Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

The End of My Rope

Ever have one of those weekends where everything seemed to come together reasonably well, but you left feeling totally spent? And if that weekend comes after a particularly busy time of ministry, it can put you in a hard place. That was my weekend. A little insight into my personality; I am a recovering perfectionist with insecurity issues and achievement as one of my top five strengths. I do whatever it takes to get the job done, regardless of the cost to me and my well-being. I’m a technologist and a problem solver, and because of that, much of my time is spent solving other people’s problems with technology. In short, if you’re reading this blog, we’re probably very much alike, you and I.

This weekend was to be a simpler weekend for me. I’ve been short-staffed by 3-4 people  every weekend for well over a month. Last weekend was Good Friday and Easter, which meant an 80 week leading up to a weekend of 7 services in 3 days. But this weekend, I wasn’t scheduled to do anything. Well, except hang some signs for the new set. Should have been easy. Except it wasn’t. The signs took a lot longer, we had issues with the lift, I needed to fix the projector alignment, ProPresenter was giving us some issues, I discovered a broken encoder on the 5D, the lighting board was acting up, and we lost half our house lights.

On top of that, our regular FOH contractor was back, having been gone for a month. At least three times over the weekend, I heard someone say to him, “Man, it’s good to have you back! We missed your ears up there.” Each person meant it as a compliment to our contractor. But what I heard was, “Man it’s good to have you back. It SUCKED with Mike up there.” Last week, I heard similar critisism about our Good Friday program (and from someone who’s opinion I really shouldn’t even care about). Like I said, insecurity issues.

At the end of Sunday, everyone else had left and I had to clear off our 10-high stack of Steeldeck, a set of stairs and the pulpit off the baptistry so facilities could clean it for next weekend. I was pretty shot.

I got home and really wanted to relax. Then my daughter tried to print some homework. The printer started acting up and I had to fix it. It didn’t go well. Not well at all. I pretty much failed Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 6 about fathers not exasperating their children.

I had to spend some time and take stock of my current state of being. I’ve realized that I’ve done it again. I cranked myself up to an unsustainable pace. Any of those issues this weekend ordinarily wouldn’t have bothered me. However, I’m so exhausted, mentally and emotionally from working too hard for too long without a break that I have nothing left to deal with that stuff. My emotional gas tank is empty.

Now, why am I writing all this? Is it because I’m looking for pity, encouragement or validation? Not really; though encouragement and validation is always nice. The real reason I’m being this transparent and vulnerable is because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s been here. If you’re a tech guy in a church, chances are you’ve been exactly where I am right now. You may even be here right now. And if not, you haven’t been doing this long enough. One thing that’s become clear as our little community of TDs has come together around blogs, Twitter, the CTDRT and CTAN is that we all have days (or weeks, or months) like this. I hit this point about a year ago (and vowed I’d never let it happen again) and felt like I was a failure as a TD, as a church staffer for getting this burned out. And yet, when I realize that others have been in this place as well, it helps me understand that I’m not the only one. My hope is that by putting this out in the open, at least one person may read this and say, “Oh my gosh, I’m not the only one! I’m not crazy or a failure!”

But the real question is, how do we get out of this? The answer may vary, but for me, I need a vacation. Not a quasi vacation where I come in late or work from home, but a real, don’t think about work, answer e-mail, send out notifications or make phone calls vacation. That’s hard to do, and it takes at least 5-6 consecutive days off for me to actually recharge.

And that’s what I’m going to do. I have commitments for the next two weeks, but 14 days from today, I will be starting a 6-day vacation. That’s going to mean hiring extra contractors to cover stuff at work, and I don’t care. I need the time off. During that time, I’m going to completely fast from e-mail. I’m turning off my accounts on my iPhone and quitting Mail on my laptop, lest I be tempted to “just check my work account to see what’s going on.” I’m changing my voicemail and putting auto-responders on.

I also need to come up with a long-term plan to take more regular vacations. Most tech guys I know never take all their allotted vacation every year. I’ve worked for nearly nine months now, and taken two days off. That’s not healthy. I also realized I have to come up with a better system so I can take the week after Christmas and Easter off, and I mean really off. As in, “all my other duties are covered by someone else” off.

