The Big Dance

After joining the staff at North Coast Church in 1995, Dennis created and developed the church’s Technical Production Ministry to over 85 Staff and Volunteers today. North Coast Church, located in Vista, California, currently offers 23 worship services with over 9000 attendees every weekend across three campuses. North Coast has expanded Dennis’s Leadership role to also oversee the Graphics Team, Web Team, Print Media Team, Staging and IT Department. Dennis has a passion for helping churches develop a successful Production ministry and he specializes in addressing training and development issues with a real life perspective of ‘how things really work” in the church world. He has taught training classes at NAB, WFX, TFWM, NAMM and other conferences around the country and currently serves on the Advisory Board for the WFX conference and the Church Technical Leaders Network. He resides in Oceanside California with his wife Michelle and their three children.

So I’ve watched a few episodes of “Dancing with the Stars” (definitely NOT my favorite show) with my wife and, like most of us tech types, I usually get caught up in the lighting and the hazers and all the other toys used instead of the actual show itself.

What I did notice was for the couples that are really good at it – it looks so effortless as they glide and flow across the dance floor together. But then you watch the behind the scenes of the hours of practice together, sometimes arguing, sometimes wanting to give up week after week it’s a lot of work and coordination. What I also picked up in watching was the chemistry that the good couples had in dancing – sort of knowing and anticipating what the other was going to do and be there at the same time. And during practice how much they talk about what they are going to do and rehearse it over and over again so it looks so smooth when they actually perform.

There is this dance that we have to do each weekend which includes a Worship Leader, Tech Leader and often the Teaching Pastor. If we take just the relationship between the Worship and Tech person there is a sense of knowing what the other needs to make the service seamless and not distracting to the attender. Then throw in a Senior Pastor (or Teaching Pastor) and things get more complicated. It’s a relationship of communication, trust and knowing a little about each other to make it happen.

I don’t think I’m talking to the majority of churches but the one thing I do know is that if you wait till the weekend to try to coordinate the flow of how the weekend is going to run – you’re going to run into problems, miscommunication and train wrecks in the flow and production of the weekend. It’s also much more difficult to talk through changes and direction because all the key people are running around getting ready for services.

It surprises me when I work with churches that don’t talk about the flow of service and how the elements are going to transition until the weekend is here. I hear things like “Well, I can’t seem to get a time during the week when the Worship Leader, Senior pastor and I can get together to talk about it.” It’s funny – if your bread and butter is the weekend services (obviously debatable as some churches see small groups or maybe community service as the most important thing) then shouldn’t you devote at least 30mins during the week with all the right people in the room to talk about the coming weekend, review the last weekend, and talk about future weekends. I’m not talking about just brainstorming – I’m talking about minute-by-minute flow and transition – and maybe some contingence plans if something doesn’t go right.

And it’s vitally important that it’s ALL the key people in the room (this includes teaching pastor) unless the people that choose not to be there are relinquishing their opinion of how it should be done. I’ve heard church leaders tell me “Well I wouldn’t have done it that way” or ‘they should have done this” and I ask them – Didn’t you guys talk about this during the week? And they say – “oh I don’t go to those meetings, I’m too busy” I’ve had to explain to them that if there too busy to talk about the most important thing the church does each week then they can’t complain if it’s not done the way they want.

On the other side of the coin is that we (Tech Leaders) need to lead from the middle and constantly be pushing and not just reacting to what’s in front of us. We need to say – “I think it would be a good idea to meet together so we are all on the same page for the weekend.” But truly be open to the ideas and directions and not just shoot everything down with – “it’s not possible” and “we can’t do that”

Just like a dance between partners - communicating BEFORE the Big Dance is just as important as communicating DURING the Big Dance.

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