Are You Intentionally Investing in Your Team?

When Tim walked into the auditorium you could not miss him. He had to be at least 6’5” tall with floppy red hair and what came to be known as his trademark: a shirt with the image of a wolf. Tim was shy and extremely soft-spoken. After service he walked up to the production booth, leaned over with his ridiculously large smile and asked, “How can I help with lights?”

Tim, much like everyone in your auditorium each week, has a story. He moved to Nashville to chase his dream of being on a production team that would travel the world. Tim wanted to run lights. He told his mom and sister he wanted to do lighting as a career and they told him to stop dreaming so big. Tim was from a small town in Florida and people from this town don’t go run lights around the world; they stay in Florida and keep their roots planted deep.

Tim was committed and he transferred to the local Publix supermarket in Nashville. He went to work each day knowing it was the means to the end goal of chasing his dream. Sadly, Tim’s family cut off all communication to him and for all practical purposes, they disowned him.

Two weeks later, Tim started training on the lighting board. He knew a little bit about lighting, but had never designed a scene or ran a show. That didn’t matter thought, because Tim was committed. He hung on every word that was being said and took notes.

Over the course of the next year, Tim would serve almost every single Sunday. He showed up to help any way he could. Tim even asked if he could come in during the days and on off-nights to design and practice. He had not been in church before and beyond just the lighting gig, Tim was starting to find community and explore his faith journey.

Today, Tim does not serve anymore. It’s because Tim is out on the road designing and running lighting shows, doing lighting installs, and living his dream. I believe that there is a “Tim” on your volunteer team right now as well. We have a responsibility to always steward the resource God brings our way, especially when those resources are people. It is so important that we’re intentionally investing in the people who give their time to serve beyond the services that we are creating. Technology is a gift and a tool we get to use to help create amazing experiences. At the end of the day though, we have an even bigger responsibility for the lives God puts in our path.

While our ministry may be music, production, or being a creative, for as long as God has been at work, He has used one consistent tool: people. Who are the people that are in your ministry today? How are you engaging them? What outlets are you giving them for ministry and for the dreams God is growing inside of them? How are you stewarding the “Tim’s” of your team?

These are the people who are waiting for you not to just teach them how to power something on, but how to engage their God-given destiny. Andy Stanley says that leadership is stewardship. Are you ready to steward all God has for your team? It might do so much more than just change the environment in a service. It just might propel someone on their next step in faith, ministry, and life!

Stephen Brewster is the Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN. His 12 years in professional creative environments include music marketing and management, artist development, creative team leading and art directing. It is Stephen’s desire for the church to regain its position as a leader of the creative frontier. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife Jackie and their four amazing kids. You can follow Stephen on Twitter at @B_rewster or on his blog www.StephenBrewster.me.

Cleats

My wife, Stacy, and I had this conversation once:

Stacy: “Cleats” is spelled C-L-E-E-T-S, right?
Me: Pretty sure it’s C-L-E-A-T-S.
Stacy: That doesn’t seem right.
Me: I got a perfect score on the English portion of my SAT.
Stacy: I was in the spelling bee.
Me: Did you win?
Stacy: I got out in the first round.
Me: Was the word “cleats?”

Luckily my wife has a sense of humor, and we are still married. What made that back-and-forth so funny to me is how often I do a very similar thing. I ask for advice or feedback, but what I really want is confirmation of a decision I’ve already made rather than truly seeking input from a wise and trusted friend or mentor.

Recently I was reading through a book called “Pursuing Christ. Creating Art.” by Gary A. Molander. There is a chapter called “Authority” that rang particularly true for me. In it Molander describes a need for “defusing the bomb.” He describes this ticking bomb in each of us as artists. I don’t know if you consider yourself an artist, but most of the people in church tech that I’ve met are at the very least incredibly creative. Anyway, the bomb is when we’ve created something, whether that be a video, a song, a solution to a problem, a way of doing something better, cheaper, faster, etc. And then we take our masterpiece to our organizational leader and “boom.” They have changes. Or they question everything. Or they flat out hate it.

As an artist or creative individual or simply as a human being, that can hurt. The danger is that we let it get to us to the point that we stop being creative or thinking outside the box. But it’s important to remember that God has put those individuals in their position for a reason as well.

Over the years, there have been many videos we have produced that we thought had the full approval of our leadership based on the concept or script. Once the video was “finished,” however, some piece that was overlooked or under-described in planning has caused the video to be pulled sometimes as late as the weekend it was to be shown. That hurt…every time. But each time, I learned something that I knew not to do again. Even more importantly, I’ve learned to ask the right questions and address the right details to prevent producing the wrong video.

We will disagree from time to time, but perhaps there’s something each of us can learn in those moments. Hopefully it’s something deeper than how to spell “cleats.” And maybe in the next project, we will be able to foresee the concerns of our leaders and address them before it is too late.