It’s likely that I’ll not get this right all the time, but I really need to do a much better job about not letting myself get to this place. And the harsh reality is, I did this to myself. Yes, I have a lot of responsibility at church, and what I do is important. However, I have the freedom and blessing from my boss and church leadership to take care of myself. And if I failed at anything, it’s that. I didn’t take care of myself. And when I don’t take care of myself, my family suffers. And that’s just not acceptable.

I hope this has been helpful for someone out there. If even one person relates to this and has the courage to make a change, I’m thankful. You’re not alone. And one of the best things we can do is lean on each other. Now, do what I’m doing and get back to your day off.

24 Comments

  1. ssmith@palmvalley.org

    Hey Mike,

    I appreciate your honesty and straightforward words. Every one of us in ministry have had weekends like this and need to know we are not alone.

    Your commitment and devotion to the Kingdom is not lost on any of your readers, and certainly not on anyone who has ever thrown out a question to you or sought your advise. On the occasions I have looked for help you have given over and above for the benefit of the Church. Thank you for that.

    Sean

  2. ssmith@palmvalley.org

    Hey Mike,

    I appreciate your honesty and straightforward words. Every one of us in ministry have had weekends like this and need to know we are not alone.

    Your commitment and devotion to the Kingdom is not lost on any of your readers, and certainly not on anyone who has ever thrown out a question to you or sought your advise. On the occasions I have looked for help you have given over and above for the benefit of the Church. Thank you for that.

    Sean

  3. labordayfun99@yahoo.com

    Mike,

    Thanks for being transparent about this. I am the only tech guy at my small church, hold down a full time job and have a consulting gig on the side. On top of that, I have also enrolled in a MDiv program that is ‘at my own pace’. If that wasn’t enough, I own a home with a growing to-do-list and a much needed renovation project that I have to get to. And all of this isn’t even the important parts of my life. I have a wonderful wife and 2 great kids that need me as well. Even more important than that, I have a loving God that desires that I spend time with Him.
    I along with you (and many of your readers I’m sure) are struggling with the same thing – making the important stuff the priority. I commend you for making this realization. The only thing that I would add to what you wrote above about recharging is some regular time in the Word and in prayer. I feel it in my energy level and my attitude when I don’t spend that time.

    Thank you for sharing!
    -Thorsten

  4. labordayfun99@yahoo.com

    Mike,

    Thanks for being transparent about this. I am the only tech guy at my small church, hold down a full time job and have a consulting gig on the side. On top of that, I have also enrolled in a MDiv program that is ‘at my own pace’. If that wasn’t enough, I own a home with a growing to-do-list and a much needed renovation project that I have to get to. And all of this isn’t even the important parts of my life. I have a wonderful wife and 2 great kids that need me as well. Even more important than that, I have a loving God that desires that I spend time with Him.
    I along with you (and many of your readers I’m sure) are struggling with the same thing – making the important stuff the priority. I commend you for making this realization. The only thing that I would add to what you wrote above about recharging is some regular time in the Word and in prayer. I feel it in my energy level and my attitude when I don’t spend that time.

    Thank you for sharing!
    -Thorsten

  5. caley_the_jag@yahoo.co.uk

    Back in January I was at our band’s rehearsal, joking to someone about “showing up this Sunday, setting up, and leaving” – it was in fact the day after I first stumbled on this blog – and I was thinking “man, time off would be brilliant”.

    That Saturday God gave me a whole weekend off, and nearly 3 days in relative isolation to chill out. Unfortunately it took appendicitis to have that opportunity.

    At that point I realised that between myself and the other tech guy (who has been running powerpoints for about 7 years) we have had a silly small number of days off. I have not been a part of our own congregation in almost 2 years.

    Far too easy as a tech to miss out on worship.

  6. caley_the_jag@yahoo.co.uk

    Back in January I was at our band’s rehearsal, joking to someone about “showing up this Sunday, setting up, and leaving” – it was in fact the day after I first stumbled on this blog – and I was thinking “man, time off would be brilliant”.

    That Saturday God gave me a whole weekend off, and nearly 3 days in relative isolation to chill out. Unfortunately it took appendicitis to have that opportunity.

