Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas Eve Service Recap

The Wilcoxes enjoyed a wonderful Christmas break. For those so inclined, you can catch up on our personal activities here. I took most of last week off, since the church calendar and building were mostly empty.

Now that I'm back at the office, I thought I'd give a quick recap of our Christmas Eve Service. What went well and what didn't, from the technical standpoint?

First, here is a rundown of the schedule...

Choir Performance
Hope Has Come

Congregational Worship
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Angels We Have Heard on High
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Welcome Guests

"Heaven to Earth" Drama
Father & Daughter Shooting Star Sketch
Here I Am to Worship Solo

Congregational Worship
Here I am to Worship

Sermon from Matthew 1

Testimonies
"Who Were You" Interwoven Testimonies

Application of Truth

Congregational Worship
Joy to the World

Choir Performance
Hallelujah Chorus

Hope Has Come was the theme of our evening, so the beginning song was appropriate. At first, I didn't think the song would fit well as the start of a Christmas Service. It didn't sound Christmas-y enough or something. However, it turned out to serve the purpose and the meaning very well thanks to the musicians and choir director.

Congregational Worship was a highlight, as usual. Covenant Life loves to sing and it's great to be able to invite our guests to sing along with songs they already know!


Well, times up for today. I need to run home, but I'll pick up where I left off tomorrow.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Peace on Earth Even With a Christmas Eve Service Tomorrow

Tomorrow night, Covenant Life will host a Christmas Eve Service to celebrate the incarnation of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

With the likelihood of higher-than-normal guest attendance, we always give special attention to making these services both a meaningful celebration of truth and an evening that connects with those who don't know the Lord. Occasionally in the past, that special attention results in a major production. Other times it does not. Regardless, Christmas Eve Services are always a little different than the normal Sunday routine.

I've been through my fair share of Christmas season production pushes, and I want to give God thanks that this year has been different than most. We are one day away and yet I am completely at peace.

What has made the difference?

I think the biggest difference is that my faith in God is greater this year than last. However, there are some practical issues involved as well. While these probably won't help you in your last hours of preparation, maybe they will help you think about Christmas 2008.
  • We kept this year's service simple, including only tried and true elements that we've actually executed in the past.
  • Our music director got married this fall, which was a blessing for him but also the Christmas Eve service. In order to take a well-deserved three-week honeymoon, he had everything planned and approved in early November. While I know many of you started last January, November is way ahead of schedule for us. (note: I don't recommend waiting until November!)
  • We decided to opt out of IMAG for the dramatic elements. We're going to try to make the drama seem more theatrical, and less like television.
  • We're only doing one service instead of our normal two, since Christmas Eve has fallen on a Sunday.
  • We actually put our Christmas set design and decorations into full effect on December 17th, rather than waiting for this weekend.
  • Most significantly for me, the sound, lighting, and video crew members that volunteered are top notch and have handled all the included elements in the past. They'll know what to do, even though we are only rehearsing once. (note: I don't necessarily recommend limiting rehearsals either, but it works for us this year.)
Praise God for his mercy and grace and the peace that results!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Project Planning Time



One of the areas of being a church technical director where I am least experienced is the area of project management. Yet, if I'm doing my job, I'm not actually DOING much. When I'm succeeding, I'm directing others to complete projects with excellence and timeliness. Those others may be staff members or volunteers, but they really are the ones doing the work under my direction.

Therefore, project planning has become one of my most critical tasks. I spend several hours each Tuesday in my project planning routine. Here's a peek into that routine...

I found the book Getting Things Done by David Allen to be very helpful in learning to plan projects. I found his deliniations between "project" and "task" very instructive. Anything with two steps or more is a project. That makes a lot of things projects that I would have otherwise considered tasks.

I have adapted his processes a bit to include "Major Projects" which are made up of many "Projects" which are made up of many tasks. I have a document with all my major projects listed. Each Tuesday I go through the major projects and identify what projects have been completed and what new projects need to be added to kick the major project along, however slowly. I also look at each project and and do the same for the tasks associated with it.

This process can take upwards of three hours for my twenty current major projects, but it is probably the most productive three hours of my day. If you don't do project planning, start today!



For those of you who are tool geeks like me, I use MindJet MindManager to document my major projects, projects, and tasks. Then, I have an Applescript that will automatically load all new tasks into my Entourage task list. If you are interested in seeing examples, let me know.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Protecting Time Off

About a two-minute drive from my house is a new, home-grown little coffee and sandwich shop called The Music Cafe. Since I tend to visit early in the morning, I've been able to chat with the owners who opens up the joint at 5:00am. Sometimes he looks pretty ragged, which he explains with the fact that he is short on staff and occasionally has to work until close at 10:00pm.

While I don't think it compares with owning your own restaurant, I've found that working for a church that has its doors open seven days a week poses it's own challenges for keeping a reasonable schedule. Add to that the variability inherent in volunteers lives, the deep love for the people I serve, and the potential for eternal impact through what I do. It can be difficult to say "No" strongly enough to get regular time off.

As I evaluate the last year, I think there has been growth for me in this arena. And there is much room for improvement. Mondays are my day off, and I think I've done a much better job protecting those days for my family. It's just a guess, I but I think I've probably only worked two or three Mondays all year. Praise the Lord! That's something only he could have done.

God-willing, next Monday I'll write about how I've worked to protect Mondays.

For those of you out there with variable schedules in any field, how do you protect your time off?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Fifteen Minutes of Fame



I don't think my most recent attempt to blog is working. So I'm trying something new, something I haven't heard of before. It's something that may be really stupid. Or it could be a great way to blog. I'm calling it the Fifteen Minutes of Fame.

Now, honestly, fame really has nothing to do with it. This blog will not make me famous. But fifteen minutes does have something to do with it. Rather than try to write an exhaustive post occasionally, I'd like to post short ideas each day. I'll be taking one of my official fifteen minute breaks at work to blog.