Giving It Away

I consider high production values and the production process a form of worship. The Lord created me with this certain skill set, and I need to worship Him by using it. Taking the role of Creative Director meant that I was working with almost all volunteers, most of whom had no particular skill set in production, but simply a heart to serve. Moving to ministry from professional theatre, I knew that I would face a ton of challenges, long hours, and an uphill climb. Our team had a history of burning out production volunteers, so I quickly decided that I would burn myself out before I would allow a volunteer to become burnt out.

Before I could make any changes to a team to prevent burnout I had to dive in feet first and observe how things worked. I had an idea from volunteering myself from time to time, but didn’t have a full grasp as to what went on. I wanted to learn how the team operated before I made any changes.

After I got the routine, relationships and job responsibilities down, I wrote out a simple one-page expectation sheet for each role on the team as well as a list of responsibilities. It gave me a list of tasks with which to hold them accountable. We had a team meeting where we went over the new documents and I got feedback. After all, like our lead pastor says over and over “if people don’t weigh-in, they can’t buy into a vision”.

I also knew that I would have to get back to the books and re-learn what it meant to lead a flock that was tired, worn out or out altogether. Some weeks I was working 80 hours, by myself, exhausted, but when it came to rehearsal night and Sunday morning, I had no option but to give 200% of myself to my team. I had to learn to adopt the best model I knew. The example Christ gives us. I had to turn back to the basics of what He modeled. A great friend and co-worker constantly refer to Micah 6:8, 1 Corinthians 13 and Colossians 3:12-15 as the best biblical definitions of servant leadership. It’s easy to be a leader; it isn’t easy to be a servant leader.

Another part of my role was to design, program and run lights as well as oversee the “big-picture” each week as the service director. My plate was more than full. Sunday mornings were “happening”, but not to the level that made anyone involved happy.

I knew that things needed to happen; I needed to oversee the big picture and I needed someone else to run lights. Not an easy thing to decide, but I approached a key volunteer and asked if he had an interest in learning. This huge risk has paid off in a big way. I not only was able to get him to design, program and run lights, but I was able to walk away and focus on the big-picture. I was able to catch pieces of the puzzle that were being dropped, or just poorly executed. I am able to jump in wherever needed and when a volunteer calls in sick (which happens) I don’t feel the added pressure of having to take on another task. I’m not tied to a station each week. I am able to connect with those coming through the lobby almost every Sunday.

The more I give away, the more rewarding it is each week to see more and more pieces fall into place. It took a big risk on my end (and an even bigger push from my worship leader) but the payoff has been great. Some weeks, during rehearsal (I really don’t want to admit this, but I will…) we don’t get everything accomplished on the production end, as we are busy having fun, talking and enjoying our time together. But my team also knows that come Sunday morning, it’s game time and we have to put our game faces on, and give 200%.

Brittany Shearin currently serves as the Creative Director for Palm Beach Community Church (PBCC) in sunny south Florida. Prior to joining the staff full time in 2011, she served on the Worship Arts Team for PBCC, helping where needed. This was a natural fit for her as she love all things creative. When she isn’t working, she is enjoying time with her friends and family. You can follow her on twitter or on instagram @brittanynicole12
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Pretend You’re Leaving

Transitions are a part of life. Some are carefully planned and executed and some come along unexpectedly. Ministry is no different. God could call any one of us to leave where we are and step into something unknown. Maybe that thought excites you, maybe it scares you. But the fact is, the way you leave your ministry can tell a lot about how you ran things while you were there. I’m wondering if your ministry is built to carry on in your absence. Are leaders developed and empowered to step into new roles and take on new responsibilities?

I’m just completing the process of transitioning from one church to another. The past six weeks have been full of planning, preparing, and training, all in order for me to pass the baton to a team of dedicated volunteers and ultimately to the next Technical Director. Interestingly enough, the things that prepare your team for your departure also foster a vibrant and growing team while you’re still there. Here’s what we’ve been working on:

  • Communicate the “why” behind what you’re doing so volunteers can be creative, not just follow a routine.  Give volunteers creative freedom within that vision so they can function without your constant guidance.  This means having an ongoing conversation while your team is assembling and executing services.
  • Identify volunteers with leadership abilities and give them an avenue to use those abilities.  Allow them to lead teams, train other volunteers, and have input on decisions.  This creates a massive amount of ownership and buy-in to your team’s mission.  It also helps you establish an obvious group of people to take over some leadership responsibilities if need be.
  • Develop reliable and consistent processes for how you prepare for and execute weekend services and make sure all your volunteers know what they are.  These are the boring details, like how do we name files, where do service recordings go, when do we change batteries?  Everyone following the same procedures creates a consistency that, in turn, provides space for creativity.
  • Make sure that you keep equipment in working order, organized, and well labeled.  Equipment is going to break down, but it’s crucial to stay on top of repairs and replacements so that the pile of gear on the workbench is kept to a minimum and you don’t find yourself rushing to fix a mountain of equipment.  It’s also important to keep your production areas and storage areas organized so that everyone knows where they can expect to find the things they need quickly.  And perhaps the most important is labeling your wiring and other infrastructure.  This is how you’ll determine whether the next person to fill your role will love you or hate you. 

