Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Tag: Seeds 2013

Seeds 2013 Recap 3

One of the best breakout sessions I attended during  the conference was let by Whitney George. Whit is responsible for everything that happens during a service at Church On The Move. And I mean everything. He is the man with final decision making authority; and he’s cultivated so much trust with the senior pastor (who happens to be his father) that Pastor Willie George didn’t even know what was going to happen during the opening session until he sat through it with the rest of us. So yeah, there’s some good stuff here…


Whitney George—Church On The Move

“You need a singular vision for your service.”

Too many churches have multiple visions for their services. The pastor has one idea, the worship leader another, the tech director another, the kids pastor another still. For the service to be as effective as it can be, there needs to be one vision, and that vision has to be shepherded by one person. Whit said, “Steve Jobs didn’t build the phone you wanted; he built the phone he thought you should have.” We have to develop a singular vision, believe in that vision, and execute the vision—even if that means changing the structure of our team to do so. 

“Trust is the breeding ground for creativity.”

Trust is essential to the creative process. And we have to have trust in three areas; Competency, Chemistry and Character. We need to trust that the people we work with are competent—excellence attracts excellent people. We need to get along with the people we work with. It’s important to realize that creative people can become attached to their ideas. But it’s also important to remember that as a creative, you are more than your ideas. Your identity is in Christ, not your ideas. As to character, we’re talking of morals, but it’s more than that. You want people who are sold out to the the church they work in, not holding their best stuff back for their demo reel. 

“Don’t just ask ‘how,’ ask ‘why?’”

When things aren’t going well, we tend to ask why. But when things are firing on all cylinders, we tend to ask how. We go to a church conference and ask, “How do you do this?” What we should be asking is, “Why do you do this?” 

This is a little sidebar, but here’s an example. Why does COTM do video announcements? Well, because when you’re on stage, you have to justify your reasons for being there. That’s why they go on for so long, and why it can get so awkward. That doesn’t happen with video announcements. They’re not saying everyone should do video announcements but that’s why they do them.

“Do less to do more.”

“Churches could really step up the quality of what they do by cutting out about half of what they currently do.”  One of the reasons COTM doesn’t do much beyond weekend services is because they want to do what they do really, really well. It’s easy to get distracted on a bunch of different new initiatives and neglect the one thing you do every week. Sometimes, we put so much energy into Christmas, Easter or VBS that we turn the other 49 weekends a year into dull, lifeless experiences. Manage that better, and your church will be better off.

“There is no magic behind the magic.”

When we see things that are really fantastic, we tend to think that the process that created the thing is just as magical as the thing it’s not. But that’s not true—the thing is the result of really hard work. At COTM, they don’t work until it’s done they work until it’s right. 

I observed this first-hand. We got to sit in on that last rehearsal for the first session. I watched them run a transition about 6-8 times until it was right. How many times do we practice a couple of songs, never considering how we get from one to another, then just mash them together during the service? They worked at it until it was right. And it made a big difference.

Again, I could go on, but that’s the gist of Whit’s message. If you don’t already, I suggest you subscribe to the Seeds blog; there is a wealth of material there. More next time…

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Seeds 2013 Recap 2

Continuing our series from Seeds, today we’ll be digging into some great quotes from Marty Sklar of Disney. Marty has been the leader of the Imagineers for 50 years. Think about that for a minute; he was part of the team that developed Disney World in Orlando, as well as the other sites around the world. What has he seen and learned over those 50 years? Well, let’s find out. He actually had forty commandments in various disciplines, but I won’t even attempt to go through them all.


Marty Sklar—Disney Imagineer

“Communicate with visual literacy. Color, shape, form, texture are all keys to communicating. Pay close attention to color relationships.” 

We’ve probably all seen color clashes that are visually jarring. But are we guilty of that in our churches? What does the color on the walls say about who we are as a church? Do we color-coordinate well? Do we color-code things so people know where they are? Do we match the color of our graphics with the color of our lights (or make sure they compliment)? Do we use the right textures for the moment? What is our language of color and texture and is it consistent church-wide? These are all questions worth asking (and even better when you answer them).

“Avoid overload. Don’t give your audience too much information. Remember, they’re not contestants on Jeopardy; you only have a few seconds to gain their attention. Make them want to know more.” 

Too often, preachers and program people want to tell the entire story of the Bible in one 60 minute service. Not only is that impossible, it’s a huge turn-off for people. The Bible is full of mystery and depth, there is no way to “recap” it. Find a singular thought, develop it well, and leave the congregation anxious to learn more (then give them a way to find out more).

This applies to announcements, too. I’ve seen graphic slides (and the accompanying verbiage) go into excruciating detail about a given event. Give people the name, date and time along with a brief description. Then give them a way to learn more. Please… 

“Tell one story at a time. Create a story line that holds together from the first idea to the last.” 