I even have a countdown clock on my computer. Right now it's at 05:41. I'll be watching the clock to limit the amount of time I spend writing and to give myself faith that I can actually spend the time at this moment.

What will come out of this new plan? I have NO idea. But I suppose we'll find out!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Excuses, Excuses

I've been setting records in anti-posting, recently. I think two posts for the entire last month is definitely a high. Rather than try to summarize all that's been going on, let me share with you my excuses to give a window into the last few weeks.

We're Meetin' Big Time | Covenant Life Church has grown significantly in the last few years. This is something God has done, and it is both a blessing and a challenge. With the blessing of more people comes the challenge of imparting the heart of our church to so many newcomers. For the foreseeable future, we have added meetings for two large groups for teaching on doctrine and life, one for all singles -- aptly named The Big Meeting -- and one for all married couples -- The Family Room. More big meetings means more tech requirements and less blogging.

Mediocrity is Liquid | One things I've learned this fall is that even a small crack in leadership can allow mediocrity to seep into an organization. Over the spring and summer, I think I made too many decisions where I compromised slightly on important values or I failed to fully expend the mental energy and communication capital required to lead effectively. Lately, I've been trying to focus my mind energy and word capital on the people here at Covenant Life. This has meant less for blogdom.

Now I've got a suprise for you: That's all I have time to write now!

I do hope to be back regularly, though less frequently, so we'll see you next go-round.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An Excellent Example of Faithful Service

I sent this message as an encouragement and challenge to my tech teams this morning. Enjoy!
Hello, production team friends.

I am passing on a message that I received yesterday from Bruce because he has provided us all with an example of faithful service worthy of emulation and honor. Bruce and his son Robert have handled CSB sound for at least two years. Here’s his note...

------
I wanted to make you aware that Abner and his son Bryan are transitioning into the CSB sound setup/takedown instead of Robert and I. Since this is Robert's last year on the program, I had been looking to transition this job over to another father and son who would be here next year before we left. After finding out that Abner has been involved on the sound team at CLC, I mentioned to him that the CSB sound is a great father/son activity to consider. He showed a great deal of interested in doing this with his son Bryan. Just recently, we have worked together for several weeks to show them how to do this job. After this trial, after giving him the opportunity, Abner agreed that instead of waiting until the end of the year, he would like to transition right away on this. I encouraged that, and told him that I would be available to help and substitute as necessary.

As far as you are concerned, this should be
transperent, but the web site should now show Abner and Bryan doing the CSB sound now. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks, Dave.

Bruce

---------

Bruce, thanks for several things:
  1. Thanks for taking the initiative to find someone to take your responsibilities when you will not longer be serving.
  2. Thanks for thinking ahead to look for someone to fill your place many months in advance.
  3. Thanks for training them thoroughly and carefully transitioning them into that role.
  4. Thanks for humbly being willing to hand off responsibility early.
  5. And thanks for being available to help in the future if necessary.
You have raised the bar for production team servants.

I also want to publicly send you a big “Thanks” from my wife Cara and daughter Meg. Why? CSB is a Monday evening event. Because Monday is my day off to spend with my family, I am even more grateful for how “transparent” you have made CSB. I’ve never had to even think about it, and I continue to be blessed by your excellent leadership and care now that Abner and Bryan are at the helm. Please know that my family is grateful that I can be fully home on those Monday nights!

With much respect and thankfulness,

djw

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Monthly Updates


Light speed is fast. Life speed can be faster, it seems. I can't believe it's been almost two weeks since I posted last. During these busy months, while I must blog less, I do want to share things that I find to be working. This is one of those things.

I'm always looking for better ways to communicate with my team members. Specifically, I've been trying to cut down on email traffic, with the hope that they will actually read what I do send. To that end, I've stolen an idea from Sovereign Grace Ministries and our church administrator, Corby Megorden: I'm sending out a monthly update email.

The monthly update is intended to give volunteers all they need to know to serve effectively in the next month. It also give me a forum to introduce new ideas to the whole group or to give instructions to specific groups of team members.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the response. I have had more discussions in the last four days about the content of this update than I have about almost any email that I send or idea that I introduce. While some people have questions, what encourages me most is that people are reading it and engaging with it.

You can dowload a copy of our montly update here, if you are interested in seeing the content. It's not beautiful (far from it), and it's not profound. But it seems to be working. Post a comment to let me know if you have any suggestions on how to improve it or make the most of it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Backup the Backup of the Backup

A few vignettes to explain why I just spent over $3000.00 for a battery:

1. I have a dear friend who has done sound at Covenant Life for many years. His solution to every problem is, "We need a backup." He has proposed having backup mixers, that's 48-channel mixers, just in case a channel goes bad. When he proposed it, I checked the budget and then laughed. OK, I never checked the budget. I just laughed. Maybe I shouldn't have.

2. Every Sunday we set up a backup wired mic with a 50' cable (it's cheaper than a 48-channel mixer). That's just in case our wireless handheld mic at the pulpit doesn't work and it's backup wireless handheld doesn't work either. Or in case the preachers lav and the two backups for that don't work. Why? Because the one and only time we forgot to set it up, the wireless handheld at the pulpit didn't work. Not good! The wired mic is our guarantee that nothing bad will happen. (OK, so God is only the guarantee, but the wired mic sure seems to work!)

3. Two to three times a week, we get a brownout in our building. Very occasionally, it happens on a Sunday. I don't like brownouts. Neither does our video projector. It coughs and sputters and usually decides to take 5 minutes to refire it's lamp. Here's a rough transcript from 9:47am this last Sunday... Senior Pastor Joshua Harris: "So, as we watch this 40 minute..." -- BROWNOUT -- "...video, look for God's grace and be inspired by his work. Let's watch the video." Needless to say, we didn't watch the video. We sang a song while we waited for the projector to come back to life.

