MakingMistakes

The Art of Making Mistakes

Mistakes… Awkward.  And in a weekend service environment where everything is supposed to be smooth, worshipful, and not distracting, even more so… awkward. Those awkward moments will keep even the most even keeled Technical Director or Worship Pastor up at night thinking about what should have happened or what should have been done to prevent the mistake in the first place.  But as we aren’t perfect by nature, I think there are three very important things to think about when mistakes happen.

1. Mistakes never happen by themselves. What I mean by that is that there’s always something that leads up to the mistake. One of the most short sided thing a leader could say would be to blame it on the moment.  Maybe some of these sound familiar to you: “The battery just died”, “They were late”, “They didn’t do/say what they were supposed to”, or my favorite “The equipment just did it on its own”.   In all these situations once you step out of the moment, there’s always something that lead to mistake.

For instance “The battery just died”. What’s the process for changing batteries? Who’s thinking about changing batteries? Are we using the right batteries? Who’s double checking the batteries before every service for duds? If the batteries die, what’s the plan to replace the microphone or pack as quickly as possible?

What about “They were late”? What does your team culture dictate about being timely? Are you, yourself late from time to time?

“The equipment just did it on its own”. Do you know everything about the equipment? Are you taking good care of the equipment? What’s the maintenance procedures and time tables for the equipment? And the big one, what’s the back up for when technology inevitably fails?

As leaders in the church, it’s our responsibility to slow down after a mistake happens, and think critically about why it happened. Then move on to point number 2.

2. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.  We’ve all heard the famous quote. How often we forget the meaning. Mistakes are going to happen, what doesn’t have to happen is enduring the same mistake twice. It’s important to move from knowledge of how the mistake was made to action on preventing it in the future. You may not be able to fix the mistake in the moment, but you can take notes, learn, and make sure it never happens again.

3. Remember what its all about.  As church creatives who are naturally passionate about what we do, it’s always humbling to step back and remember why we do it. Sometimes I like to think that making mistakes is an important step in staying humble. Sometimes its a pleasant reminder that your still human, that this whole worship service is made up of a bunch of imperfect humans worshiping a perfect God.  And after the dust has settled over the most awkward moment, you as a church creative get to step back and say, it was never about the microphone, or the lights, or the “insert your mistake here”, it was always about the one we gathered to worship in the first place.

To end this, I’ll leave you with a video that at the time of me posting this has over 25k views. That’s 25k people like you and me, who have messed up in a church service once or twice, looking to the team that arguably does production and creativity the best in the world, and yes, they are humans too.

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Production Team Culture Part 2

In the last post, I introduced the mantra for our production team: “Everything we do is profoundly spiritual”. This one statement has gone a long way for our team. It’s been our rallying cry. But most importantly, it has formed the foundation of our team culture.

At the beginning of every one of our training sessions, we take time to address this foundation of our team culture. Even though all of our camera team is there for a camera team training on how to operate cameras at another level, we always take the first 10-15 minutes to talk about the foundation of our team culture. Some members of our team have heard this exact talk a few times already, but we still go over it. It’s that important that we talk about it every time we gather to improve our team.  It’s worth noting as our team grows there’s always someone that needs to hear the foundation of the team culture, but even if there wasn’t any new people, we’d still go over this foundation.

Remember that our last post talked about the base foundation: “Everything we do is profoundly spritual.”  From that, our team operates from three simple ideas.


One of the biggest hesitations that people have in joining a production team, especially in larger churches is that they are scared to mess up. We have a good mixture of people on our team with previous experience and no previous experience. What’s interesting to find out is that even the experienced one have hesitations in serving because of a fear of messing up. So we bring this up front – Since everything we do is profoundly spiritual, we will always show grace for making mistakes.  And we make it very clear, that we will have grace for mistakes.  I’ve personally been in production long enough to make every mistake there is to make. Any time humans are involved there will be mistakes.

There is another side to the statement of how we react to other team members making mistakes. As a team member, we extend the same grace to them when they mess up that we would want for ourselves when we mess up.  This covers how we talk to each other on headset, how we recover from mistakes, and the conversations had after service in our down time.


