this Christmas season | Jarrett Stevens

These next weeks leading up to Christmas will be tough for a lot of our church tech friends around the world. Many of us will be in planning meetings stacked on top of change-of-plan meetings, preparation, rehearsals, cues, surrounded by hours and hours of stress running without hours and hours of sleep. You and your team will be working harder and longer hours and be more focused now than any of the previous six months.

At the end you’ll probably also be more tired than you’d care to admit. And that can be a tough place to serve.

During this Christmas, we will be serving so many people that we won’t know this side of Heaven. We get to engage with Immanuel, this gift from God. Our prayer for you is that you can protect your heart this season, that you too can celebrate our God being with us. Our prayer is that you can be in the same moments that you have worked so hard to happen and be present to experience what God will do this Christmas.

We’ve asked some of our friends to share a little encouragement to you. Let these words remind you that we’re not crazy for doing what we do. Let these words soften your spirit when you’re neck-deep in misfiring cues and malfunctioning cables. May you be reminded that God is using you this Christmas to welcome His Son.

Merry Christmas!

Bill Swaringim
Church Technical Leaders

Jarrett Stevens, Lead Pastor at Soul City Church in Chicago, IL

Why do you serve?

Christmas is merely weeks away. We spend months planning and preparing. Our artists constantly rehearse. Our production team pours their energy and knowledge into using the coolest technology around. But, what does it stand for? Why do we make such an effort? Why do we say goodbye to our families in early December and stumble home exhausted on Christmas Eve?

We need to ask ourselves some big questions about serving:

  • Why do you serve?
  • Why do you spend hours and hours dreaming, preparing, rehearsing? Do you know why do you do what you do?
  • What’s your team’s mission statement? What’s your church’s mission statement?
  • What do you value? As an individual, as a Christ follower? As a production team?

We need to know the answers to these questions to be most effectively used by God in our service.

At Willow Creek, we’ve spent a lot of time answering these questions. Willow exists to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. That’s our mission statement. Keeping it in mind keeps us true to our calling. As a church we have ten core values that bring clarity to what matters most, ten values that keep us on mission.

Our production team has a mission statement that flows out of Willow’s mission and values. Our goal is to create life-changing moments through the fusion of the technical and creative arts. Our key values are to be distraction-free, prepared, flexible, and to practice teamwork. We value creativity, excellence, fun, collaboration.

We are constantly reminding ourselves of these values. They guide how we work. They guide our decisions. They are a big part of who we are as a team. We’ve even gone so far as to post them on a feature wall in our offices. Every time we walk in the door we stare our values right in the face! And, we put our mission statement on a t-shirt!

Don’t misunderstand. We don’t sit around drinking coffee while talking about our values every week- we live them. They are inherently in us. Once we started actually naming them, it was easy because they defined how we already operated.

We don’t evaluate every service element or every single lighting cue against these values, but we can tell when we are operating outside of them. It doesn’t feel good at all!

We all know that moment – when ministry gets hard, when we put in long hours preparing or tearing down, when something we’ve worked hard on is changed, when our plans fall through – where we are left looking back at something that didn’t go as we had originally planned. In that moment, it is okay to be disappointed and to grieve the loss of what we had hoped would be. Our higher calling is service: service to our leaders, to our local church, and ultimately, service to God.

Do you know your mission statement and the values that flow from it? Can you name the filters that naturally guide the decisions you make as you serve?

Mission and values come first - they are foundational. Only after determining the framework for why we do what we do can we truly represent our art - whether musical, dramatic, or technical - with excellence. Creative and technical arts in the church exist so the message of God is communicated in effective ways. We are the keepers of the sacred environments in our churches. It’s a pretty weighty opportunity when you think about it. I want to be sure I’m keeping the right perspective in mind, that I’m serving for the right reasons.

What is your mission statement? What do you value? What should you keep in mind every time you make something? Do you know the vision behind your work?

When it is time to blend the technical and creative arts with service planning or music rehearsals, is your whole team on board with why you are doing what you’re doing? Take time to meet with your team and identify your mission statement. Write down what you value.

Be inspired to use your art, to be intentional with your energy for creativity, to let the mission and values of your church and your team keep you serving right in the sweet spot of where God has called you. And have a merrier Christmas this year.