I have finally listened to my old friend and purchased one very expensive battery backup for our video projector.
Photo Credit: ASurroca

Friday, October 13, 2006

%s | Your Job Description

For the last couple weeks, I've been interviewing to hire a new person to run our resource department. In the process, I always make sure they get a copy of the job description. At the same time, I laugh inside because Covenant Life job descriptions are eternally dynamic. Nothing changes faster around here than our defacto roles and responsibilities as we try to keep up with a growing and changing congregation.

I had a wonderful conversation with our Director of Communications yesterday where we began what will probably be a long dialogue about the future of video at Covenant Life. One of the root questions that arose out of the conversation was this:

What are our roles in leading into the future of video at Covenant Life?

Because we haven't had the opportunity to talk to our pastors about this, yet, I have to leave the specifics of the conversation there. However, the conversation once again brought up my lack of forward-looking thinking. I fear that I probably spend about 95% of my time on what's happening in the next three months and 5% of my time on the decades after that.

I'd love to hear from any church tech or media leaders out there with a quick answer to a quick question:

What percentage of your time do you spend on events, plans, projects, etc. that are happening in the next 3 months? And what percentage of your time do you spend working on things that are happening more than 3 months out?

I hope to hear from many of you. Thanks for commenting below!
Photo Credit: Lee Bennett

Thursday, October 12, 2006

SuperSonic | Knowledge Puffs Up

The apostle Paul was on trial, explaining his defense of the gospel when "Festus said with a loud voice, 'Paul you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.'"

While I disagree with Festus' conclusion, Paul was indeed a man of "great learning." He was educated, intelligent, and influential among the Jews. But after turning to Jesus, this was one of his conclusions about knowledge: "knowledge puffs up" (1Cor 8:1).

This was our first point of discussion at SuperSonic last Sunday. I wanted to bring this as the first idea for our young learners to consider, pray about, and evaluate in their lives. They are about to embark on a learning experience to gain knowledge about sound, lighting, and video equipment. They will possibly become "experts" to whom others look. And that quickly. How must they handle this new understanding?

They've heard that knowledge is power, that the smartest people are the best, automatically deserving respect, submission, and honor. But that is worldly wisdom, which just doesn't work in the economy of God, as our church has been learning in our series on 1 Corinthians.

What happened in Corinth? The believers had freedom regarding eating food sacrificed to idols. But that freedom led others into sin. "We know better," they said. "Idols aren't real." They were right. But they became "puffed up" in their understanding, and they didn't use love to transform their knowledge into service of others. Instead, they tempted others to go against conscience and eventually sin against God.

What's that have to do with church tech? Everything. How often do we as tech servants get in our heads that "we know better," that we are the "resident" experts? The fact is this: we're right. However, without a healthy suspicion of and battle against the pride in our hearts, we too will fail to apply love to transform that knowledge into service of others. We will actually worship ourselves and our "wisdom" instead of the One True God.

Pride is a daily temptation for me, and I'm confident that these young servants will face it as well. So, next week I'll be checking in with them more to find out how they are aware of and battling pride in their hearts.

Photo Credit: Sarah Macmillan

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Why Fly? | SuperSonic

We started our most recent sound/lighting/video training arena, SuperSonic, last Sunday. I asked the high schoolers in the group the following questions:
  • Why do you think we are doing this?
  • Why are you here?
I got similar answers from most of them that I would summarize like this:

Why do you think we are doing this?
  • To make sure that we have enough volunteers for all the church events.
  • To free up the key volunteers from serving all the time.
  • To "clone" our best volunteers for future service.
Why are you here?
  • To serve the church more effectively.
  • To be able to do handle all sorts of different events.
  • To be able to know how to solve technical problems.
  • So that those key volunteers don' t need to be there.
These are great answers that reveal so much of God's grace. How many high schoolers do you know want to serve the church, want to free others up from serving, want to learn to be more effective for the gospel? I praise God for these kids, and their love for the church.

I also adjusted their perception just a little bit. What's the root answer to both those questions?

Why are we doing this? Why are you here? Jesus died for sinners. That's why.

It's not primarily about knowledge. It is about God and his gospel.

More tomorrow.

Photo Credit: patrick boury

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

SuperSonic Launched

My grandfather got me intrigued about supersonic flight when he told me that it's essentially silent. Because the plane is travelling faster than the speed of sound, it leaves behind any sound that it makes. Every time I fly, I wish I was in the Concorde where the screaming engine noise would be long lost to the sheer speed of the plane.

Sometimes I feel like the church is supersonic. It's going so fast that the sound CREW is left behind by the speed of new events piled onto the calendar. That's one reason why we've begun our new training class called SuperSonic.

SuperSonic is for young men and women in high school. They will meet twice a month for 3 hours to learn about sound, lights, and video throughout the Covenant Life Church building. The first session was two days ago, and the group of seven young men and women were stoked to get flying.

I'm fired up about seeing more young folks gaining a broad understanding of the technical systems in the building. And even more, I'm looking forward to being able to influence them to serve for God's glory. More about that tomorrow.


Photo Credit: Neville Henderson

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Occasional Firsts

We had some firsts today worth noting:

1. We had an almost completely new children's ministry sound team, made up of mostly one family. From what I heard, they rocked the rehearsal tonight, even with just one training session under their belts.

2. For the first time ever, we had an all-female sound team doing setup in the auditorium. Thankfully, some young men were around to help them haul some of the heavy stuff around. Not that they really needed the help. But they deserved it.

3. We did our youth meeting in the room known as PG1, aka Practice Gym 1, aka the back left third of our auditorium. You can see PG1 directly behind me in my picture to the left (sorry to all you feedreaders). One portable sound system, two 9x12 rear-project screens (one rented), two projectors on 10' sticks, and eight volunteers later, we had a meeting "in the bleachers." Technically, we pulled it off. I am eager to hear if it "worked," from the organizers perspective.

4. I posted twice in one day for the first time in forever!
Photo Credit: makeshift

God's Grace in "2006" | IMAG

It was only about 18 months ago that Kenneth Maresco coolly made the following announcement...

"IMAG is among us."