A lot of churches are guilty of telling too many stories at once. I’ve observed that the best ones have a consistent, singular story that they keep telling over and over. Every ministry reinforces that story, and every service re-tells that story. The story can be different for every church, but it should be consistent once you get there. 

“Keep it up. Maintain it.”

Have you ever seen a candy wrapper on the ground at a Disney park? Probably not. There are two reasons for this. First, they have a veritable army of grounds keepers that pick things up quickly and efficiently. Second, because the grounds are so neat and clean, you unconsciously learn not to throw your trash on the ground because it would be offensive to spoil the immaculate grounds. 

When you walk into a church that is dirty, not maintained, and generally unkept, you unconsciously come to the conclusion that these people are not serious about what they believe. Constant mistakes in production lead to the same conclusion. 

“People can feel perfection. They may not be able to articulate it, but they can feel it.” -Walt Disney

This goes back to the unconscious perceptions we generate. We’ve had plenty of discussions on perfection versus excellence versus doing your best and I’m not going to go into all that here. But consider the implication of Walt’s words on what we do.

That’s just a smattering of the first 10 commandments Marty shared with us. He had a lot more, but it’s time to move on.

I was going to re-cap Whitney George’s breakout session in this post as well, but then I looked at my notes again. Yeah, no way to recap that in this post, so you’re going to have to wait until Monday. Trust me, it’s worth it!

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Seeds 2013 Recap 1

Last week, Van and I had the immense privilege to attend the Seeds Conference. I’ve spent the last few days processing what I learned and trying to figure out how to re-cap some of the things I took away from it. The more I thought of it, I decided that it would be nearly impossible to condense twenty hours of sessions down to a few pithy posts. So here’s what I’m going to try; I’m going to go through my copious notes and pull out some of the quotes that really struck me. I don’t now how long this will take, but there is gold here, trust me. Ready, set, go!


Session 1—Steven Furtick, Elevation Church

“It’s not a competition, it’s a calling.”

“We need to stop comparing our ‘behind the scenes’ with everyone else’s ‘highlight reel.’”

Wow. How often do we compare what we are doing to the church down the street or across the country. We’re not in competition with each other; we’re called to do what we do. It’s an amazing privilege and we should consider it thus.

“The people that God uses in the greatest ways don’t have the best of everything, but they make the most of everything they have.”

I’ve been guilty of thinking, “Well sure, that church can do that, they have all the best gear.” But we know it’s not about gear, it’s about what we do with what we have. And we’d do well to be grateful for whatever it is we do have, and make the most of it, trusting God to fill in the gaps (and being God, He can probably handle that…).

“We’re not going to get to heaven and find that the people who were ‘just’ volunteer, or ‘just’ greeters or ‘just’ production people will be at the back of the line. In fact, they may be in front.” 

That is a real encouragement to me, how about you?

“I will not stand in front of God and give an account for our our pastor led (or didn’t lead) the church. But I will, however, give an account for how I did what I was called to do.” 

Ouch. Because we’re process guys (and gals), and because we know how to lead and get things done, it’s tempting to think we could do a better job at leading the church. That is not our calling, however. And if it is for you, go become a lead pastor. The technical arts is a support role, and we’ll perform that role better if we’re supporting the lead pastor, not criticizing his leadership.

Furtick was great and there was a lot more, but we’ll move on. 

Session 2—Willie George, Church On The Move

“There is no victory without a strategy. Nobody ever won a victory without a strategy. Everyone’s strategy will be different, but you need a strategy.”

“There is a difference between ground-gaining and ground-maintaining.”

Pastor George was talking in larger terms about the church, but I think this applies to our ministry as technical artists as well. As technical leaders we need to have a strategy to grow our ministry. Maybe that’s a strategy to procure new equipment so we can get more done. Maybe we need to grow our volunteer base or better train the ones we have. Whatever the case, we need a strategy. Simply maintaining is not a winning strategy. We need to develop a strategy, and start working it, taking ground continually. That is how we will grow our ministry and our influence.

“You are not the first one to do what you are doing. If you have a problem borrowing things, you have an ego problem. Learn how to borrow from other people.”

One of the best parts of writing this blog and doing ChurchTechWeekly is that I get to talk to a big range of people who are smarter than I. When I do that, I learn things and continually appropriate great ideas. Many of the things you read about in this blog were originally lifted from someone else. They are often adapted and changed to meet my needs, but I borrow a lot. Sometimes, I even give credit for it. Don’t feel like you need to constantly re-invent the wheel. Learn what you can from others, take their ideas and make them your own. You’ll get a lot more done.

“We don’t use our people to build the church. We use the church to build our people.”