Joanne Botten started out as a volunteer stagehand at Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago nearly 30 years ago. With a degree in accounting and no technical production experience at all, she managed to score a seat in the front row helping manage mics and a backstage pass helping to set and strike props! She moved on to be a volunteer stage manager and eventually joined the Willow production staff as a Stage Director in 2001. Since then she’s been a Technical Director and Production Manager at Willow and is currently serving as the Production Operations Director and the Producer/Tech Director for Willow’s Midweek service. Joanne lives in Chicago with her husband Tom and their son TJ.

How am I adding value today?

Quite a few years ago, I picked up a CD set from the Catalyst 2007 event and listened to a talk that I have been processing through ever since. The talk was given by John Maxwell and is exactly 18 minutes and 26 seconds of perfection in my book. I still remember driving down the highway heading to Durham, NC while on vacation in the car alone and hearing it for the first time.

Maxwell based the entire talk around the idea of value and laid it out in four simple but powerful principles. The one thing that Maxwell asks everyone to take away from the conversation is:

Intentionally add VALUE to people every day.

Before I get to the four principles, I want to keep these words in our focus as well:

The greatest way to add value to people is to find your ‘strength zone’ and then leverage those strengths for others.

Your ‘strength zone’ is your spiritual gift as a leader, your sweet spot. You must find what you are good at and focus your leadership around that particular spiritual gift to be the most effective. Once you find out your ‘strength zone,’ you can lead from a very focused position within the following four principles:

1. Value people

Before you can add value to people, you must first value people. You cannot add value to people if you do not value people. It took me a long time to learn how to truly develop people in my early days of ministry because I did not actually value people. You have to love people. You have to want to see people succeed. You have to put others first. Before you continue to the next three principles ,ask yourself one very important question: Why do you want to be a leader? Do you want an office? Do you want more money? Do you want control?

2. Make yourself more valuable

Next, you must add value to yourself before you can add value to others. You must keep developing as a leader, keep learning, keep reading, keep listening. This may sound like a selfish point, but think of it like this: how can you lead people and give value away if you have nothing of value to give away? You can’t afford to coast as a leader. Keep pursuing wisdom and never quit reading.

3. Know what others value

You need to know and relate to what others value. As a leader, you must first listen and then learn. If you follow these priorities, you will become a great leader. You must walk the hallways at work and learn from others. You need to follow volunteers on Twitter and interact. This is how you will find out what people value. It’s hard work and takes time, but is necessary to becoming a true people-developing leader.

4. Know what God values

If you really want to add value to people, you must know what God values. The world we live in has so many different ways of how to show value. Some are great ways and others not so much. We need to be in tuned with God and Scripture to know what He values. This is the part where most business leaders would check out, but this has to be our foundation as ministry leaders.

These four principles are for everyone who has a heartbeat and can interact with people. I believe that everyone is a leader and each of us leads people daily, whether we like it or not. If someone looks up to you or asks you for advice and models you, then you are leading them. I pray that this is thought about with great focus and passion. These principles have completely changed the way I lead my wife, volunteers, family, friends, and even strangers walking through a store.

Begin to ask yourself, “How am I adding value today?”

Mike Paschal is a Lighting Designer, Video Director & Producer based out of Wilmington, NC. He loves to create and lead the direction of many types of events. Whether producing content at his home church where he serve as the Director of Production & Media at Port City Community Church or coming alongside someone else’s vision- Mike’s desire is to create the most engaging experience he can to move people along the process. When not working Mike is spending time with his beautiful wife Kirsten and driving their Jeep out onto Carolina beach or sitting at a local Starbucks.

3 Problems Every Tech Leader Faces

This won’t be new to you as the tech leader of your church, but it might help those that work with you understand what you deal with on a regular basis. This list is definitely not fully encompassing, but hopefully is help for you. Here are three common problems every church faces regarding tech production at their church. I think they are all universal no matter what size church you are in – just on different scales. Whether you’re in a church of 30 or 30,000 what I’ve found is the same problems exist.


You could even just say NOT ENOUGH STAFF. Seems like every church I talk to needs more people on the production team: more Sound Engineers, Lyrics, Camera Operators, Video Editors, etc. etc. Whether it’s a volunteer or a paid staff position – everyone is looking. Is it because the position is too intimidating? Do people know the need? Maybe we are looking for a specific skill set?

What I’ve found to be true is the reason we are always in need is that we want the perfect person. We want someone just like us that has the same skill and art as we do, we don’t have to train them, they’ll always show up early, is a self-starter, and has the ability to troubleshoot. For me, the problem isn’t necessarily people; it’s the time I need to invest in them to make them more like me. I can quickly forget that someone was patient and spent time with me to develop and sharpen my skills. Our problem is TIME. We don’t have enough or we don’t carve time out to train and develop others.