A picture of his face was on the screen for the first time. Surprisingly, the congregation applauded and cheered. They immediately saw how this would serve them, thanks to several weeks of preparation by our pastors and several decades of preparation for ongoing change from God himself.

That was a good beginning. In fact, I couldn't really imagine a better one. Introducing change to sinful human beings requires care, foresight, planning, and excellent execution. And it requires God's help. By God's grace, that happened when we started using image magnification.

As I reflect on the grace of God over the last "year" and look forward to our new year, I realize one amazing thing: in only 18 months, IMAG has become second nature. The IMAG video volunteers have really taken hold of the purpose: to bring the preached word of God, in all its nuanced fullness, to the entire congregation. Now, everyone can clearly see the gestures and the facial expressions that convey the emotion of our pastors as they speak of the cross of Christ.

Some have been challenged by our high expectations. Some have been frustrated by the lack of flashiness that we've enforced in order to keep the images as undistracting as possible. But all have wholeheartedly come behind our efforts and vision to make the word preached more effective.

I am grateful to be a technical director, no doubt about it. But this is one of those things that makes me sure I've got the best volunteers and the best church to serve.

Ok, so I'm biased. But I still think I'm right.

I praise God for the undeserved blessing of these people, and I pray that all tech directors receive the same blessings from the people they labor for and alongside.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

God's Grace in "2006" | Children's Ministry


Have you ever considered that most of what we do at our churches is for our children? Even what we preach and learn and apply and try as adults is preparing the way for our children and their children to worship God.

That's why I'm so excited about some of the changes in our children's ministry this last year, with even more coming in the next year. Mike Bradshaw, our children's pastor, has been taking the assembly formats to the next level, specifically the gathering when all the 2nd-5th graders are together. What used to be just a miniaturized "Big Church" is now tailored to the spiritual state, the knowledge base, and the learning methods of the children. And it's a whole lot more fun, too!

Central to this next year's change is the introduction of a weekly drama troupe which engages the kids on the issues and ideas of the morning. The children will get to know the characters and see both in them both good and bad examples.

The increased centrality of the dramatic elements to kid's church means that the tech teams will have to step it up a level. Thanks be to God that the team members have already embraced continuous improvement. We staffed up significantly last year in order to prepare for the major programming changes coming this year. And God has used that small preparatory step to allow us to serve our children more effectively this coming year from the start.

Thanks to all the sound, lighting, and video volunteers who help proclaim the gospel to our children each and every week!

And thanks to the God who has provided so abundantly for his people and for the future of Covenant Life!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Even though it isn't January 1st, the new year has arrived. Each October, the Covenant Life tech teams begin a "new year," with new schedules, new assignments, new members, new challenges, and new grace from God.

Just like January first is a day of reflection on the last year and anticipation of the future, this time of year brings much gratefulness, hope, excitement, and faith for me. Over the next few days, I'll share some of the things we've learned from this last year and what we're aiming for in the next.

But for now, enjoy the fireworks!
Photo Credit: minusbaby

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Team Management Tools


Confession: I'm kind of a tool junkie. I love new tools that help me do what I do better. Near-Time is the newest tool I've implemented in tech team management. You can check out our new site here.

The only thing is I'm not a tool buff. I don't really know everything out there, so I can get hooked pretty easy. What hooked me about Near-Time? The "Events" tab. The volunteers can now see all our tech-supported events in a true calendar view, and they can collaborate with me in planning those events.

Anyway, if you visit our space, I'd appreciate your feedback on how I could serve my volunteers better with the information posted (all you lurking Covenant Life volunteers, speak up). Keep in mind that the site is almost brand new, and that we'll mostly be using it for scheduling volunteers for events.

Maybe this will give you some inspiration to try web tools for your own teams, too!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Let the Young Man Lead

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." -- 1 Timothy 4:12"

I know that I say this over and over and over, but I love working with high schoolers. And, believe it or not, I don't love it because they love working with me.

To demonstrate, I recently had a conversation with a young man on the sound team. He wants to take a bunch of the teens on the tech teams and have bi-monthly training sessions to get them more familiar with all the equipment throughout the church. As we talked about it, he said that I wouldn't need to train very often because he wanted to keep it fun. Ouch! I guess I'm living up to my nickname: The Black Hole of Fun!

So, I don't love working with high schoolers because they love hanging with uncool me. I love working with high schoolers because Covenant Life Church is their church. Yes, it's my church, too. But Covenant Life will soon really become their church. Soon, they will be the small group leaders. They will be the decision makers. They will be the primary financial provision. They will be my pastors.

I count it one of the highest privileges of my role here to position young men to love serving the Savior.

For those of you who have been tempted to judge the guy I mentioned earlier, that's actually a misrepresentation of his thoughts. It was a funny moment when he said it and a good soundbite. I'm grateful for my friend who jokes I'm not fun. He wants to lead and train his peers. He will actually be leading his parents this next year.

Tonight I was honored to work with another of our young leaders. He is heading up the small tech crew for the high school chapels every Wednesday morning, and leading the sound crew for our weekly Alpha meetings every Wednesday nights. He is also considering spending two months as a specialized trainer for our new monitor board operators that are going to start in the month of October.

Why do I go on about this? I go on about it because older folks like me (I'm 30) can be tempted to despise youth in leadership. I can be tempted to withhold respect because they don't make the same decisions I would make or because they make a mistake that I wouldn't make. I can be tempted to, given my current position of leadership, fearfully and selfishly refuse to give them leadership opportunities, so that they can grow.

Paul commands Timothy to not let anyone despise him. Timothy is supposed to correct those who don't respect him.

I challenge everyone one of us to make it our goal to free even our youngest leaders from that responsibility.

Let the young man lead!

Photo Credit: Steve Bailey

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Blogging Silence, Busy Savior

When I have the most to write about, I have the least time to write.

Covenant Life's new fall schedule launched a few weeks ago, and I'm finding blogging time to be... well, let me rephrase that... I'm not finding blogging time, period.

