Tuesday, January 30, 2007

February Monthly Update

Each month, I put out an "update" for all my team members. I have found this to be a very helpful means of communication. If you lead a team of over 20 people, I'd recommend trying something like this.

If you'd like to see our most recent update, you can download it here.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pray for Your Pastor Today

From John Piper's When I Don't Desire God...
"[True preaching requires] heartfelt rigor in the unfolding of Scripture, which is heralded (not just discussed or analyzed) with a worshipful sense of exultation over the beauty of God's truth."
Technology and media folks serve to support the preaching of God's word. Today, I challenge you to support your pastor in a non-technical way. Pray for him, that in these final moments of preparation for this weekend's sermon...
  • He would see the beauty of God's truth.
  • He would love the beauty of God's truth.
  • He would exult in the beauty of God's truth.
  • His encounter with God would overflow in worship through hard work preparing his sermon.
  • His encounter with God would overflow in worship through preaching from the heart as well as the mind.
  • God would be exalted, not only by him but by all who listen.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Gifts and Sacrifice"

Mark Batterson, lead pastor of National Community Church, has written an excellent post on the sacrifices of ministry. I appreciate his note about those working on production in his church. Read his thoughts here. The last paragraph is so true, so read to the end!

Note: I don't necessarily think his use of Hebrews 8:3 is particularly good exegesis, but his overall thoughts are very Biblical.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Managing Decay

I joke with my wife that one of the main activities of life is managing decay. When Adam sinned, God responded with a promise of death and decay until the final redemption. While we see it most vividly in the aging of our bodies ending in death, I also notice the curse in my kitchen sink, my daughter's play area, and our tech team's storage areas. Didn't we just clean this up?

Every three months or so, our tech teams do a Work Day. It is a day devoted to decay, or the management of it. We clean, organize, fix, label, clean some more, tie wrap, cable wrap, clean some more, and then clean up from our cleaning. Here are some pictures...

Getting ready to test cables...

Pile 1 of 3 for Richard to sort...

We built a music stand cart last work day. Unfortunately, some ideas don't work out. Hey, Philip, can you take this apart?

Len, the soccer coach, and Bob, the gymnast...

Elise behind her newly organized shelves...

Justin, where's your prop?

Cable racks were the big project for the day.

And a little of the fruit from our labor...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Family Room Meeting - No Teens Allowed?!

The married couples and single parents of our church meet each third Friday of the month to discuss - did you guess? - marriage and parenting. We call the event, The Family Room.

The topic for tonight's Family Room underwent a serious change in just the last couple weeks. I'm not sure what it was originally, but about 10 days ago the topic became marital intimacy. The pastors wanted to grab the chance to discuss this critical issue alongside the other teaching we are receiving on Sundays about sexual purity.

One small challenge: to allow as many married couples as possible to simply attend, our tech crew for Family Room is 75% high schoolers, who probably would be dis-served by hearing practical details about marital intimacy.

So, with the topic change came a significant crew change. By God's grace and the faithful help of my administrator, all positions were filled tonight by married couples. I want to give a quick "Thanks so much!" to those who covered for our tech teens. You sacrificed the opportunity to sit with your spouses in order to serve the church at large, and every family represented there was blessed by what you did.

Enjoy the pleasure of God in your work, and may He bless your marriages as well!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Same Word, Different Language

One of the wonders of the DC area is the array of cultures and languages that live together here. While I can easily become dull to the uniqueness of this experience, my midwestern parents remind me of the value whenever they visit. Each time, they remark about the diversity they see here and how much they appreciate it.

Six years ago, Covenant Life Church built a new building in response to the growth God gave us in our congregation and in anticipation of more people who would need empty seats to hear God's word preached. While I've often admitted where we lacked foresight, there was one area where we predicted accurately. We installed an assistive listening system that would also work for foreign language translation. And at long last, we took the first steps to offer our services in Spanish yesterday.

In actuality, we could have offered interpretation for some time now. However, we hesitated because we haven't had the pastors on staff with the necessary language skills to effectively counsel native Spanish speakers. We wanted to make sure that anyone who becomes a member can be effectively shepherded.

But the Lord has now provided the men required to fully invite Spanish speakers into our congregation. If all goes well, interpretation will be up and running in late spring or early summer. I can't wait to see who the Lord brings into our family as we speak the same Word in a different language!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Headphone Monitoring Solutions

Covenant Life Church is pretty spoiled. Our musicians have it better than they know. On a normal Sunday, each musician gets his own individual stereo headphone mix. No sharing. No arguments. No negotiation.

However, for the last six months, we've been battling some "issues" with our monitoring system. Patch bay connections are going flaky. Personal monitor amps wig out. One side of the headphones doesn't work. Safety compressors are overheating and causing distortion.