I can already hear some of you grumbling and saying, "No, the problem is we don’t have any tech people that want to join." What I’ve found is that I or my team need to be the ones looking and not just waiting for someone to show up. We need to be looking for a servant’s heart (willing to serve anywhere) and someone with some tech savvy. If they can program their DVR at home or they’re the one always showing the rest of the family how to use the computer then they have some tech savviness. Training and developing are how you are going to grow your team. I think God will bring more if you’re prepared for the harvest.


Seems like no matter how much work we do, there is never enough time to get everything done. So, we end up either putting in insane amounts of hours working to try and finish everything, or we don’t get much of it done at all.

There are several things that contribute to this being our reality. First off, there just are a lot of things to get done. People don’t realize what appears to be a small problem usually takes a lot longer to troubleshoot or fix. Troubleshooting why a projector turned off suddenly in the middle of a service or why a wireless pack crackled during teaching can be a 10-minute fix or an all-week trial and error. I often explain to others that it takes an hour to change a light bulb in our auditorium: 25 minutes to move all the chairs and drive the lift, 10 minutes to change the lamp and refocus, and 25 mins to put everything back and drive the lift out. Everything just takes longer.

Secondly, others that don’t understand our world of "tech stuff" think it encompasses sound, video, lighting, stage stuff, post editing videos, excel, word, Photoshop, computers, network, fire alarm, printers, Wi-Fi, security systems, sprinkler timers, setting up a Wii for youth, and a whole lot more in their eyes. Sometimes, we jump in and help and we end up inheriting it. If this describes your job, then you will never have enough time in a day, week, month, or year to finish everything. What you need to do is focus on duplicating yourself. Start with one person, paid or volunteer, and build more from there. It’s a simple answer, but it will take a lot of time and dedication to accomplish on top of your "regular" job.


We feel like we are the last to know. Always getting things handed to us at the last minute. Why didn’t anyone give us the heads-up sooner? Where were we when "they" were planning this event? The reality is that we were probably working on something and others didn’t want to bother us. We are often caught in the scenario and feel like no one wants to keep us in the loop. This is usually not on purpose (although, there are occasions when it is). We have to get our heads out from whatever we are doing and look around to see what’s going on. We can ask leadership questions like, "Is there anything going on that should be aware of?" I often get, "Oh yes, you should be at this meeting,” until others realized we should include tech production at this type of meeting. It takes leading up in an organization where everyone is running fast (like you are) to be included. As humans we hope others remember us and keep us in the loop, but it happens to everyone at some point.

Dennis Choy created and developed North Coast Church’s Technical Production Team after joining the staff in 1995. North Coast Church, located in Vista, California, currently offers 36 worship services with over 11,000 attendees every weekend across four campuses. Dennis also oversees the Communications Team, Graphics Team, Web Team, Creative Video, Media, Staging, and IT Department. He has taught training classes at NAB, WFX, TFWM, NAMM, and other conferences around the country and currently serves on the Board for the Church Technical Leaders Network. He resides in Oceanside, California with his wife Michelle and their three children.

What is a tech leader’s calling?

I recently had the privilege to sit down next to the newest member of our tech team at church. We had a couple of minutes left before the service would start and we chatted a bit about how to think and what to do and what not to do in Pro Presenter.

As we sat there, we came to the conclusion that although she hasn´t been a huge part of the planning of the service she is nonetheless, in a sense, a vital part of both the worship and the message since she is the one who´s responsible for all the words on the screens. She grew up in our church and attended church as a kid but as a teenager she´s been a bit more “on and off” when it comes to church. But now that she feels like an important part of what is happening, she actually told me that it feels “really cool” coming to church.

To say that I really enjoyed those minutes is an understatement. I felt like laughing and crying at the same time. I honestly feel that it is moments like these, moments when you realize that what you do really makes a difference for someone’s personal life, that makes everything I do on a weekly basis worth it.

As a tech person it is sometimes easy to get so stuck in preparations, sound checking, or something important that just needs to be fixed right now or the entire world (or at least the service) will end (badly) that we forget that we, as the Church, are dealing with people and both their present and their eternal life.

I understand that it is often easier to hide behind a screen or a console then to talk to someone about spiritual things, but I think we all can agree to this simple truth: we are not doing church because it is easy. We are doing church because of what Jesus has done for us. He saved us, He called us and He equipped us and being a tech person is just another way of living out that holy calling.

