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The Right Way To Handle Church Media Fumbles

The Right Way To Handle Church Media Fumbles

I’m one of those weird people who rarely dream at night. Seriously – we’re talking nearly once every six months here. I’ll often hear my friends telling funny stories of the silly circumstances that their subconscious cooked up in their dreams. Sometimes they’ll even share their eerie nightmares that followed a late dinner of Chinese takeout. But, that’s not me.

On the rare occasion that my subconscious constructs a story that plays out as I sleep, it’s usually about a church media fumble. That’s right. I have nightmares about things going wrong on Sunday morning with production.

It may be a video freezing in the middle of playback, a click track skipping, or accidentally pressing the Live Video button in ProPresenter (which then defaults to the webcam and shows my embarrassed face to the entire audience).

Chills…

As I examine these nightmares, one thing stands out to me about myself. I can get WAYYYY too focused on my media being flawless. Church media shouldn’t be about the pursuit of perfection, but about building a team that uses their talents to enhance Sunday services for others. Sure, it’s okay to strive for error-less services. But, when is the last time you kept your “scorecard” on your team’s wins, rather than how many mistakes you made in a service?

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to shadow the production team at the Auburn campus of Church of the Highlands. It was there that I first caught a glimpse of a healthy way to approach mistakes in live production. On this particular weekend, they were experiencing a lot of heavy rainfall and it was slowing down their internet connection quite a bit. A solid connection is vital to the flow of their services because they are an extension site that projects a live video feed from their main campus in Birmingham.

In the three services that I joined them for that Sunday, they experienced trouble with the live feed in each service. To make matters worse, the one safety net that they have established for this, a hard drive with a recording of the earlier service, was malfunctioning for the first time in campus history. Let me be clear here—I would have been freaking out.

In the midst of all of these chaotic circumstances, their team kept level heads. While they may not have been able to prevent some problems, they worked hard to make all of the areas that they could control right. In fact, to sit back and watch their team come together in those moments was really incredible. Rather than cussin’ and fussin’ as it’s easy to do in the heat of those moments, they communicated calmly and executed their tasks with precision. When mistakes were made, they quickly picked themselves up and encouraged each other to keep moving forward. In a day filled with stress, I even saw them highfiving each other when things would go right.

Have you ever celebrated what went right with your media on Sunday morning?

At the conclusion of my shadowing, I spent a few minutes with the team’s leader, Marc Johnson. He shared with me a very simple, but profound truth. Their production booth is located in a very visible area in the back of their auditorium. If their team was to outwardly express whenever things were going wrong, everyone in the room would take notice. Not only is the worship team and campus pastor looking directly to them, but the entire audience can see them. If they will keep a level head when things are going wrong, everyone else will, too.

He also shared with me a great silver lining of publicly making fumbles. When everything is going great with production, potential volunteers assume they aren’t needed. Sometimes the smallest mistakes on a Sunday morning will prompt newcomers that help is needed and they’ll make a move to start volunteering. While it’s never intentional that a mistake is made, this has inspired many people to get involved in his time there. (They have a current rotation of around 40 production volunteers.)

Overall, you must realize that perfection is impossible. What’s important is that you always work to nurture an atmosphere of excellence, while still providing the grace necessary to make fumbles and learn from them.

Learn from your mistakes. Be proud of your accomplishments. More than anything else, understand the importance of what you do for the Kingdom.

How To Create Big Stages With Small Budgets

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We’ve all seen them. The sets and stages at larger churches with bigger budgets that make your mouth drop. You get super excited about creating something similar on your stage, only to find out that the design you’re trying to recreate costs more than your entire annual production budget. It’s easy to give up any hope of having an amazing stage design when you have a small budget. But, with the right materials and a little creativity, you can make a stellar stage design without breaking the bank.

In this post, we’ll cover a number of low-cost materials to create stage designs with, but first, there are a few things you need to consider when building your set.

Stage Designs Are 75% Lighting

There’s only so much that a stage design can do on its own. Lighting is what changes a plain stage into a dynamic environment, and it can really control mood of your room. Stage designs will come and go, but chances are, you’ll be using whatever lights you have until they die. If you have the option, set aside a portion of your set budget to buy at least 1-2 new lighting fixtures. By the time you’ve gone through 4-5 stage designs, you will have built up a nice lighting rig.

Angles = Shadows = Depth

One of the easiest ways to give your stage a dynamic feel is to add depth.  Flat designs can easily become boring, but depth can make for some very cool shadows on your set, which will give you a wide array of options when designing your lighting cues each week.

Your Set Won’t Always Have “Cool” Lighting

It’s easy to make a set look good with lights that are constantly changing color and intensity, but your set needs to look good when the lights aren’t in motion. Also, if your room is used for more than just weekend worship, you need to make sure your set looks good without being lit at all.

 

With those things in mind, let’s look at some of my favorite building materials for constructing stage designs, along with some real-world examples for inspiration.