What I've realized is that our system is pretty complex. Here's the signal chain:
Mixer >> Patch Bay >> Safety Limiter >> Back Room Split >> Wall Panel >> Heaphone Snake >> Headphone Line >> Personal Monitor Amp (with wall wart power supply) >> Headphone Extension >> Headphones >> Musicians Ears
Now, while that isn't that complex as monitor systems go, it does have a ton of connections and other error-prone components.

As a result of the ongoing problems and the seeming overcomplexity, I've been exploring other options. To be honest, I'm not real thrilled with what I see.

Here are the three options I've seen so far:

Option 1: Live for the Present. Keep what we have, but do a real thorough double check of all the wiring and replace all the old personal monitor amps with newer and more reliable versions. Plus: our volunteers know how to run and set this up. Minus: replacing the headphone amps will cost about $4200.

Option 2: Go old school. Replace the personal monitor amps with two multi-channel headphone amplifiers and rewire the whole getup with lower-guage cable. Plus: the money required is less than $1200. Minus: Rewiring the whole getup.

Option 3: Launch into the future. Replace everything with Aviom. Plus: we will actually be entering this millenium. Minus: We'd eliminate about 14 volunteer slots and need to retrain another 14.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Experience from which we could benefit?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Accountability and Culture

Pat Ennis, the executive director of Sovereign Grace Ministries coined, or at least passed on, a phrase about timeliness:

On time is late.

I have personally benefitted from applying that idea. If I arrive just on time, I might as well be late. For me to really be on time, I should arrive early enough to pray a moment, get acclimated to my new surroundings, pull out my stuff, go to the bathroom, plug in my computer, and do whatever else I must to be fully there and fully operational when the official start time arrives.

At Covenant Life, though, this idea is counter-cultural. We operate in "15-minutes late is on time" mode. Undoubtably, part of the difference between our reality and my preferred maxim is the hyperdrive in which our people live. They pack their schedules. They pack them tight, like a bulging suitcase. And then they naturally arrive late.

Unfortunately, our tech teams have not been immune to the cultural modus operandi. Our members show up late frequently. I'm running out of ideas to encourage them to arrive on time. And I'm really disgusted by the thought of manipulating them by asking them to arrive earlier than they really need to arrive just to get them there late-but-on-time.

So, my question goes out to other church leaders, especially volunteer team leaders. How do you hold your people accountable to timeliness?

What reason do you give for them to be on time? How do you encourage them to be on time? What methods do you use to follow up with them? Is there a point where a lack of timeliness becomes a reason to ask them to not volunteer?

Thanks for your help!

Photo Credit: eshm

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Crawl, Walk, Run

Our church administrator often says, in relation to new initiatives, that we need to crawl, then walk, then run.

In the new initiative of life, my daughter just made the second milestone!

10:31 Awards

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
Consider how unique this command is. You have a young man, in this case a young pastor named Timothy, who is being called upon to live such a life that those much older than he would want to emulate it. This has always been rare, and even more so in today's culture of selfish lifestyles and extended adolescence.

But tonight, Covenant Life celebrated God's work in the lives of one young woman and one young man, who indeed set examples of godliness that challenge all of us. At this year's 10:31 Banquet, we honored Emily and Bryce for way God has used the example of their lives to change their peers, their families, and their church.

At the same time, we got to rejoice in how God is amazingly laying the foundation for the future of his kingdom by transforming kids into adults who will carry his gospel into the next generation.

Congratulations to Emily and Bryce for their exemplary lives, and thanks for being a part of our family here at Covenant Life.

You have our gratitude and respect, and we praise God because of His work in you!

If you want to learn more about 10:31, the Covenant Life youth ministry, check out the 10:31 blog.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Current Work Week

A reader recently asked me this question...
In one of your last posts you talked about taking one of your official 15 minute breaks and use to blog. I am interested in learning how your work day (and week) is structured. Do you have ‘work breaks’? What is yoru schedule? Do you have staff that reports to you? What is there work day/week like?
I responded personally, but also thought I'd post it here, too, for what its worth...

Monday = At Home (all day)
I spend the day playing with my daughter and taking my wife out on a date.

Tuesday = Planning Time (8:30a-5:00p)
I spend the day off-site, usually somewhere with free wireless internet, and I plan:
  • The next two weeks of “routine” admin tasks for myself and my staff.
  • The next steps on each of my 30 or so big projects.
  • When I will work in the next two weeks.
  • What I will do during each moment I’m working.
  • Agendas for all meetings in the next seven days.

Wednesday = At Church (8:30a-5:00p)
Wednesday mornings I catch up on email, and meet with each of my staff members to answer their questions and make sure they are helping me kick projects along.
Wednesday afternoons, I plan for Sunday and do my project-related tasks.

Thursday = At Church (8:30a-5:00p)
Thursday mornings are all-staff meetings and meetings with larger groups.
Thursday afternoons, I spend time thinking through team leadership issues and meeting with the Sunday planning team

Friday Morning = At Home (until 12:30p)
Friday morning’s I’m off to baby-sit my daughter while my wife gets some time out of the house.

