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

"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!