PVC Pipe

PVC Pipe - Church Stage DesignPVC pipe comes in a variety of lengths and diameters, and since it’s commonplace in every household, it’s quite cheap. At about $5 for a 10ft section, your money will go a long way towards creating some great designs using PVC. Pro tip: Use acetone to wipe away the manufacturer-printed information on the side of each piece of pipe.  Leaving the text on will just be a distraction.  (Example 1  •  Example 2  •  Example 3)

Coroplast

Coroplast - Church Stage DesignPossibly the strongest contender on the list due to its sheer flexibility (both literally and figuratively), this corrugated plastic is an excellent building block for any stage design. Coroplast can maintain its lightweight, yet sturdy, form in just about any shape, which means your options are virtually unlimited when building. In addition to opaque white, coroplast can also be found in translucent varieties, which will give you the option of lighting it from behind to create some stunning effects on your stage.  Again, keep in mind that lighting is what will really create great looks with a coroplast set, not the material itself.

The best place to find low-cost coroplast sheets is your local sign shop.  Any shop that prints yard signs & the like will most likely have 4′x8′ sheets of coroplast on hand.  Prices vary from place to place, but a 4′x8′ sheet will usually run around $12-$20. You can also pick up sheets at some home improvement stores such as Home Depot.  (Example 1  •  Example 2  •  Example 3  •  Example 4)

Window Screen

Window Screen - Church Stage DesignLike PVC, window screen is widely available at any home improvement store and it comes very cheap. Crinkling up window screen can create some serious shadows, which can add depth and texture to an otherwise boring set. Make sure to wear heavy duty gloves when working with this material though; the sharp edges of a roll of screen can shred your hands if you aren’t careful.  (Example 1)

Wood Pallets

Wood Pallets - Church Stage DesignWood is yet another solid choice for set building.  Lumber is already pretty cheap, but often times you can find pallets for free from local warehouses and storage facilities. Pallet wood is usually rustic and textured, which can make for some very organic set pieces. A word of advice: A freestanding pallet doesn’t look that great as a set piece.  Strip the pallet wood apart and create something amazing: a textured wall, a drum riser, or a prop piece for your set, for example.

(Example 1  •  Example 2  •  Example 3  •  Example 4)

MIO Foldscapes

Mio - Church Stage DesignMio is a company that creates environmentally-friendly architectural pieces for use in the office environment (ceiling tiles, room partitions, and the like). Luckily, their materials also can make for some killer sets! Prices vary from product to product, but their Foldscapes ceiling tiles, which make for some very cool lighting effects, are $98 for a box of 24 2′x2′ tiles.  (Example 1  •  Example 2)

 

Do you have any other low-cost set materials you love to build with? Post your suggestions in the comments below or send us a tweet to @CreativePastor!

Photos used with permission from ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com

7 Foolproof Tips For More Creative Sermons

7 Foolproof Tips For More Creative Sermons

Lead pastors, preachers, and teaching pastors, your job does not come easy. There is an incredible amount of pressure to deliver excellent messages week after week. You spend a ton of time and energy preparing to deliver sermons that you just pray will connect with your audience. Then, you hear stats like 90% of unchurched people choose a church based on the pastor or preaching. (Thom Rainer) You have my respect.

Because of this high demand for engaging sermons, I set out to offer my most practical tips to add some creativity to your messages. My hope is that they will inspire you and help make your sermons fresh and unique for your audience.

1. Tell More Stories

People love a good story. From the dawn of time we have shared stories as a method of communication and that’s because they work. Audience members who have checked out in the first ten minutes will spring to life when you say, “Recently, when I took my family on a camping trip…” or “I was reading recently about Stephen Spielberg’s first days in the movie business…” If a story is well-chosen and told effectively, you’ll get your point across in a way a normal lecture never could.

2. Brainstorm With A Few Creative Friends

This works hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Have you ever attended a church so long that you learned all of the pastor’s go-to stories? I have. I’ve been the person sitting in the pew thinking, “Seriously? You’re telling this story again?” Keep this from happening by inviting a few trusted friends into your sermon prep. This immediately adds to your illustration arsenal. For example, your last point may be about integrity and your colleague may have the perfect story to really drive that idea home.

3. Include Movie, TV, or Audio Clips

Playing clips from popular movies, TV shows, or even songs can be a powerful way to enhance sermon points. It gets people excited about your message and creates memorable teaching moments. Not to mention you get to leverage the skills of Hollywood’s most talented storytellers. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to obtain the rights to play clips like this with a simple CCVI license and there are clip services like WingClips.

4. Show A Mini-Movie

Similar to playing a clip from a feature-length film, mini-movies are a great way to communicate ideas in a powerful way. What makes this option so effective is that these clips are specifically created to be used in churches. Far too often I see these videos only used by pastors on special occasions like holidays. I would encourage you to build these into your normal preaching schedule or aim for at least once a month. Take a regular visit to WorshipHouse to see what’s new or consider a subscription from Igniter or Centerline.

5. Incorporate A Prop

Several months ago, I visited a Sunday service to hear a pastor friend of mine speak. For full disclosure, I’ll admit that he is one of my all-time favorite preachers. One thing that he has always been amazing at is including a prop in his sermon. On this occasion, he brought out a simple umbrella for his illustration and, yes, he opened it! The moment that umbrella opened every eye in the auditorium was focused on him. He first used it to complement a story of his family stuck in the rain but then brought it back to illustrate the covering of God’s protection. I’ve seen everything from baseball gloves to pizza boxes to medieval swords used like this. Don’t be afraid to get creative to make a memorable moment.