At first blush, those things sound the same, but they’re very different. The reason I want volunteers in my technical ministry is not so that I can have a bigger ministry (which should lead to a bigger church), it’s because I want bigger volunteers. I want to see my volunteers (and staff, for that matter) grow into who God has designed them to be. By working in the church, using their gifts and being used by God, they will become great men and women of faith. Pouring into the lives of my teammates is the most significant thing I can do.

“You can do anything you want if you just cut it into steps. We get it in our head that we can’t celebrate until we get to the top. But we have to celebrate and be happy with what we have and where we are today. Don’t minimize the steps; rejoice in every one.”

I had a discussion with one of our video directors recently. He was lamenting that our video team wasn’t quite where would like to be yet. I reminded him that we have made significant progress over the last few years, and our video looks better than it ever has. No, we’re not “there” yet, but I still want to celebrate how far we’ve come. Don’t fall into the trap of grinding on people until you reach the mythical “there” point. Celebrate when they improve and reach the next level.

OK, that’s it for this round. But don’t worry, there is more to come. Also, I want to note that the quotes may not be exact quotes. I’m highlighting what I wrote, which is pretty close to what the speakers said. I’m trying to convey the concepts as best as I could capture them (so don’t write to complain that I mis-quoted them, OK?). More next time…

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Church Tech Weekly Episode 138: Live From Scenic Tulsa


This week, we’re at the Seeds Conference at Church on the Move in scenic Tulsa, OK. We couldn’t visit COTM without hanging out with Andrew, so we all pilled into his office and talked about, what else, audio!


I promised I would post a link to the ’90s worship music retrospective as soon as it was available. So here it is!. It’s part of the entire Night 2 video, so skip forward to about 9 minutes if you want to see just the funny part. Though Craig Groeschel was pretty good, too.

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Seeds 2013 Impressions

Today we’re back from Seeds 2013. In case you’ve been living under a rock the last few years, Seeds is a church conference put on by Church on the Move in scenic Tulsa, OK. It’s hard to classify what type of conference it is; they have breakouts for many of the ministry areas in church, and the main sessions are geared toward anyone who works in a church, with perhaps a bent on senior leaders. But that doesn’t really do it justice.


I found the conference both inspiring and challenging—which is an accomplishment for a jaded conference-goer like myself. At the end of the week, Van, Jason and I all agreed it was easily the best conference we’ve ever attended. And it may sound like we’re just blowing smoke because COTM was so generous and hospitable to us; but that’s not it. Seeds really is a great conference.

From the moment we drove onto the grounds and were greeted with the cheers of volunteers (who stood out in the cold Oklahoma wind all day) to the hospitality suite, to the crew, to the volunteers helping direct people in the hallways, everyone made us feel welcome and special. From what I understand, this is normal (and a big reason for the tremendous growth they’ve experienced).

I had high expectations for the production, and I was not disappointed. Their production manager, Andrew Stone, has become a good friend over the last year or so, and I had been looking forward to hearing his mixes. I’ve seen enough stills to know the lighting (by Daniel Connell) was going to be top-notch. And it was.

We got in a little early for the first session and saw the final bits of rehearsal. I was impressed that the band spent a good 10 minutes running the transition from one song to the next. Some might think this was a waste of time, but I’m telling you, the attention to detail like that is one of the keys to the powerful, seamless and completely non-distracting services they put together. More church bands should spend more time on transitions. 

We got to hang out at audio world for the last session, and I will say, it’s cool standing behind two 56 channel Midas Heritage 3000s. The sound was pretty great, and while it was big and loud, the way they have the system tuned it’s completely listenable. So many churches just go for loud; they go for big, powerful and smooth. There was a distinct lack of high-end harshness that characterizes so many big Ver-Tec rigs. 

It would be impossible to sum up the conference in a single post; so I’m not going to try. Instead, I’ll be going through my notes the next few days and condensing a few of the themes that came up over and over. I’m still processing some of the concepts that were challenging to me, and I came home with some things I know I need to work on. 

Seeds was also incredibly inspiring, but not for the reasons you might expect. Of course it was great to see a church use production technology to create an amazing atmosphere of worship, and everything from sound to lights to video to the band worked together to create that. They do a great job to be sure, but so do other churches. 

What was truly inspiring was hearing the story a church that was sort of stuck in the past and transformed itself into a movement doing an incredible job of reaching the next generation. With courage and conviction, they completely transformed their culture, and reached an entire community for Christ. That is what makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I think about it. 

Stay tuned over the next few posts and we’ll unpack some of the concepts that I found challenging and inspiring. And a big thanks to the folks at COTM—especially Andrew—who made us feel so at home. If you’re looking for a conference to go to next year, Seeds should be on your list. It’s scheduled for March 5-7, 2014; I’d block out the time on the calendar now.

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