    At that point I realised that between myself and the other tech guy (who has been running powerpoints for about 7 years) we have had a silly small number of days off. I have not been a part of our own congregation in almost 2 years.

    Far too easy as a tech to miss out on worship.

  7. chris@behindthemixer.com

    I’m right there with you. Last week, on top of everything else I was experiencing, I had a water pipe burst under my driveway. Money and stress issues I didn’t need.

    I took one big step last week and withdrew from the worship team. Between my audio work and then playing guitar on that worship team, Sundays are usually about work for me. The worship team was cool with my choice – there is still another guitarist so it’s not like I left them high and dry.

    On Sunday, as the worship team played, I was happy that I wasn’t playing with them. For the first time in a long time, I was able to focus on the words of the songs and sing. Just me and the family in the congregation.

  8. chris@behindthemixer.com

    I’m right there with you. Last week, on top of everything else I was experiencing, I had a water pipe burst under my driveway. Money and stress issues I didn’t need.

    I took one big step last week and withdrew from the worship team. Between my audio work and then playing guitar on that worship team, Sundays are usually about work for me. The worship team was cool with my choice – there is still another guitarist so it’s not like I left them high and dry.

    On Sunday, as the worship team played, I was happy that I wasn’t playing with them. For the first time in a long time, I was able to focus on the words of the songs and sing. Just me and the family in the congregation.

  9. emyers@colonial.org

    Me too.

    I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. This year I did. Spend less time at work/more time at home with my family. I have an 11 yr old daughter & a 13 yr old son. I reached a breaking point last fall. So, hear this from someone on the other side of a “breakdown”. I now make a concerted effort to be a better steward of my family time. I know there are “seasons” to this gig (Easter, Christmas, and oh, every other event). So, instead of sacrificing my family for “excellence” in ministry, I’ve committed to striving for excellence in ministry with zero expense to excellence as a father/husband. Its the hardest problem I’ve had to solve in my life, but definitely worth the effort.

    So far, here are the practical results:

    – Stayed home to care for my wife during the week after her jaw surgery.

    – Scheduled myself completely off 1 weekend per quarter this year.

    – Going to actually USE my vacation weeks this year – all of em!

    – I make a concerted effort to work LESS than 45 hrs a week (within reason)

    – have delegated more of my responsibilities and am releasing more to volunteers who are now fully trained and eager to do “important” things – including my Sunday AM post (even when I’m there to do it!)

    – Have started playing guitar again at home (with my daughter!)

    – Started reading things other than manuals again

    – Started working out at home on an eliptical machine

    – Started a “to-do” list for home projects and actually getting some of THOSE done – including beginning a “treehouse” project for my kids!

    I feel like my life is starting over. The more I’ve started to release, the more I can see how God is not “depending” on me to get things done. I have a job to do, and I am careful to focus on my responsibilities, but I am reminded daily lately that I could easily work 80 hours a week every week and not get it all done, but working 80 hours a week is not helping me, the church, and definitely not our omnipotent, “owner of all resources” God. In fact, what good am I to the ministry if I’m grumpy, burned out, and physically tired and sore every single time I’m on this campus.

    So, solving the problem of multiplying myself and then delegating to those “multiples” is a much more rewarding endeavor, and has brought great dividends so far to the team, the congregation, and most importantly – my family!

    I still have huge frustrations, but I am doing a little better so far this year of keeping those frustrations in perspective.

    CONFIDENT IN CHRIST,

    Eric Myers

  10. emyers@colonial.org

    Me too.

    I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. This year I did. Spend less time at work/more time at home with my family. I have an 11 yr old daughter & a 13 yr old son. I reached a breaking point last fall. So, hear this from someone on the other side of a “breakdown”. I now make a concerted effort to be a better steward of my family time. I know there are “seasons” to this gig (Easter, Christmas, and oh, every other event). So, instead of sacrificing my family for “excellence” in ministry, I’ve committed to striving for excellence in ministry with zero expense to excellence as a father/husband. Its the hardest problem I’ve had to solve in my life, but definitely worth the effort.