6. Show A Testimony Video

I recently visited a church where the pastor communicated a fantastic sermon on giving. Weeks later I’m still feeling encouraged that my giving makes a difference in both my life and in the Kingdom. But as I look back, I cannot recall the pastor’s exact sermon points or give you a list of specific scriptures. What has stuck with me, however, is a 3 minute testimony video of one of their members sharing how tithing changed their life. It was an incredible video that validated everything the pastor had been preaching for 30 minutes. (Watch it here.)

7. Include More Photos

One of the best ways to make your sermon more alive is to display photos to accompany your words. For example, if you’re sharing a quote from C.S. Lewis, why not show a photo of him alongside your quoted text? Or if you’re telling a story of a snowstorm from a few years back, why not display a photo of just how deep it was. It can even be helpful to lighten the mood with a funny photo of your kids or something that you saw during the week. The key to all of these is to be intentional that it all has a purpose and that it adds to your message rather than distracting.

 

Have you tried any of these tips? Is there anything that you would add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!

 

How A Simple Style Guide Can Change Everything

How A Simple Style Guide Can Change Everything

I’ve always been a great doer. I’ve never had a problem putting in the long, hard hours to make our church’s media, website, print, or whatever else look great. But, as I’ve set out to be a leader, I’ve struggled with giving things away. Lately, this side of me has began to rear its ugly head.

You see, our new church plant is filled with amazing, fully-capable leaders. It’s incredible, really. Our Launch Team is made up of the kind of leaders that pastors dream of having in their churches. We don’t just have musicians, we have some of the best musicians that I know. We don’t just have administrators or teachers or creatives. We have leaders who spend their spare time helping other ministries improve. We’re not perfect, but I can easily say that we are incredibly blessed by the team that God has given us.

This amazing blessing of these fully-capable volunteers has brought a unique challenge for me. If I want this awesome team to stick around, I’ve got to stop being a doer and focus on being their leader. This means that I’ve got to get my hands off of projects and spend my energy equipping others to get their hands dirty. Quite honestly, this does not come easy for me. I’ve spent years in the habit of handling things myself without letting others in. This has led to several hard lessons in this season of getting established in this new organizational structure.

A few weeks ago, I requested for one of our church’s volunteers, a local photographer, to snap photos at one of our events. I went about this in pretty much all the wrong ways. I asked him to do it very last minute and never even discussed what I was looking for. The worst part? I got frustrated when his photos didn’t align with the vision I had for the project. But, wait. How could I be upset with him for not meeting expectations that had never been communicated to him? I then realized that he wasn’t the problem. I was.

So, before our next event, I requested a meeting with him where I apologized for how I had handled the previous project. I then presented to him a PDF style guide that I had created that thoroughly laid out exactly what I was looking for in his photos. This simple guide (that only took about an hour to create) communicated all of the vision that I had locked away in my head and made it clear for him to follow.

Guess what? That changed everything. Not only was our relationship strengthened, but his photos at our next event blew me away. Was he able to capture hundreds of perfect moments in that short amount of time? Of course not. But he submitted just enough photos to show me that he took my style guide to heart. He had caught the vision. More importantly, I had communicated a plan, took my “doer” hands away, and allowed him to work in his area of passion.

Moving forward, I will be creating more of these style guides for many areas that fall under my creative department. God has given me a big vision for our church and I’m learning that it’s much greater than me. To accomplish what He has called me to do, I must do less and lead more.

Piedmont Chapel Photography Style Guide - Page 1Piedmont Chapel Photography Style Guide - Page 3 Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.27.15 AM

Have you ever created a style guide for your volunteers?

20 Great Ways To Use Instagram At Your Church

20 Great Ways To Use Instagram At Your Church

Instagram has proven to be a major player in the social media world and an extremely valuable tool for ministry. Since we are such a visual culture, this is a great avenue for sharing your church’s story that goes beyond traditional text posts. Here are twenty creative ways that I’ve seen churches utilizing this great network. My hope is that you will be inspired and perhaps add them to your social media strategy. Enjoy!

1. Promote Your Service Times

2. Advertise Your Sermon Series

3. Show Newcomers What Services Look Like

4. Announce Your Volunteer of the Week

5. Share Testimonies From Your Congregation

6. Promote Your Online Stream

7. Highlight Moments From Your Service

8. Share Encouragement

9. Promote Upcoming Events

10. Set Up A Photo Booth In Your Lobby

11. Promote Outreach Opportunities

12. Show Ways To Get Involved

13. Introduce Your Staff

14. Provide Shareable Invite Cards

15. Share Your Church’s Vision

16. Showcase Your Various Ministries

17. Share Your Worship Setlist

18. Share Quotes From Your Sermon

19. Highlight Water Baptisms

20. Show What’s Happening In Your Kid’s Ministry



Do you have any other ideas for using Instagram at your church? Let us know in the comments below!