The calling of being a tech person is, as far as I can understand it, very much related to the calling of serving others. It doesn’t really matter if you are all alone, in a small group, or a large team. If you are serving in the church, you are also in some way a leader in the church. Servanthood and leadership go hand in hand. When it comes to the Church, they are inseparable. (Jesus Himself taught this lesson when He washed the feet of the disciples.)

I believe that many of us think and feel that we exist to serve the church, or the pastor, or the worship-team, and that is fine. In a sense, we do exist to do these things. However, I do not think that all of us understand that our service, our leadership, is a calling in itself and that both we and our churches will be richly blessed when we take this calling seriously. Any good leader should know what it takes to follow someone. Because we are serving in the church, we should know what it is to follow a vision or the leadership of the church or the leaders of our team. Ultimately, we need to know how to follow Jesus Christ. Without Him, everything becomes hollow, but together with Him we can do all things.

Make sure that you take your calling to be a tech person seriously and remember who you are following. He makes all the difference.

Our CTL community is honored to partner with Albin Söderström and his team for their Swedish Gurus of Tech conference on November 13-14, 2015 in Stockholm. A few members of our CTL leadership team will have the privilege of sharing during the conference. Please pray with us for a great time of ministry, growth, prayer, and encouragement with our fellow church tech leaders around the world.

Albin Söderström is one of the founders of the Swedish Gurus of Tech network that has been rapidly expanding throughout Sweden’s different churches since 2011. Born in the northern part of Sweden in 1982, he moved to Nynäshamn outside Stockholm when he was 10. There he became a part of the Pentecostal Church where he became deeply involved. Amongst other things, he was part of a team that took initiative to start a youth ministry and later on he became a part of the board of elders and the leadership. Today he serves as a volunteer graphics guy/preacher/leader in the small church that serves about 40 people every weekend service and excels at doing larger productions than they are supposed to with little to no funding.

A Sacrifice That Costs Me Nothing

Jumbo shrimp. Walking dead. Random order. Awfully good. Oxymorons.

Here’s another oxymoron: A sacrifice that costs me nothing.

King David had some awfully good days, and some awfully bad ones. In 1 Chronicles 21, we learn about one of those not-so-good days. Against the advice of his commanders, David decides he needs to count his soldiers. God is not happy about David’s self-reliance, so he sends a plague that takes the life of 70,000 Israelites as it makes it’s way to the capital, Jerusalem. When the angel of the plague reaches the fields of Ornan the Jebusite, God finally relents.

God then commands David to raise an altar to the Lord at the fields of Ornan. David asks Ornan if he can buy his threshing floor. Ornan, in fear or awe at a visit from the great King David, offers him the threshing floor for free, as well as whatever animals, grain, and wood he may need for the sacrifice. But, somewhat surprisingly, David replies:

“No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

David knew something about true worship, namely that it is costly. An inexpensive sacrifice is not a sacrifice. Jesus said a widow’s one coin was greater love than the wealthy’s bags of money. Paul’s definition of spiritual worship in Romans 12:1 calls us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, to give all of ourselves to our God in light of the gospel.

You come early. You stay late. You only sing on occasion because you’re focused on mixing amazingness out of the music. You can’t hear the sermon because your headset drives your steps in the “ready, take” video dance. You are working on a nap-night of sleep on account of the Moutain-Dew-fueled re-programming late last night. And then there was the wedding Friday, the banquet tonight, and the kids camp next month.

Ever feel like it costs you a lot to serve the church? Welcome to true worship.

I fear that we often limit our definition of worship to joining a crowd in experiencing the musical-communicational product of other people’s labor. And indeed that is worship. But sometimes it’s not very costly. And it is tempting to long for the oxymoronic “easier sacrifice,” forgetting that what we get to do has as much or more potential to be true worship to our God.

When the work of production seems costly, I challenge you to say with David, “I will not…offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

[Brief Qualification: Not to undermine my own point, but serving can be too costly when it degrades our own walk with God or our ability to care for our families. Don’t neglect God’s other commands for the sake of “serving the church.”]

Dave Wilcox is Administrator at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland where he has served since 2002 in various roles, including Technical Director. Prior to that, Dave was Technical Director of Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge, Virginia and a freelance audio engineer in the Washington, DC area. Dave has a Bachelors of Science in Audio Technology and Visual Media Communication from American University. He and his wife, Cara, live in Damascus, Maryland with their four children: Meg, Matthew, Esme, and Graham.