    So far, here are the practical results:

    – Stayed home to care for my wife during the week after her jaw surgery.

    – Scheduled myself completely off 1 weekend per quarter this year.

    – Going to actually USE my vacation weeks this year – all of em!

    – I make a concerted effort to work LESS than 45 hrs a week (within reason)

    – have delegated more of my responsibilities and am releasing more to volunteers who are now fully trained and eager to do “important” things – including my Sunday AM post (even when I’m there to do it!)

    – Have started playing guitar again at home (with my daughter!)

    – Started reading things other than manuals again

    – Started working out at home on an eliptical machine

    – Started a “to-do” list for home projects and actually getting some of THOSE done – including beginning a “treehouse” project for my kids!

    I feel like my life is starting over. The more I’ve started to release, the more I can see how God is not “depending” on me to get things done. I have a job to do, and I am careful to focus on my responsibilities, but I am reminded daily lately that I could easily work 80 hours a week every week and not get it all done, but working 80 hours a week is not helping me, the church, and definitely not our omnipotent, “owner of all resources” God. In fact, what good am I to the ministry if I’m grumpy, burned out, and physically tired and sore every single time I’m on this campus.

    So, solving the problem of multiplying myself and then delegating to those “multiples” is a much more rewarding endeavor, and has brought great dividends so far to the team, the congregation, and most importantly – my family!

    I still have huge frustrations, but I am doing a little better so far this year of keeping those frustrations in perspective.

    CONFIDENT IN CHRIST,

    Eric Myers

  11. jko.mediaguy@gmail.com

    Lately, I’ve been doing the visuals at our denomination’s national conference, working up to 16 hours/day for 8 days straight.

    As a volunteer, I’m already taking just over a week off from my “real” job to do this. But every year, I vow that next year, I will take additional vacation days afterwards to decompress.

    This year, I actually remembered to do it. I was going to contact my brother to see if I could rent his timeshare in Branson (just 40 miles from conference this year).

    Then my wife tells me that she has to be back here in Wisonsin ASAP for VBS at the church where she babysits.

    Sigh.

    Well, I’m still planning on taking a few extra days off. Just not where I had expected.

  12. jko.mediaguy@gmail.com

    Lately, I’ve been doing the visuals at our denomination’s national conference, working up to 16 hours/day for 8 days straight.

    As a volunteer, I’m already taking just over a week off from my “real” job to do this. But every year, I vow that next year, I will take additional vacation days afterwards to decompress.

    This year, I actually remembered to do it. I was going to contact my brother to see if I could rent his timeshare in Branson (just 40 miles from conference this year).

    Then my wife tells me that she has to be back here in Wisonsin ASAP for VBS at the church where she babysits.

    Sigh.

    Well, I’m still planning on taking a few extra days off. Just not where I had expected.

  13. Lukegervais@gmail.com

    Thank you Mike. I needed to hear that. I could go into detail but suffice it to say I relate I’m praying for you and thank you.

  14. Lukegervais@gmail.com

    Thank you Mike. I needed to hear that. I could go into detail but suffice it to say I relate I’m praying for you and thank you.

  15. joelcollins@me.com

    Mike, man, I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m right there with you and all the other TDs out there this time of the year…Def had the Easter hangover. I remember when you wrote the post last year and how I felt reading it and what I decided to do as a result of it as well. I so much appreciate you’re honesty, openness, and candor. I know it must help a little knowing that there are so many of us out there in the same boat, knowing we’re pulling for you and each other, to stay focused and charged for what God has charged us with as Techies in His church. I hope you have the best vaca ever and come back feeling better than ever!

  16. joelcollins@me.com

    Mike, man, I’m so glad you wrote this. I’m right there with you and all the other TDs out there this time of the year…Def had the Easter hangover. I remember when you wrote the post last year and how I felt reading it and what I decided to do as a result of it as well. I so much appreciate you’re honesty, openness, and candor. I know it must help a little knowing that there are so many of us out there in the same boat, knowing we’re pulling for you and each other, to stay focused and charged for what God has charged us with as Techies in His church. I hope you have the best vaca ever and come back feeling better than ever!