But that means one very good thing: our Savior, Jesus Christ, is busy doing good for his people here at Covenant Life. Consider what He is doing here, recognizing that these are only the things the technical teams are supporting (and not even all of them):
  • High School Chapel is back in business with a band, graphics, and teaching.
  • Family Room, a marriage and parenting training context, began last night.
  • CLC College is coming soon.
  • 21 fresh volunteers from ServFest are finally locking in to roles on the teams.
  • We are gearing up for our "new year." The one-year serving commitment for all new and continuing volunteers begins in October.
  • I'm hiring an assistant! (Maybe the blogging will return soon.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Room to Grow

Photo Credit: //Jacob

Every year the Covenant Life staff has evaluations. Each supervisor evaluates his employees and each employee evaluates his supervisor. On Friday, I had my evaluation from Corby Megorden, our church administrator.

I wanted to share my weaknesses that he identified and goals he chose for my next year. If any of you have recommendations for materials to help me to grow, please send suggestions my way!

Here are my weaknesses:
  • Dave may need to recruit a strong leader -- the breadth of the teams may limit his effectiveness as time goes on.
  • At times, Dave will wait too long to communicate a concern or a need.
  • Dave should "drop in" more to communicate with Corby.
  • Dave will need to grow in delegation in order to utilize his future admin assistant.
  • Dave can demonstrate self-sufficiency by not coming in a timely fashion with concerns or burdens.
Here are his goals for me, which are closely tied to the weaknesses:
  • Hire and fully employ an assistant.
  • ID assistant leaders to help lead and care for teams
  • More informal communication
  • Bring concerns to light more quickly.
Any resource recommendations? Or things you've learned in these areas?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Volume of the Family Stereo

I'm not a pastor. And whenever I think I'd like to be a pastor, I just think about one or two of the more difficult conversations I've had in my non-pastoral job. It will suffice to say that those thoughts make me ever so grateful for the men that lead our church.

I had one of those more difficult conversations today. Thankfully, it wasn't difficult because of the person on the other end of the phone line. It was difficult because she had been affected negatively by something for which I was responsible. The effect was significant enough to bring her to tears when it happened and then again as she told me about it.

Two Sundays ago, she was standing in the back of our sanctuary holding her 15-month old baby. As the band transitioned to the last song, something happened that made the volume increase significantly. Then, her right ear began to hurt. The pain quickly worsened as time progressed. She had to leave the room. As she battled her own pain, she thought about her baby. What was he feeling? Did this hurt him as well?

The tears came. And, thankfully, so did one of our pastors, who happened to be walking through the lobby at the time. He listened to and cared for her. He also let me know what happened, so that I could talk to her.

When we spoke, I found out that she had a genetic hearing disorder. Her hearing in her right ear was failing. Most likely, the volume didn't change significantly, but it increased just enough to cross the threshold of her already weakened capacity.

As we talked, she very humbly asked questions about our decisions on volume level, and listened carefully while I explained our research and thoughts about it (read more here from a former post on our specifics). Not surprisingly, since she is a godly woman, she was grateful to hear that we take our sound level seriously and that we wanted to make sure that no one was being hurt by attending worship.

She agreed that changing the entire worship context just for her wouldn't make sense. She has decided to wear earplugs during worship, given her condition and the possible pain that could result. Although that isn't her preference, and it isn't mine either, I think it is the best solution. But I'm still grieved that she had to experience this.

One of our pastors reminded me that these kinds of conversations are so critical to church life because Covenant Life Church is not a meeting facility. It's a family. As one of the leaders in our "home," it's important that I know who's listening to the family stereo.
Photo Credit: SugaShane

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cross-Wisdom vs. World-Wisdom

Our senior pastor continued Covenant Life Church's series on 1 Corinthians this morning. He spoke from 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 on wisdom. You will be able to listen to the message soon.

Main Idea: Cross-wisdom and human wisdom are completely incompatible.
  1. God's cross-wisdom contradicts human wisdom.
  2. God's cross-wisdom can't be reconciled with human wisdom.
  3. God's cross-wisdom triumphs over human wisdom.
The most applicable quote to our conversations on God-media is this:
"Reshape the gospel to impress a perishing world, and you're going to hand that perishing world emptiness."
We also had a unique picture of God's wisdom shown to us through interlaced testimonies. Six people shared parts of their own stories live. Watch the IMAG footage, and let me know what you think. I'll admit up front that the execution is far from perfect, but I think this type of testimonial is fresh way to share stories in person. Let me know if you agree.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Church Website Redesign



I must have missed the memo that this is the week for redesigning websites. Thankfully I coincidentally changed mine as well.

Check out the new and improved Covenant Life Website.

Thanks, Ryan James, for making our site so much nicer on the eyes!

Playing Favorites

This is the third post in a four-part series. Read part 1 and part 2 first.



This my Flock browser menu. Flock has made so many things easy, including choosing your favorite web pages. Just mark them with a yellow star!

Picking favorites is easy and harmless... for web pages. Picking favorites in church is just as easy, but not at all harmless.

Are you a musician or an evangelist? Do you prefer to write or speak? Do you love kids or the poor or the elderly? How does this affect where you serve in the church?

If you're like me, you are serving in the areas where you are most gifted and most passionate. I hope that is true for you. And if you're like me, you believe that your area of ministry is very important. You're right. But if you're proud like me, you are probably tempted to raise the importance of that ministry over the significance of the gospel.

In last Sunday's message on unity in the church, Joshua Harris encouraged Covenant Life: "Distrust your favorites." Why? The believers in Corinth were dividing over their most beloved orators, and we too can be tempted to foster disunity through choosing "favorite" ministries or pastors.

