Friday, November 30, 2007

What's Next?

"What's next?"

That's a big question for me these days. Especially on Sunday mornings.

What in the world is going to happen next?

On Covenant Life's website is a list of our defining values. One of those eight values is this:
"A pursuit of the active presence of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit"
What that means practically is that our services are not nailed shut before we start. Don't get me wrong. We plan. We have a list of songs, planned communication from pastors, outlined prayer times, and other scripted moments. However, we also want to make room for "the active presence of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit."

What does that look like? It can be many things, but certain spontaneous elements are the typical additions:
  • The worship leader speaks to the congregation
  • A pastor comes up on stage to speak to the congregation
  • A member shares something with the congregation
We used to have the understanding that certain technical details might not happen perfectly because of the last-minute nature of these changes. The mic might be late, the lights might not be there, the video might not show up on the screen immediately. Lately, though, with urging from our Sunday executive pastor, we've been trying to respond so quickly that it doesn't seem like it was unplanned.

Our senior pastor is generally the one making the call as to what happens next. And he is frequently weighing several options at one time.

Right now, here's the line of communication...
  1. Our Senior Pastor decides to add a spontaneous element. (At this point, we've got 30 seconds to let everyone know - at the most)
  2. He mentions it to someone with a radio.
  3. That person radios me to let me know.
  4. I use the intercom to inform the lighting and video people.
  5. I get the attention of the mixer to inform him or her.
  6. If all goes well, lights are on, the mic is on, cameras are shaded, and a shot goes up on the screen before the first word is spoken.
Our current batting average: approximately 700.

That's better than MLB players, but not good enough for live production.

So, we've devised a scheme to attempt to raise that number.

But before I tell you about our plan, how would you raise that number closer to perfect?

Leave a comment and let me know what you would suggest.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Not To IMAG... Is That The Answer?

We've received some responses for and some responses against IMAG, so the question remains...

Should we use IMAG during our upcoming Christmas Eve production?

Here are a few reasons why I think IMAG could be problematic and unhelpful:
  1. When done poorly, IMAG can be a real distraction. Every missed shot will make it harder for people to understand what is happening.
  2. The show itself has a lot of back-and-forth, with characters and singers all over the stage interlacing short lines into one big idea.
  3. The theatrical purist would never use IMAG. The director is a theatrical purist and is inclined not to use IMAG.
  4. IMAG doesn't show up well on tape. If we don't do IMAG, we could actually shoot the show more for future viewing than for the immediate needs of the congregation.
If you would be an opponent of IMAG in this context, why?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To IMAG... Is That The Answer?

Should we use IMAG during our upcoming Christmas Eve production?

Here are few reasons why I think it could be successful and helpful:
  1. IMAG does a fantastic job of visually amplifying meaning by transmitting facial expression and body language to the entire audience, even those at the very back of the room.
  2. IMAG will help people follow the dialogue and action by directing their eyes to the person speaking. This could be especially good for guests who may not already be familiar with our acting team's voices.
  3. We have three video screens in the auditorium, and those screens tend to serve better as content communicators than as set pieces.
  4. We have lined up our top guns for our camera and directing team. With a few rehearsals they could make this look fantastic.
  5. I think - though I'm not sure - that both my boss and the senior pastor would prefer to use it.
Anything I've missed? Why would you vote FOR using IMAG at our Christmas production?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To IMAG Or Not To IMAG, That Seems To Be The Question

Final planning is underway for our two Christmas Eve services this year. We are putting on more of a production this year by doing two evenings of a home-grown show called Messiah, based on music from Handel's Messiah and the story of the arrival of our Messiah.

The production will have many elements, including but not limited to:
  • Small dramatic vignettes
  • Orchestral music pieces
  • Singing Solos
  • A twelve-person vocal ensemble
  • Several multimedia aspects
So a big question has come up: should we use IMAG during the production?

For our normal meetings, we've been using IMAG for about two years now, and our congregation has grown comfortable with it (and may I even say dependent on it?). We don't normally use it while we sing, but we have used it on a few performance music numbers, and it has become commonplace during drama elements.

Messiah is intended to be very theatrical, feeling large both musically and in use of the playing space. From that perspective, I would love to skip IMAG, since it will likely shrink people's focus to the screen.

However, over time I have become more and more a proponent of the communication values of IMAG. You can transfer emotion through facial expression and body language to the very back of the room without any effort. Wouldn't that be valuable for this context?

I'm perplexed.

What do you think?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Made it to Monday

Well, we made it to another Monday.

We had another wonderful Sunday, which went much smoother than last week. But everything seems smooth in comparison to last Sunday's pulpit confusion. I'll write about that some other time.

This week, I had very few notes for follow-up. Just these:
  • Need the choir immediately after baptisms. | Oops, we missed the choir mics during the choir solo moment. Big Oops!
  • Change "O! How" to "Oh how" in Nothing But the Blood. | This is a personal pet peave. Exclamation points after a word like "O" always seems a bit overdramatic to me.
  • Find the missing verse to Amazing Grace. | We have consistent problems with this most common of songs. Worship leaders skip verses, some of our operators delete them, and we have several different artists who have added choruses. We need to make sure all of our versions have all of the verses before we lock them down.
  • One of our pastors wore a shirt that was too close to white. | It's probably time for a quick review of wardrobe etiquette for IMAG.
Thank God for Sunday. And for Monday!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Day of Rest

Yesterday, something strange happened. I had what I would really call a day of rest.

Here are the characteristics of my day, which added together definitely qualify as a day of rest:
  1. I had absolutely no plans for the entire day.
  2. I slept in until 8:30am.
  3. I didn't shower until the afternoon.
  4. I spent the morning playing with my daughter, eating pancakes with my wife, and watching Meet the Robinsons with the whole family.
  5. We actually had time to wrap everybody up warm and take a 20 minute walk out in the cold.
  6. We had some friends over spontaneously for Thanksgiving leftovers and conversation.
  7. I got a sum total of 2 emails, to which I sent zero responses.
  8. Most importantly: I felt very rested at the end of the day.
Now, don't get me wrong. I do get a day off each week: Monday. But Monday mornings are speech therapy times for our daughter. And we've also designated Monday as family day, which means we have the joy of packing up both kids for some memory-making in the afternoon. Mondays are a day off, no doubt, but I often feel more refreshed than rested.

Yesterday makes me think that it may be time to reconsider our Mondays slightly. I am convinced that my personal service to the church is dependent on God, and that he uses a few primary means to strengthen me for service:
  • Daily times in his Word and prayer
  • My wife's labor in the home to free me for service
  • The Sabbath day of rest and refreshment
I'd love to recreate the combination of physical rest and unhurried time together that I experienced yesterday. That can only make me a more effective husband, father, and church staff member.

And maybe in the process I can accomplish an even more amazing feat: get my wife a day of rest, too.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving & Prayer

One of the greatest joys of the last month for me has been spending time in our production team staff meetings praying for our volunteers. I am convinced that there is no more sincere way to express true gratefulness for them than to thank God, who provided them to our church. Here's the verse from 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 we used to pray for some of our volunteers last Friday...
"To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
On this thanksgiving, make sure to thank God for those who serve you in your home and your church. And then pray for them, that God would make every good work resound to His honor and to their joy.