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This July, I’ll be headed to Dallas for my first time attending the Echo Conference—a church conference for artists, geeks, and storytellers. For several years, I have admired this conference from afar and really appreciated what these guys are doing for the Church. (And let’s be honest…I kind of fit all three criteria for their target audience.) Since I live in Baltimore, it’s not exactly an easy or inexpensive trip for me, but I made up my mind that I would raise the money this year for my wife and I to attend. We’re really expecting to learn a lot and we are super-stoked about the keynote and breakout speakers. My inner geek is also really giddy about getting some inspiration for media, lighting, stage design, and every other tiny detail in each session. But more than anything else, I’m looking forward to meeting people. My biggest hope is to finally connect with all of the people that I recognize best by a Twitter handle. I can only imagine how awesome it’s going to be to gather in one place with so many people with the same heart and drive as us.
I would love to have the opportunity to meet you there! I’m confident that it’s totally going to be worth the investment, but here’s a little something to help lighten the load a bit. Be sure to use the code “CR8IVEPR” to save 15% off of your registration price!
Find out more on the official Echo Conference page.
There was a time in the Church when pretty much anything projected during a service was considered progressive and beneficial, but that’s simply not the case anymore. In 2013, we’re a more visual, media-driven people than ever before. Media is everywhere and therefore average Joe’s now have standards. The common man may not be able to put into words what right looks like, but he can sure tell you when something looks wrong. And sloppy, unprofessional, or just plain ugly aren’t exactly the ways that you want people describing your church. This brings an interesting challenge to those of us who have taken on the task of leading people in “visual worship.”
In the same way that it would be painfully obvious to your congregation if your pianist, guitarist, or singers walked onto the stage unprepared, people are going to notice when you haven’t done your part, too. There is an art to playing music that is not only friendly to the ear, but that truly leads people into worship. It requires practice. It requires prayer. Church media is so much more than tapping a spacebar on Sunday morning. You have the opportunity to capture the imagination of a crowd and point their attention towards Christ. Imagery should be beautiful. Information should be clear. And it should all work in harmony with the other elements of the service to communicate one message.
Here are three critical things that I would challenge you to make time in your week to do before you ever touch the mouse on Sunday morning.
1. LEARN THE SONGS
It’s a must that you familiarize yourself with the lyrics and arrangements for the worship sets on Sundays. This can be as simple as taking a few trips to YouTube throughout the week or making a Spotify playlist for your ride to work. Communicate with your worship leader so that you know exactly where they’re going. Make a point to attend worship team practices as often as possible. You’ve got an entire crowd of people depending on your lyrics – they’re worth your time to get them right. When you’re confident with the songs, you’ll be able to actually enjoy your time in worship, too.
2. PLAN YOUR MEDIA BEFOREHAND
When you wait to the last minute to start choosing backgrounds, countdowns, and splash screens, you’re laying down a welcome mat for mediocrity. Invest some time in choosing your content before Sunday morning. Make sure that your colors and themes are a good fit for the current season, the worship setlist, and the pastor’s message for the day. Find backgrounds that compliment each other and create an consistent atmosphere during your time of worship. Rather than running media on the fly, make a clean playlist in your presentation software and assign backgrounds to individual songs.
3: PRAY FOR THE SERVICE
Never underestimate the power of prayer. Ask God to use you in the service to do more than simply project lyrics, but to create a distraction-free environment of life-change. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and keep your clicks graceful. Pray that you’ll keep a heart of service and an attitude that inspires others to do the same. Ask for quick recovery from glitches, bugs, and butterfingers – because they will come. Tell Him that all of your preparation, hard-work, and labor is for His honor and for His name to be lifted up. Mean it.
There’s no busier season for church media staffers than Easter. Whether it’s designing that perfect sermon graphic, preparing all of the content for special productions, sending invite cards to print, finding a way to advertise an egg hunt that doesn’t seem too cheesy, promoting all of your services on social media, or just finding time to do all of your normal, weekly duties—it can be a bit overwhelming! Those who have attended church for any length of time know that Easter is the #1 Sunday for newcomers. Because of this, it’s the norm for churches to put their best foot forward and go “all out” as much as possible. The “excellence honors God and inspires people” speeches come out from pastors and team leaders. If there is a Sunday for you to have your “ducks in a row,” this is the time. And rightfully so. Visitors are important. Souls are important. The more people that we have plugged in to the local church, the better. And when a newcomer gets up early on Sunday, steps out of their comfort zone, and walks into your church—you’re going to want to know that you did your part to make it worth it for them.
Just yesterday, I spoke with a producer of one of the fastest growing churches in America and she spoke briefly of the crazy number of hours that their staff/volunteers have been pouring in to make Easter weekend special. For a church like them, where it’s already the norm to work super hard all week to make Sunday special, they’ve had to pull some very late nights to keep up during this season. One thing that stood out to me the most from our conversation was how joyful their team was about the opportunity to serve. I can truly say that these people were excited to work hard and put in late hours in preparation, because they understood that it was all about reaching people for Christ. So when their stage design volunteers had to stay up past 1am one night to finish painting props, for example, they did it with a smile on their faces. They understood that creating a loving, engaging atmosphere for people to walk into on Sunday could pave the way for lives to be changed. Seeing their selfless attitude when it came to these things made it very obvious why their church is so successful.
But here you are. You’re not a part of a “Top 10″ church. Your church’s media team might just consist of you and your laptop. You may not have the best equipment or software. You may not have a large pool of volunteers to pull from. But it’s still Easter and you want to do your best to make a difference. Why not start with your attitude? If you’re like me, being committed to come in and work is never a problem. I never mind putting my hand to the plow and knocking out projects. But it’s the other half of the equation that I tend to lack—having a smile on my face while I’m doing it. It’s so easy to turn into a busy grump as you work hard on these things. I have news for you—not only will working like this drive you crazy, it will kill your creativity and steer away any potential volunteers.
My biggest tip for Easter? Be cheerful. Find joy in serving the Lord, because it’s truly an honor to do so. Take time from the busyness for prayer. Take time to invest in people. Take delight in what equipment/resources/people that you do have and pray that God will use them to their fullest. Know that every small part of what you do for the Kingdom is important. When you have production hiccups this weekend, trust that it will be okay. And at the end of the day, Easter is about His resurrection—amongst all the craziness, take time to celebrate that.