Joshua's main point was this:
Unity is maintained when individuals refuse to allow any other preference, priority, ambition or affiliation to be more important than what Jesus has done in his substitutionary death for them.
For those of us in media ministry, I ask this question: Does your affiliation with media or technology ever become more important to you than the cross of Christ?
  • When you are working with a pastor who is late in getting you message notes, are you more aware of your brotherhood in Jesus Christ than his lack of preparation?
  • When the guitar player wants to turn his amplifier up and you want to turn it down, do you remember that the price required to pay for your sins are just as great as the price required for his sins?
  • When a volunteer that used to work alongside you decides to serve in a new ministry, do you rejoice that he is continuing the to send the glorious gospel to the world, just in a different way?
  • When you think of that church down the street, what pops into your head: your superiority in media excellence, or your gratefulness for their partnership in spreading the one great message of history?
We all have different preferences. We all have different favorites. We all have different desires, hopes, goals. Yet we have only one Savior, Jesus Christ.

What favorite things about your ministry or your church threaten to dethrone Christ from his reign in your heart?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Blog Design?

A few days ago, I alluded to some upcoming changes to my blog design. I assumed at that point that I was pretty far away, but I found a framework to start from that I really liked. My goals were simplicity, flexibility, readability, and attractiveness.

I don't know if anyone visited the test site, but no one complained, so I've now put up the new design. Please let me know if you liked the other format better and why. I'd be happy to go back. Mostly.

Oh, and thanks for understanding that not everything works yet!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Disagreement and Distrust

This is part 2 in a 4-part series. Read part 1 here


As she walked down the sidewalk, I thought, “I hate women who wear combat boots.”

As strange as that sentence may be, this next sentence is even stranger even to me. That thought changed my life. The Lord used that thought to convict me of how my preferences had made me closed to opportunities to share the gospel. I let my dislikes justify hatred of others.

Joshua Harris helped Covenant Life Church more fully understand unity in Christ this last Sunday. His first point of application was this: “Distrust your dislikes.” While I wasn’t necessarily hindering the unity of the church in the previous example, I certainly was arrogantly placing my preferences before the good of others.

If unity in the church is essential for ministry to non-Christians, as I argued in part 1, then we must understand how to handle disagreement between Christians. This is especially true in areas where the Bible isn’t absolutely clear and personal preference is more significantly involved.

Specifically, I want to discuss today how to practically handle disagreements that come up in the church related to technology and media.
  • What happens when you don't like the way someone else mixes the sound?
  • What should you do if you think it's simply too loud?
  • How should you respond when the graphics are, from your perspective, ugly or boring?
  • What do you do about what you don't like?
In a few days, I'll discuss the dangers of doing nothing: bitterness and apathy. But for now, let's agree that you have a role to play. You need to say something or do something. What is the best way to play that role without causing conflict and disunity? What does distrusting your dislikes look like in this case?

Here are some thoughts that may help:
  • Actively remember that you -- like Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15 -- are the greatest sinner you know. Search your heart for any evil intent before approaching a conversation to change something you don't like. Remember that you will tend to like the things that serve you rather than the things that serve others.
  • Get help. Ask others who know you well to help you understand why you want to change this dislike. Your motive matters.
  • Approach any conversation about a dislike with honest questions rather than assumptions. Only assume one thing: that you are the one mistaken or uninformed.
  • Recognize to the person you approach that you are not the expert on everything. Even if you are around to be the "resident expert" in a particular area, you still have room to grow and learn.
  • Submit to leadership. God has given us leaders to help make decisions and move his plans forward. Follow them wholeheartedly, and you'll likely see the wisdom of it in the end.
  • Don't divide. Please don't leave a church simply over media or technology choices that you dislike.
What dislikes are you facing these days? Maybe some real-life examples will bring more clarity to these comments. Send them in to the comments section!
Photo Credit: Zen Sutherland

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Prayer for Unity


Photo By: Alex Luskin

Have you ever pictured a conversation among members of the trinity? What would they say to each other?

Here’s an example from a part of one of the last prayers of Jesus’ life:
"I do not ask for [my disciples] only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Is your church seeking to have an effect on your community? Do you want to be relevant to newcomers? Do you hope to use media and technology for God’s glory and the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Know this: unity among Christians is critical to all effective ministry to non-Christians.

Haven’t you found this to be true? Don’t unbelievers frequently justify dismissal of the gospel by the fact that Christians have so many denominations and so little agreement?

And not only non-Christians are affected. Don’t believers frequently leave churches because – after getting involved – they find a culture of unresolved disagreement, bitterness, and apathy toward resolution?

People that serve with media and technology are not impervious to temptations toward bitterness and disunity. We operate in a subjective, cultural, and preferential arena. Opportunities for disagreement between team members, pastors, musicians, or church members lie on the other side of any decision.

How can we participate with the Spirit in affecting the world by seeking unity despite a diversity of opinions?

That’s the question that Joshua Harris attempted to answer this weekend in his message on 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. I’ll be applying some of his points to media ministry throughout this week.

Here are my initial stabs at titles for this week’s posts:
  • Disagreement – What Next?
  • Playing Favorites
  • Unearthing Bitterness
As we go into this series, let's join Christ in praying that unity would define our churches individually and the church universal.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Meg's Newest Trick

So it's not about media technology, but it's one of those highlights of life worth blogging about. Check out what our little girl mastered during last week's vacation. Mobility is freeing!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Disunity and Distrust

"Division in the church doesn't surprise us any more."
-- Joshua Harris

Photo Credit: John Curley

This morning, our senior pastor spoke about unity in the church from 1 Corinthians 1:10-14 (listen here on Tuesday). I've tried to summarize it here.

Disunity in the church is real. Unfortunately, it is more often used as a joke punchline than treated as a problem that Christians should try to resolve.

The symptoms of division at Corinth were quarrelling, separation, cliques, and being different in mind and judgment. While occasionally Christians must divide from other so-called believers, most of the division in today's church is motivated by sinful pride and petty issues.

Even more specifically, the believers in Corinth were dividing over identification with leaders: "I follow Paul. I follow Apollos. I follow Cephas. I follow Christ." This is strange because those leaders were not divided. They were friends and coworkers in the gospel.

