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!

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.

Passion Tour

The Art of Storytelling in Church Services

This quote from Saving Mr. Banks has hit me to the core.  It’s the perfect expression of why I’m in the business I’m in.  To bring hope to those who have none.  Except for I don’t do it with Imagination, I do it with real life stories:

“George Banks and all he stands for will be saved.  Maybe not in life, but in imagination.  Because that’s what we storytellers do.  We restore order with imagination.  We instill hope again and again and again.”Saving Mr. Banks

In the church, we are in the business of telling stories.  After all, the Bible is a compilation of God-inspired stories.  Jesus taught in stories.  

The problem is that some churches are good at telling stories, and some are bad at telling stories

Let me start with a bit of scripture.  The verse in Revelation 12:11 hits it perfectly.  “They have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony”.  Other versions say “defeated him” and “triumphed over him”, but they all say by their testimony…. by their story!  This chapter in Revelation says that we overcome, we defeat, we conquer the accuser (the devil), by the blood of the lamb and by our story!  Our stories have power.  I don’t mean this in a weird mystical way, but in a way that should encourage us to become better story tellers.

Whether you are involved with preaching, music, production, art, graphic design, video, we have to become better story tellers.  Here’s the hard part.  You have to get past the idea that telling stories is the preacher’s job, and you have to get past the idea that it’s the video guy’s job.  It’s everyone’s job to tell a story.  Stories are in every worship set.  Stories are in how your people come on to your campus and how they leave changed.  Your piece that you contribute to the service may not be a story in of itself, but part of the larger story of the service.

What blows me away about churches that do services well is that they take people on a journey.  You might not realize you have just been taken through a journey, but good church services take people on a journey.  And here’s a hint, it is not a two party story of worship and speaking.  Good services take people through the basic five parts of a story:

  1. Exposition – the narrative – how things are
  2. Rising action – events that lead to the crisis
  3. Crisis – the crux – the turning point
  4. Falling action – the result of the crisis
  5. Resolution – the answers – the release of tensions or anxiety

And here’s the main problem with most Church services.  We camp out so long in the Resolution that we forget to take people on a journey of our story.  We expect non-believers to come and enjoy the resolution when you haven’t shown them the rest of the story.  Think about it.  How would you enjoy going to the latest Blockbuster hit movie and only watching the ending.  That’s virtually unheard of. Warner Brothers would be out of business if they tried to pull that off.  Yet we replicate that in our church services like it’s the golden standard.

God’s grace and salvation in my life is an end result of a life lived as a sinner (exposition), coming into contact with the good news of Jesus through hard life circumstances (Rising Action), coming to the end of myself (Crisis), Receiving Salvation (Falling Action), and then living out the life He has set for me (Resolution).  We all have stories like this, and I promise, it always fits in the basic 5 parts of story.

It’s also important to point out that the Resolution is often the shortest part of every good story.  Think of it, we spend an hour and a half talking about Cinderella and how she’s being mistreated, yet resolve with a quick happily ever after.  We sit through 9+ hours of Lord of the Rings to watch this conflict of what to do with the ring, yet when the ring is destroyed, we spend only about 10 minutes in resolution.

So next time, when you are planning a service, think through how you are taking your people on a journey.  Let’s spend more time on getting people through the journey to the Crisis and Falling Action, and less time camping out in Resolution.


Wounded Heart Stage Design

As we moved into our Easter sermon series at Northwood Church, we wanted to give our stage a fresh new look. So we worked on a couple of things: a new backdrop, and a new lighting design. More and more we find that a quality backdrop is essential to not just the look and feel, but most importantly to camera shots. When you have a backdrop that doesn’t compete with your speaker, but compliments your speaker, that equals a big win. First, lets take a look at a few pictures from the service. I wasn’t able to capture the best moments as I was working the service, but I was able to get a few images here and there.

Sermon Series Stage Backdrop

Sermon Series Stage Backdrop

Sermon Series Stage Backdrop

First of all, I should mention that I just came to our volunteer production team with the idea of the backdrop, and they made it a reality. We have an amazingly skilled team of volunteers.

The Backdrop. We first made frames out of 2x4s. We put casters on the bottom of the frames so that we could roll the backdrop on and off stage whenever we needed to change the stage around.

Sermon Series Backdrop

While a few people were building 4 frames, 2 of our guys worked on staining 12″x12″ pieces of plywood. We used two different stain colors that gave the whole backdrop a random look. We needed to get the wood dark and hopefully be able to see the grain when we hit with lights. We essentially stained 100 pieces (25 for each frame).

Sermon Series Backdrop

We then painted the frames black, and let the wood squares dry over night. The next day, we used a nail gun to nail the wood pieces in place. We also attached LED bars to the bottom of the frames to shoot light up at the squares. Here’s a pic with the back drop essentially finished with our work lights on so you can see what it looks like without all the haze and lighting.

Sermon Series Backdrop

As you can see in the picture above. We also built small lighting posts. We got 500W dim-able work lights from lowes, wired them with some wire and wire nuts, attached them to some dimmer packs (be sure your wattage on your dimmer packs can handle all of the wattage from the lights – no fires please). We then attached a paint can on each post. These essentially give us sweet looking crowd blinders that help back light some of our more special worship moments like during one of our specials here below. We were able to tell testimonies during the chorus on video. It was a super powerful moment. I’ll try to get the video up soon.

Sermon Series Stage Backdrop