Friday Afternoon = At Church (1:00-5:00p)
I spend Friday afternoons planning for special events in the next couple weeks.

Saturday = At Church (8:30a-9:00p)
Saturday mornings are usually set aside to meet with volunteer team leaders.
Saturday afternoons, I work on special events.
Saturday evenings are dedicated to preparing for Sunday morning.

Sunday = At Church (7:00a-2:00p)
Two Sunday services

This is my schedule when I have no events I need to attend outside these hours. That only happens about once a month. For most weeks, this shifts around a bit, so that I can attend other services, usually on Wednesday nights, Friday nights, or Sunday nights. I make sure to take extra time off to make those changes.

As far as the 15-minute break goes... within every four hours any employee works, law requires that he gets a 15-minute, paid break. Sometimes I take it. Sometimes I don’t. I’m trying to make sure to take it and to blog during that time. As time has gone on, I’ve come to believe that blogging really doesn’t fit as part of my official job description at the church.

As far as my staff goes, I have two people that report to me:

Resource Department Administrator | This is a full-time employee who handles all the day-to-day operations of our bookstore and sermon media department. He works M-F, 8:30-5:00p.

Production Department Administrator | This is a part-time employee who handles all the volunteer scheduling for the sound, lighting, video, and set design teams. She works M-F, 8:00-noon.

I hope this helps!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Conversation to Watch...

I just saw the most recent post from Ligon Duncon on Together for the Gospel.

It sounds like the ensuing conversation may be worthy of consideration by arts and tech folks.

Read more here as it unfolds.

Christmas Eve Service Recap | Part 2

I began a recap of our Christmas Eve Service a couple days ago. You can read the beginning here.

And I'll continue here with the "Welcome"...

Joshua Harris was a very gracious host, as usual. He has such a wonderful way of inviting guests into our church experience, of making us a comfortable group of people with which to encounter the oft-uncomfortable message of the gospel.

One note of interest: we normally ask guests to stand on Sundays, but we tend to not do that during meetings where the guest population is much higher. However, we did ask people to stand this time, so that we could give each family a gift, and we ran out of gifts! I think we prepared 200 gifts, but I could be wrong. That's a lot of guests. Praise the Lord.

Next was our "Heaven to Earth Drama," which was essentially three parts:
  • First was a drama sketch of a father and daughter, watching the sky for shooting stars. They discussed how the Lord's arrival as a baby Savior was so humble of God and such a light to men.
  • We went directly from that into a single voice singing Here I am to Worship. "Light of the world who stepped down into darkness..."
  • After verse 2, the congregation joined in to sing along in congregational worship.
The combination of these three elements was very effective. Our attention was focused on the extreme humility of the incarnation. Then we heard the quiet amazement of a single person at God's de-ascension. Finally, we were able to participate in expressing wonder and worship directly to the Lord Himself.

Technically, this went very well, although I wasn't extremely happy with the lighting. I fear that throughout our Christmas Eve service, lighting was sub-par. That was my own fault. I didn't really give our lighting folks the necessary information soon enough to make the appropriate artistic decisions. They really became button pushers. That's too bad because the blue nighttime was probably too dark and the solo music lighting was just a little bland. I should know better.

More later...

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Significance of a Single Email

Blogging is supposed to be about all of life, the good and the bad. With that in mind, I want to share one of the more harrowing Sunday tech director experiences I've had in quite a while.

Picture this:

10 minutes before the service starts
6 volunteers have arrived
9 volunteers haven't
9 phone calls placed to find out where they are
3 on their way
6 messages left
5 fill-ins coming at the last minute
2 minutes until the service starts

At this point I'll be mixing sound, running lights, and switching cameras, all at the same time, except for the fact that it's impossible.

The service starts, I turn on the lights, and the sound for the band (which I haven't soundchecked since I was making all the phone calls). Thankfully, no cameras are needed for a few minutes.

Halfway through the first song the three who were "on their way" and the five "fill-ins" arrive, taking over most of the empty positions.

Crisis resolved.

But, what happened?

To give a little background, we have four Sunday tech teams that serve once per month. They serve on the same Sunday each month: first, second, third, or fourth. They also rotate to cover fifth Sundays so that they do one fifth Sunday per year.

Last Sunday was a fifth Sunday.

And a holiday week.

And I just got a new secretary a month ago.

Somehow, in the transition of responsibilities from me to my secretary, I think we forgot to send our "reminder" email to make sure people knew they were supposed to serve. While that isn't the only way we let the team know they are supposed to serve on that fifth Sunday, it's typically the last communication before the actual serving time. Many people count on it. And they didn't get it. And their lives have been crazy with the holidays. So, in their minds it wasn't their week, and they didn't show up.

Phew! What a great reminder of the way we are creatures of habit, and that communication needs to be both creative and consistent!