The problem lies not in the "Paul, Apollos, Cephas" parts of those statements. The problem is the "I." The Corinthians had made their favorite preacher, the person who baptized them, or some other leader with whom they associated more important than Christ himself.

Paul believed this was such a serious issue that he wrote to them by the authority of Jesus Christ. What was his reasoning for correction? Christ was not divided. Paul was not crucified for them. No one was baptized into the name of Paul. Only through Jesus was salvation available, and only in Jesus should the identity of a Christian be firmly planted. The Corinthians had forgotten the gospel, and it led to division.

The solution, then, to division is to focus on the cross of Jesus Christ. His death unites all Christians together. We are united as a family, as brothers and sisters. If we forget the sacrifice of Christ, we will forget our family unity, and we will separate because of personal preference.

What shall we do? How can we make sure that the gospel continues to unify us? We should do the following consistently and with great effort:
  • Distrust our "dislikes." We must not let what we don't like about our churches lead to division. We must seek humility, talk to leadership if appropriate, and then trust God for the results.
  • Distrust our "favorites." We may like a particular style of music, liturgy, preacher, or area of ministry in the church. We must watch out that we don't find our identity in those things, but rather in the cross of Christ.
  • Root out bitterness and apathy in our relationships. Watch out for, confess, and seek reconciliation with the people who are most challenging to you.

From my experience, this message hits at the heart of many technical and media "conflicts," doesn't it? Disagreements with musicians, pastors, congregation members, other team members create disunity. Throughout this week, as a follow-up to the message, I'll be addressing issues related to unity in the church and media ministry.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blogging Changes


CJ Mahaney, Covenant Life's former senior pastor, has permanently implanted the following phrase in all our members' minds:

Constant change is here to stay.

So, here I go, bringing constant change into my little blogging world. I think I'm going to be throwing out the weekly schedule for something a little more flexible.

I'm hoping to plan a four-part series for each week on a variety of topics based off the old blogging schedule. I believe this will help me spend less time writing and yet more fully develop ideas. Do you all have any topics you'd like to see discussed soon?

That plan leaves three days open for other posts such as answering questions, book reviews, good posts from others, and so on.

I'm also considering a look-and-feel change for the blog, so that it is more Web 2.0 and simpler to read. But that could be a long way off.

Please let me know what you think of these changes, now or as they occur.

Photo Credit: Mike Rosales

Friday, August 25, 2006

Baltimore Day Away

Well, vacation is now over, but before saying good-bye to the restful days of summer, I thought I'd share some pictures from our family day-trip to Baltimore yesterday. It was a beautiful day.



We took a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in the afternoon.



After dinner at the inner harbor, we went to the Orioles game against the Minnesota Twins.



Unfortunately, this is how exciting the game ended up being...



The Orioles got smoked 11 to 2, or something like that. You know you lost bad when you don't even care whether you remember the actual score or not.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Am I Really on Vacation Again?

I can't believe I'm on "vacation" again.

This one isn't quite so formal (or as removed from civilization) as my last one. My wife's whole family is in town. No, correct that. Her whole family is in townHOUSE, our townhouse. We're having fun doing day trips to local places. Here are two pictures from Annapolis yesterday.

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So the lack of blogging continues. I hope someday soon I'll get back on track.

In relation to the priority of blogging in life, I've been contemplating this definition from one of our pastors, Robin Boisvert:

LAZINESS :|: Doing what you want to do, rather than what you ought to do.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

WorshipGod06 :|: iMagnify Video

So, Adrian Warnock tipped off a few of you that I slipped up and revealed the IMAG gone amuck skit that was going to happen at WorshipGod06. I should have known better than to include a link on the post. Stupid me. That's my fault, not Adrian's! Hopefully, I didn't ruin anyone's experience. If I did, please forgive me and jot me a comment so I don't do it again.

At least one person was interested in seeing a video, so here's what we got. The beginning is a little odd because we were transitioning from live cameras to a videotape. I'm sorry about that. I think you'll get the idea.

Note: After posting this, I've noticed some audio sync issues, probably due to the compression levels of the sound track. I'll be working on that later in the afternoon, hopefully. But enjoy it as much as you can for now. Thanks for understanding.



What do you think? Was it funny? Did it work?

Oh, and this video is copyright 2006 Sovereign Grace Ministries and Drew Jones. All rights are reserved. I have used it with permission. If you break the law, and make millions off this, you owe Drew one large yacht. Thanks!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

WorshipGod06 Reflection: Gratefulness

24 hours and a good night's sleep can clarify many things. That which yesterday was simply a blur in my mind now has filled my heart with much to share in reflection on the technical aspects of the WorshipGod06 conference.

First, I am filled with gratefulness to God for his provision of people. Several times throughout the weekend, I reminded others and myself that the church is people, not technology. And God provided through Covenant Life Church this weekend. I want to thank publicly those who served me, the conference attendees, and ultimately the Lord Christ. These fine people, by the grace and strength of God, exemplified Collosians 3:22-24:
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."
First, I want to thank the Cowan family. They were my sine qua non for the conference, my "without which not." Jim, Vicki, Justin, Andrew, and Philip: thanks for working so hard for so long every day to make so many different things happen!

Next, I need to thank a slew of young people who came to serve in whatever way they were called upon: Chris, Caleb, Micah, John S, Mark, John C, Anna, and Kila. These fine friends of mine did video, lighting, audio, seminars, setup, takedown, and on and on. Thanks for making the most of your youth for the glory of the Lord!

Special thanks to Frank and Richard for coming alongside all the youth, also serving wherever needed and whenever possible. Frank used vacation time to serve!

Brittany, thanks for spending so much time entering stuff into SundayPlus! You definitely bailed me out big time at the last minute. Dawn, thanks for coming alongside her at those key moments of busy-busy-busy-ness.

Joe and Karen, thanks for working with all the sound teens and keeping them on track.

Peter B. and Tony, thanks for making the very young video crew look so good.