However, since everything we do is profoundly spiritual, we are not comfortable with mistakes. Beyond our team, which is what point one primarily deals with, we realize that everything we do has a profound spiritual impact for those walking in the room or watching online. Because of that, we are not comfortable with mistakes.  Just because our team shows grace, doesn’t mean at the end of the day that we are ok with the mistake happening. Spiritual impact of our services doesn’t last for a day, it lasts for eternity. Naturally, we take what we do very seriously, we approach it with seriousness, professionalism, and excellence in mind.


The final practical step we focus on is the idea of constantly getting better, constantly training, constantly looking for new areas of improvement. Since everything we do is profoundly spiritual, we will always push to be better. Sometimes the best team statements are the obvious ones.  But putting it into words gives it validity.  It gives the idea a tangible way for the team to remember what’s important for our team culture. For us, our church is growing at a fast rate, and it’s important to keep this idea of constantly being on the lookout for ways to make things better – both personally and team wide. We push to be better not so that we have the best production team, not so that we have the best church, but because of spiritual impact.  We push to get better because lives hang in the balance, because families hang in the balance, and because eternity hangs in the balance.

You might say to yourself, that seems a bit deep for a production team to focus on when people only really notice if the projectors work or if the lyrics are in time. But when you start laying a foundation for your production team that has motivation and vision beyond tech equipment, great things start to happen and your team starts to grow!

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Production Team Culture

It would be an easy argument to make that the most overlooked part of any production team is good culture. With all the scheduling, countdowns, deadlines, euipment fixing, training, recruiting, demands for excellence, and typically undermanned staff teams, it’s really easy to focus on all the practical aspects of maintaining a great production team.  Let’s face it, at the end of the day, the whole church notices if a projector doesn’t work, but not very many people notice if the culture of a production team isn’t great – at least not right away they won’t.

Perfect production team culture is not something that we have fully figured out – no one has. However, our team culture is something that is a big focus for us, and has been for quite some time. However, I will admit, it wasn’t always a big focus for us. Naturally, as a tech guy, you think as long as we have the best equipment, and we are great at what we do, then our production team culture will be perfect! When in fact, great production team culture must be emphasized (with words: written and spoken) and practiced before it starts to take hold.

Tech people naturally geek out at new equipment. One major component to tech people joining the production team in the first place is getting to serve via the use of technology. Technology speaks to some people in a way that music speaks to musicians, and colors speak to artists. However, the practical side of any discipline will only speak to a person for so long before the need for motivation arises.

Let’s look at it this way, it will take an average person an hour or two to figure out how to run propresenter, but what’s next? Does a volunteer just keep clicking the same slides week in and week out? The short answer – Yes. But what keeps great volunteers coming back is the understanding that what they are doing has a greater impact than just firing slides. Our team sums it up this way:


One of our worship leaders mentioned this statement in one of our prayer times, and it has stuck to our team ever since. Everything we do is profoundly spiritual. Every slide we click, every cable we tape down, every bulb we replace, every (fill in the blank here), has a profound spiritual impact. Now that’s a great motivator. It’s become the mantra of our team. It’s something that we start every training with. It’s something we bring up in conversation.  It’s even something we say jokingly when we are doing hard tasks like pulling cable across an entire campus, in the ceiling, with no air conditioning, in the middle of summer, in Texas. But even in those joking moments, it’s a constant reminder of why we do what we do.

That’s the foundation of our team culture. That’s square one. In the next post, I’ll continue the thought of foundations by addressing three ways that statement practically impacts our team.

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Preparation

There are certain steps that our production team has to take each week to stay on top of our game. I have found that if we are prepared like we need to be each weekend, then it gives us the flexibility to create, and it gives us the space to solve problems, not if they come, but when they come. Call me a pessimist, but we plan on a computer not booting up, a projector not turning on, or a screen not working properly. Not that we want those things to happen at all, but when they do happen, we want to have the time and metal space to fix the problems properly with low stress, so we can lead our volunteers well. There are the obvious weekly steps, like scheduling volunteers, inputting song lyrics into pro-presenter, picking backgrounds, and programming lights. But what about the less obvious weekly steps?

