces if I’m in VB (at least not using the keyboard). Fusion’s Unity view is better than VB’s Seamless view, and shared folders worked a lot faster in Fusion.

In fact, it took me a good 2 hours to get shared folders to work and I had to resort to the command line in Windows to do it. Setting them up in the VB app is easy, just select Shared Folders and tell it which Mac folder you wish to share, give it a name and you’re set. Except I couldn’t get Win7 to see it. After mucking around in the “notes to myself” documentation, I came across a command to map a VB shared folder to a network drive (net use x: \\vboxsvr\sharename where sharename is the name of your shared folder). After that, all was cozy.

As for Win7, I will say it’s the least annoying version of Windows I’ve ever used. It runs reasonably fast on my 2.0 Ghz MacBook Pro (I’m allocating 1 Gig of RAM to the VM). The graphics look crisp and gone (finally) is the Fisher Price look of XP. So far, I’ve installed Studio Manager, the Nexia software and Open Office. All work as advertised.

At the end of the day, the Win7 and Virtual Box combo is quite serviceable. If I had to choose between Fusion at $70 and Virtual Box at $0, I’d take Virtual Box, as it would suffice for what I need to do in Windows. However, since you can often get a $50 rebate when you buy Fusion with a new Mac, I’d spend $20 on Fusion for sure.

Windows 7 is significantly improved over XP and I will likely start using it more. I’ll also install it as a virtual machine in Fusion to see how it runs in there. It’s not going to make me give up my Mac, however. Still, it’s free until March 2010, so what the heck. Give it a shot.

A Few Great Resources

First off, I want to say I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support regarding my upcoming transition off the Upper Room staff. This is an amazing online community, and I am very thankful for the e-mails, tweets and leads for new positions. I am encouraged and confident we will have a new direction soon. Thanks again.

Since I’ve been a bit pre-occupied over the last few days, I wanted to share with you a few things that I’ve found interesting and useful over the last week or so.

Tim Corder wrote a great preview of the new Digidesign SC48. It’s billed as an M7 killer, and based on Tim’s observations, it’s surely going to give Yamaha some stiff competition. On the one hand, Digi has made a great move in coming up with consoles at different price points that all use the same OS and show files. They are the first ones to do that really well. That shortens the learning curve when moving from one to the other. On the downside, there is no easy way to integrate a digital snake (at least w/ controllable head amps). Read the article from Tim to learn more. Something to watch for sure.

Speaking of the Venue, Dave Stagl has a thrilling account of completely swapping out their old analog board for a new Venue–on a Thursday. Before rehearsal. Pretty gutsy, Dave! Not sure I would attempt that–you’re a braver man than I. You really need to read this one.

Finally, if you didn’t make it to WFX in California last week, there is a lot of great stuff online. Anthony Coppedge has made his session notes available online, so you’ll want grab those (here and here). There is also a ton of stuff at the WFX website. I understand social media was a big topic this year so take a look.

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming here before long. I’ll also be letting you in on the process we’re working through to find our next assignment–though probably not in real-time. Still, I’ll keep you posted. As the great marketers Bartles and Jaymes once said, “We thank you again for your support.”

The Big News

OK, I’ve been promising this for days on Twitter, it’s time to spill the beans. I’ve been on staff for about 18 months at a really cool church outside of Minneapolis. We’ve gone from being a sub-ministry at an older and larger church to a church plant. That transition has been a lot of work, and it has not been without cost. As our numbers have shrunk, the offering has shrunk with it. Our leadership has always been very fiscally responsible and realistic when it comes to setting budgets. As we enter our first year as a stand-alone church, our resource team wants to make sure there will be a year two for Upper Room.

As a staff, we’ve been all-in on this process since last fall. We’ve known that not everyone could make the transition and we held on to our jobs with an open hand. The current budgeting reality means that a couple of our part-time staff will lose some hours and one full-time position has to be eliminated. That position was mine.

As sad as I am at the prospect of leaving Upper Room, I will say that my boss and the rest of the leadership team has handled this with the utmost integrity. I saw this coming a few months ago, so it didn’t catch me by surprise; though it still stings. I’ve grown to really love my staff, volunteer teams and our community, and it will be hard to leave them.

What’s Next?

I’m honestly not sure. I have a few irons in the fire already and I’m just getting started with a search. As a family, we would love to stay in the Twin Cities, but we’re also open to what God has for us in the future. Right now, my search radius is the continental US. I feel as called to vocational ministry as ever, and believe that’s where God will keep me. So I guess I’m a technical arts director for hire.

How You Can Help

A couple of ways come to mind. Prayer for discernment would be a great asset. And for my family (two teenage girls and my wife) as we work through our options (they really don’t want to move again). I have one opportunity right now in the Twin Cities that would be good–but I don’t want to miss God’s best for good and convenient.

I’m also a huge believer in networking. Right now I have a list of about 40-50 people I will be calling and e-mailing over the next week to let them know I’m looking. I’ll be asking them to share names of anyone they can think of that I can talk to, even if they are unaware of an open position at a particular church. It’s a pretty small world, and if A doesn’t know of a opening, but knows B, even if B doesn’t have a opening, they know C, and C might. It’s just how it works.

So if you know of someone I should talk to–even if it’s because they know a lot of people–please make an introduction. You can reach me via email; mike@churchtecharts.org, hit me on Twitter. We’ll connect.

If you’re a church leader who has liked what I’ve had to say on this blog and could use someone like me, let’s have a conversation. Right now we are completely open to whatever God has planned next. Who knows–it could be your church! You can learn more about my background, experience and skill set at my other website, mikesessler.com.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those of you who have left comments and sent e-mails of encouragement over the last few years. It means a lot and encourages me to keep going, even when I’m tired. You are a great community!

Stay tuned for word on the search. I’ll keep you posted!

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