Whether you’re currently in the process of transitioning to a new ministry or you’re staying where you are for years to come, sharing some control and responsibility with your volunteers can help to energize and empower your team, making your Kingdom impact that much more effective.

Kaleb Wilcox and his wife Sara live in Chicagoland where Kaleb serves as Technical Arts Director at the North Shore campus of Willow Creek Community Church. Before moving to Wheeling in 2013, Kaleb was the Technical Arts Director at Topeka Bible Church in Topeka, KS, served as a worship leader on staff at Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville, OH, and worked in the Production Services department of Cedarville University. He holds a B.A. in Electronic Media and, besides production, he is passionate about music, film, photography, and mountain biking. Follow Kaleb on Twitter @kalebwilcox.
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Candy Apples and Casseroles

Dakota is a member of my tech team.

He is learning how to run audio. On his scheduled Sundays, he sits beside one of our broadcast audio mixers. He watches, he brings faders up and down on cue, mutes or unmutes channels, and learns why he is doing those things. Dakota is 9 years old, by the way.

He has a lot to learn, but he’s a smart kid who loves being around the team. I think he likes the snacks, too.

He could be having a blast in one of the children’s ministry bounce houses during second service on Sundays, but instead he’s with us.

On a recent Sunday morning, he came in and passed out candy apples he’d made at home. He brought three – one for me, and one for each of the broadcast audio operators who serve with him. He was proud of his handiwork and we made sure to thank him profusely.

Driving home that Sunday night, I was struck by a thought.

Why did Dakota bring candy apples to us?

He is involved in and is served by other ministries at the church. Why, when he was there in his kitchen with his mom, did he decide to bring them to us?

Marianne is one of our video directors. A retired nurse and grandmother, she has a knack for video and has served on our team for years. Every Sunday morning, she arrives at 7:00 a.m. with a freshly cooked hot breakfast (and a strange assortment of hot sauces and jellies for the brave souls) for our crews. I have tried, repeatedly, to reimburse her, but she refuses.

Why has she spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours to feed us over the years? For the same reason Dakota brought candy apples.

We love each other. Over years of food, laughs, frustration, and moments of sheer production terror, God has knitted our hearts together.

This is something I had to learn. Some people get into ministry as a worship leader or a pastor, and then begin leading tech ministries later on. I started out as a creative with a Radio-TV degree. I was an introvert, more comfortable alone, in a dimly lit room staring into monitors than surrounded by, much less leading, people. I was a tech guy, not a pastor.

It probably took me too long, but I learned that technology was not the most important part of my job. Sure, technology helps us have more effective, distraction-free services, but at its heart, the church isn’t about technology.

It’s about people, their relationships with God and each other.

Somehow I fell in love with the wonderfully wacky group of people that found their way onto to my team. I am a tech guy. I’m a creative. But as it turns out, I’m also a pastor.

I get to lead an amazing group of people. We have people on our team in elementary school, and some well into their retirement years. I have team members that work two jobs, and then come and joyfully give several more hours to further the Kingdom.

This is stunning, and humbling.

God has shown me, through the lives of these people, what can happen when we get together and work for Him.

I still love gear. I never grew out of my love of shiny buttons and flashing lights. But I have also fallen in love with the lives of the people on our crew.

The people. God’s people. Your people. They are more important than any piece of gear. Set them up for success. Love them. Pray for them. Visit them in the hospital, hold their babies, send them cards and thank you notes. Feed them. Feed them often. Did I mention that you should feed them?

You just might look around one day and realize you are smack dab in the middle of a Biblical community, a family, inside the larger context of your church. Your crew- whether you lead a crew of 50, or of 5, or of 2, isn’t just a crew. It’s a family that loves each other. It’s what inspires people to cook a big breakfast before the crack of dawn every Sunday, or think about each other when they are dipping apples into candy coatings.

So enjoy the breakfast casseroles and the candy apples and the laughs and frustration and the tears and even the moments of production terror. Live for those times of awe inspiring God-breathed beauty when everything clicks. Most importantly, though, thank God every day that you get to lead such a great, crazy group of people that is changing the world.

Chris Lesher is a husband and dad. He has served as the Media Director at First Assembly of God in North Little Rock, Arkansas since 1996.Chris has a passion for the local church, and how media and technology can be used to set the stage for worship and the Gospel, and even be used as a form of worship in itself. He has directed thousands of hours of video for church services, and spends a lot of his time shooting, editing, and writing, which means he spends a lot of time staring into computer and video monitors. He has the privilege of leading a great volunteer technical team every week.