One of those less obvious steps for us is simply planing where every person on the worship team will be on the platform for every single weekend. This may seem small, but it only takes a few minutes each week to avoid unnecessary head ache and confusion. Planning Center Online has built in functionality for this that we use to keep things simple and quick. Here’s why we do this:

  • It keeps our worship leader from having to decide on the spot as people come into practice. It let’s he or she lead in what matters most rather than having to decide who goes where on the spot.
  • It allows our production team to properly prepare the platform before our weekly band practices. We’re able to have microphones labeled, boom stands in place, guitar rigs in place, and audio boards properly labeled.
  • It allows our production team to properly prepare our lighting cues around who is leading which song. This is probably another post within it self, but if you want a great run through or practice for your weekend services, lighting is key as it affects so many other areas.
  • It instills a sense of confidence to our worship team that the production team is thinking in advance for them. We are all on one team, and we have their back by making sure everything is ready for them to start.
  • It allows us to catch mistakes in our weekly planning. This is one more step to putting ourselves “in” the weekend services to help us think through if we have too many of any one instrument scheduled, if the platform will be over crowded or under scheduled.
  • It answers a lot of questions and keeps our team in sync. It reduces the inevitable text messages about what does the worship set look like? Or, what does the special or closer look like? Where is this person going to stand? Through using planning center, anyone scheduled on the weekend knows exactly where they will be before they even show up.
  • If our services are more complicated, we’ll do multiple stage plots for each different look. This helps us think through those tricky transitions.

I’m not sure who said it first, but I’ve heard it a lot over the past few years: Trust the process. This is one step in our weekly process. No matter how complicated or simple the week, we make sure it gets done.

Why Consistency Matters

Why Consistency Matters

I’ve come to find that most creatives don’t enjoy consistency.  In fact, most creatives kinda shudder at the word. I think it gives off the feeling of the mundane; we automatically go to thought of doing the same thing over and over again. Consistency has definitely got a bad rap when it comes to creativity and leading teams of creative people. Creative people by nature tend to look for what is new, what is fresh. So to lead a team of creative people, you have to actively and continually change the perception of consistency.

Trust is built with consistencyLincoln Chaffee

The former governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, summed up consistency in an elegant and easy to remember phrase: “Trust is built with consistency”. If we take a moment to pull out of our creative team and think about all of the volunteers it takes to put on a weekend service, the necessity of consistency becomes a bit more obvious. If you were to put yourself in a volunteer’s shoes, imagine coming in to serve on the weekend to find that things are in disarray, computers aren’t ready, equipment is malfunctioning, a musician’s avoim unit isn’t working, etc. If this was the exception and not the norm, there’s probably a lot of forgiveness. But for most churches I’ve visited and seen, unfortunately, this is the norm. Every time a volunteer comes in and things aren’t ready it says a few things to them:

  1. We aren’t prepared and you shouldn’t be either.
  2. We don’t value your time and you shouldn’t value ours.
  3. We don’t take this seriously and you shouldn’t either.

Read any book like Great by Choice, Crucial Conversations, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and you’ll quickly realize the obvious. The success of any team is built on trust. When a volunteer comes in week after week, giving up their time and energy to serve in your department, and everything is ready for them, meaning they have what they need to succeed on the weekend, trust begins to form.  And when you have a team that fully trusts each other, watch out! There’s not a challenge the team can’t conquer.

Conversely, when we are consistent in having things ready for our volunteers it says a few things to them:

  1. We are prepared and you should be too.
  2. We value your time and you should value ours.
  3. We take this seriously and you should too.

Imagine now taking the same ideas of consistency to your creative team or those that you lead. Imagine your coworkers or direct reports knowing what to expect when they come in to work. Imagine a fully prepared team all pushing in the same direction because trust has been established through consistency. As creatives we have to move from understanding consistency as a hindrance and seeing it as one of our best allies.