Bob and Kathe, your solid camera 1 work was essential to the whole event. Thanks for bringing the word closer to the eyes and ears of the hearers.

Finally, thanks to Peter, Kevin, and Matt, who directed cameras throughout the event. Matt, thanks for your faithfulness to serve and trust in God even though you had a potential job on those days. (If anyone is looking for a great freelance video guy, visit Matt's website!)

Maybe because of exhaustion, maybe because of senility, definitely because I'm human, I've already forgotten so much of what you all did. I am inadequate to thank you fully.

However, God will never forget, and he is not inadequate. I can't wait for his commendation of you in heaven!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

WorshipGod06 Crash Time

The crunch is over.

Now it's time to crash.

WorshipGod06 concluded this afternoon after nearly 72 hours straight of intense sound, lighting, and video production. Phew! It was a challenge for our teams, but what a wonderful one. From my limited vantage point, it sure seemed like God met the attendees, and that's what matters most. I know his name was exalted, his Word was preached, and his Spirit was active. Now, my prayer is that he helps people to apply what they learned at their home churches. I believe that he will.

I know I will be reflecting on the conference throughout the week, and as I do, I'll let you know what went well, what we learned, and what never to do!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Grace Unmeasured

This song from WorshipGod Live is really helping me to trust in the Lord this morning when I definitely feel my need for grace unmeasured. Listen to a sample here or buy it here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

WorshipGod06 Crunch Time

Well, I'm less than two hours away from the first day of WorshipGod06. I can't wait for the conference to begin, to see our volunteers step up and serve their hearts out, to see the people arrive whom God is going to affect, and -- most importantly -- to see God lifted high on the earth. I am so grateful to be involved in this conference.

If you think of it, please pray for me. I'm still in the process of sorting out the 193 emails of information about this conference, attempting to consolidate a lot of little pieces into coherent information for the volunteers to use.

Along with the "normal" technical director responsibilities, I'm introducing one seminar speaker and participating on a panel for another seminar.

I think I just today realized how many actual tasks I'm supposed to be doing in the next few days, and I'm now delegating as furiously as I know how to keep it manageable.

Thanks for your prayers. If you're attending the conference, stop by the sound booth to say hello. I'd love to meet you and hear what God is doing in your church.

Friday, August 04, 2006

IMAG Gone Amuck :|: Shhhh...

I'm working on a project this week which has an interesting concept. From what we've seen so far, it will be absolutely hilarious.

Picture this: Guy walks up on stage to lead the congregation in worship. His face is on IMAG. As he begins to play, we cut away to a wider shot of the congregation, and then cut back to him. However, the last cut is not actually to a camera, but to a tape of him that we've recorded. The tape of him breaks away from what he's actually doing on stage. This IMAG conscience/alter ego begins to comment on and criticize his ultra-horrible worship-leading.

We'll see if it works...and if it's actually funny.

Has anyone done anything like this before? Any suggestions on how to make it work well?

P.S. If you're coming to WorshipGod06, don't tell anyone about this. It's our little secret.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Forgotten But Not Forlorn

Compliments come in strange shapes.

This last Sunday morning was intended to be a unique day, since Covenant Life was sending out the official church planting team to Frederick, our first church plant in many years. We had planned for it to be an unusual morning with videos and slide shows and multiple speakers and testimonies and people standing on the floor in front of the stage. We've done all these things before, but rarely all at once and never when I've been on vacation.

So off I went to a little town in Michigan where I had no cell phone service and my only attempt to download my email tied up the phone line for over an hour.

Yesterday, on my first day back from eight days in nowhere, I asked our senior pastor how things went on Sunday. He first looked at me strangely, but then something clicked. "I completely forgot you were gone on Sunday. It went so smoothly I didn't even think about your absence."

Being forgotten at a time like that is a wonderful gift!

Thanks be to God and to all the amazing volunteers he's provided to this church!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I'm Back :|: For The Most Part

Well, the Wilcoxes are back from the Great Lake State, rested and ready to plow back into a busy August. And it's so busy that I've decided (again) to scrap the blogging schedule for a time, and leave my writing space to journaling what's happening on the Covenant Life tech teams and in my world as tech director.

Here are some pictures from our time away...

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Deny Yourself. Take Up Your Cross

Today's Topic: The Big Day

Even though I'm headed off on vacation, thought I'd throw in a quick post on this Sunday morning. God used Eric Simmons to bless us with an excellent message this morning on denying ourselves and taking up our crosses. It should be available here by Monday morning. His exhortation to us was to reject self-rule and identify ourselves with Christ's rule. For you trivia buffs, you'll also learn about memine, a newly discovered result of American culture.

Everything went well technically. We used our new Shure UHF-R wireless systems today. Nice!


More Posts on The Big Day
Tags :|: Sundays :|: Cross :|: Self :|: Memine :|:

Friday, July 21, 2006

On a Family Trip...

Last summer, some friends of ours went on vacation to the beach with their one-year-old son. The husband emailed after the vacation and said that he decided to rename their getaway. It was now a family trip. I'm guessing that travelling with a small child wasn't quite as much a vacation as the word "vacation" seemed to indicate.

So, we're off on a family trip. I am thrilled to spend the week with my bride, my little girl, and my extended family, even if it doesn't mean we get to sleep in until 11am.

Now, I want you to do this with me:

Raise your right hand (Come on, humor me here). Raise your right hand, point your left forefinger at the place where your middle finger connects with your hand, and say out loud, "that's where Dave's going."

Congratulations, you've just qualified to become a native Michiganian (or Michigander if you prefer).

Look briefly at your hand-map once more. Notice what's missing? You got it, there are no major cities anywhere even remotely near our destination. The little town where my parents live is quite isolated, with only dial-up internet and very, very sketchy cell phone reception. However, I understand I can go to the Big Boy (do those still exist?) in a neighboring "city" and get wireless internet. But for what price?

So, this may be the last post until August. I'll try to post occasionally during the trip, but I can't make any promises. Have a great couple weekends enjoying the Lord Jesus!