  17. phil@philrowley.net

    All I can say is that I should pray for you and other TD’s far more often! What a great reminder of what you’re up against! It comes back to creating a culture of responsible, committed volunteers. You mentioned “contractors” — wow…what a blessing to have that. It would be great if all churches could afford some paid talent to work in each discipline…how much more could we accomplish for His kingdom…I can only dream! Far too many volunteers (myself included) have many excuses for not wanting to commit to ministry and serving like we ought. If there were more of us out there, your job would be much easier. Unfortunately, we can’t twist anyone’s arm. We can just pray for them and trust God to move and bring us the right people!

  18. phil@philrowley.net

    All I can say is that I should pray for you and other TD’s far more often! What a great reminder of what you’re up against! It comes back to creating a culture of responsible, committed volunteers. You mentioned “contractors” — wow…what a blessing to have that. It would be great if all churches could afford some paid talent to work in each discipline…how much more could we accomplish for His kingdom…I can only dream! Far too many volunteers (myself included) have many excuses for not wanting to commit to ministry and serving like we ought. If there were more of us out there, your job would be much easier. Unfortunately, we can’t twist anyone’s arm. We can just pray for them and trust God to move and bring us the right people!

  19. stuart@churchtechy.com

    I solved this one in my life many years back, or at least I thought I had.

    Then 4yrs back my good lady says to me “you’re tired of this role, time for you to get out” – it took me another 6mths to realise she was right. So I did just that – approached the pastor, told him my situation and worked out a notice period whilst they sought my replacement.

    Three and a bit years later I’m so chilled it’s great πŸ™‚

    But thanks for your honesty, I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  20. stuart@churchtechy.com

    I solved this one in my life many years back, or at least I thought I had.

    Then 4yrs back my good lady says to me “you’re tired of this role, time for you to get out” – it took me another 6mths to realise she was right. So I did just that – approached the pastor, told him my situation and worked out a notice period whilst they sought my replacement.

    Three and a bit years later I’m so chilled it’s great πŸ™‚

    But thanks for your honesty, I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  21. dutchteq@gmail.com

    Thanks. We all need to keep that in the library of our mind and check it out often.
    God Bless and have a great vacation.

  22. dutchteq@gmail.com

    Thanks. We all need to keep that in the library of our mind and check it out often.
    God Bless and have a great vacation.

  23. jonahaz@gmail.com

    Mike,

    I’ve been to a number of conferences and other meetings and I’ve so much of the same as your story it nearly makes me cry. Good for you recognizing the signs and symptoms of burn-out and being aware of your own natural tendencies. Hang in there dude and know that church tech folk the nation over are pullin’ for ya and have felt the same excruciating pain and frustration with all that falls upon the shoulders of a church tech. I myself run lights and video and a multi-venue-multi-campus church and there are times when I swore I would just up and quit and never look back, times when I went home breaking down crying my eyes out asking God to make it all go away, times when I felt like a failure and times when I felt like nobody gave a crap about the insane things that they ask me to do…..Only the supreme and all-surpassing power and grace of God has carried me through it all…Just know that if I could find you and give you a big ol’ hug and say that God is proud of you I would… instead take comfort in knowing that you’re prayer and voice is heard both to God and to the community of techs that serve….

    Blessings,

    J.

  24. jonahaz@gmail.com

    Mike,

    I’ve been to a number of conferences and other meetings and I’ve so much of the same as your story it nearly makes me cry. Good for you recognizing the signs and symptoms of burn-out and being aware of your own natural tendencies. Hang in there dude and know that church tech folk the nation over are pullin’ for ya and have felt the same excruciating pain and frustration with all that falls upon the shoulders of a church tech. I myself run lights and video and a multi-venue-multi-campus church and there are times when I swore I would just up and quit and never look back, times when I went home breaking down crying my eyes out asking God to make it all go away, times when I felt like a failure and times when I felt like nobody gave a crap about the insane things that they ask me to do…..Only the supreme and all-surpassing power and grace of God has carried me through it all…Just know that if I could find you and give you a big ol’ hug and say that God is proud of you I would… instead take comfort in knowing that you’re prayer and voice is heard both to God and to the community of techs that serve….

    Blessings,

    J.

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