Chris can be reached at chrislesher@me.com or on Twitter: @chris_lesher

Balancing Quality While Empowering Your Volunteers

If you are a technical director blessed enough to have several volunteers for all of what we need to accomplish on a weekly basis then you are already ahead of the game. Let’s not forget the fact that we all need to do this like a high quality production and on a level of excellence that surpasses most volunteers abilities. How can we do all this and still maintain our original hair color or light hearted demeanor and not become bitter, frustrated, and worn out?

Several things I have had the privilege of learning in the past few years may help you on your journey. First, the art of releasing ministers to serve where God has called them. Second, it’s ok to not be the hero. Third, excellence to me might not be excellence to you. Work towards maintaining a consistent level of excellence in your services…train, follow-up, encourage. Train, follow-up, encourage.

We all need to practice the art of letting go and trusting. Trusting your volunteers is a serious blessing and sometimes a curse (to the tech director ego). All depends on your perspective. Trusting that God has gifted your volunteer as much as you, and (dare I say most of the time more than you) can be hard. It’s another area of our lives that we must surrender to God. Work yourself out of a job; it will be the greatest blessing in your life!

I have no problem telling you that being the hero of your tech team causes nothing but heartache for you, your family, and your team.

We are all created to do something in the kingdom and God didn’t just create one person in an entire body of Christ to run sound, lights, video, camera…there are a bunch of us.

First, I ask a potential volunteer the question “have you prayed about joining the tech team?”. When they have and God has spoken to them I must remember that not only are they here to serve God, but God has something for them that He has gifted them specifically to do within this ministry. Take them to lunch, have a conversation with them over a Starbucks. Find out about them. Ask them what God has shown them about what they should do in the Tech ministry. Ask them what they are interested in doing. If they don’t know, ask them if it would be ok to try them out on whatever you think is best suited for their personality.

As the Tech Director, it’s as much my job as my pastor’s or worship leader’s to seek God for my new volunteer and find out what I am to do and God says about them in order to help further them in their calling. Who are they? What are their interests? What would they like to do or what do they see themselves do? Then observe them closely.

Some of the shyest people become your most attentive well-learned leaders. One of the shyest people on my team is an amazing stage hand leader (she doesn’t have to be seen back stage but she can lead others in the dark and that works great for her). She is also a great presentation person because she listens and takes cues well, but teaching someone else presentation isn’t her gifting. She has no problem teaching someone how to change batteries or move set pieces in the dark though.

Since I run sound I am probably pickier about the sound leader positions than any others. I will usually sit in the sanctuary with a potential sound leader during rehearsal and ask them to close their eyes and then tell me what they hear. I ask them…”What would you change in the mix?” “What could you do better?” “What can’t you hear?” “What can you hear?” A sound tech leader is someone who a lot of times have to run the show and command the attention of those crazy musicians during sound check…can your sound leader earn the respect of the band?! If so that’s your man (or woman)! After they have a sound check down we start training on a full service mix. After several weeks of shadowing me and training I release them and I don’t add advice or fix things during that time, just answer questions. I want to see if they can handle the pressure of mixing while I am there. How they do is usually a great indicator that they are trusting God and operating in the gift that He has given them and that they have learned all they can to get going and on their way to a successful leader in the tech ministry. I make notes and follow up with them the same week. On my way out of service I always encourage them! Say something nice about the mix that you noticed, or compliment them in some way. You know us artist types…we like to know how we are doing all the time.

Always come back at least once every quarter with a pep talk about excellence and how God deserves our best…of course serve pizza (food always helps techies concentrate and listen better). Make allowances for one another’s faults! Extend grace, give love, encourage one another in Christ, and build each other up! If you go to a seminar alone, bring back what you learned to your team. Always, always, always give away what you know and you will never regret it.

Truly appreciate your team and their families (they all give a lot up to serve on our teams) buy them lunch once in a while (even if it has to be from your own pocket) ask their entire family to come over for dinner. Get to know their spouse or person they leave behind to go sit in the booth with you. Honoring your volunteer for who they are and not just what they do should be our first priority.

Beckie Campbell currently resides in Vero Beach Florida. She was raised in a small town in Upper Michigan. She has been a church Technical Director and Consultant for over twelve years. She has worked all over the country on projects from small conventions to large concerts. She has led the Technical teams at several churches raising up teams of volunteers from 25 to 50 teaching them to do everything from installations to sold-out concerts. Beckie is also a sound engineer and possess a degree in Concert Production Management from Full Sail University. Her passion is to see people walk in what God has called them to do, to see a generation of believers worship God in every creative form they can, and to see the body of Christ come together in unity to worship the King of Kings.