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