Great Resources for the New Year

nightofworship.jpgThere is a difference between imitation and inspiration. Imitation shortcuts the creative process and merely creates a carbon copy of someones hard work and idea. It rarely bring the same impact and hijacks your teams ability to be original and innovative.

Inspiration, however, is an important part of the creative process. And it can come from the most random of places. A key component of any team that is responsible for creating content whether teaching or creative elements is the exposure to random sources of inspiration. These inputs into your creative bucket should always be ongoing and flowing. It is the interaction with these concepts that then weave themselves into something that may show up in a worship experience on any given Sunday.

Many of our creative gatherings begin by someone saying, “I saw this                                 ” or “I heard this                          ” or I read                          “ and suddenly we are off and running. The objective is not to imitate, but to correlate an unrelated concept to something we are planning. It is these connections that turn into something powerful as your team throws them against the proverbial wall.  And remember…church sites should not be the sole source. Of course these are helpful as they exist in a similar context, but be sure and reach outside to stretch your imagination.

So where can inspiration come from? Here’s a couple quick spots…there are hundreds more:

  • Twitter: Avoid it at your own risk. Our team believes a consistent scrolling of these feeds will reveal nuggets of inspiration. Follow like crazy, check your feed regularly and build landing spot for great ideas.
  • Instagram: Take some time to follow artists and creatives around the world. Their post will give you a glimpse into their world. And who knows, it may actually impact yours.
  • Blogs and Websites:  Here’s a few…the list could be endless:
  • Current Movies and Television Series: Best way to remember how to tell story and even how NOT to do it is by exposing you and your team to others storytelling.
  • Jimmy Fallon: Enough Said.

Creativity = Unexpected Connection between Unrelated Concepts.

What sites is your team using for inspiration? Share.

How do you keep all this stuff organized and easy to find when you need that inspiration?  Great Question. Posting about that challenge next week.


Oh No, Sunday Is Coming…

It was a great series that only lasted one season. Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip (Written and produced by Aaron Sorkin) was an undervalued and under appreciated glimpse behind the scenes of a weekly comedy/variety show (ala SNL). The personal lives of each of the characters were on display and spirituality was a reoccurring theme, but the real drama involved the writers and producers as they scrambled each week to build a compelling 60 minutes of content.


The close of each episode coincided with the conclusion of the live taping of the weekly show and as the audience applauded, the camera would pan to a large digital clock located on the wall of the Executive Producer.  He would slowly walk over and push the reset button. The countdown would begin. In just 167 hours, another show would go live. And as the clock ticked down, the anxiety would tick up.

In the current culture of church leadership and Weekend Experiences, this scene plays out in church after church in the current culture of church leadership and weekend experiences. With the advent of more intense and complicated weekly worship experiences, it has raised the bar of creativity. Our team feels that burden each week.

Though there are many more, our Creative Team has narrowed the scope to five specific areas to combat the dreaded countdown clock and to sustain creativity for the long game…

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”

  • Preemptive Planning
    • We have learned the hard way that if we are not intentional and disciplined with our planning, the weekly demands of our worship experience will crush our creativity and implode our innovation. Curiously, planning allows for the brilliant last minute idea to actually emerge and gives space for it to be implemented. Our entire job as a Creative team is to support, prepare or land the message so people can understand and respond. This includes leaning into our communicators to have enough information in regards to direction in order to be in sync. Our largest bucket of “fails” have most often centered around a disconnect between message and creative. We have to work hard to avoid this. When we are scrambling just to pull off what we have planned (albeit poorly) there is little from for the late inspiration or what is known in our world as “the last 10%”.  Plan well and you will be shocked and amazed at the unplanned that emerges.
      Prior Planning allows for Later Innovation
  • Clear Actions and Owners
    • Too many teams have lots of conversations, but no real owners of execution and confusion as to what needs to happen and exactly in what order of priority. Because we believe language creates culture, one of the key questions in our creative language is “Who owns this?” Creative environments are very susceptible to inspired ideas that linger out in the abyss waiting for someone to grab ahold. Unfortunately, many an impacting moment have been lost merely because a team failed to identify a passionate champion. In our case, this is not just paid staff. We have integrated our team with other key individuals who bring a unique perspective, skill set, or creative “juice” to the process. Many times these individuals will own specific projects or key elements. For example, on our large opening Christmas element this year, Script, Casting, and Direction was provide by a key volunteer with expertise in this area who became the Lead. Our Video Director then was responsible to execute the shoot in cooperation with our Lead on this project.
      Every Idea Needs An Owner. 
  • Unhindered Collaboration and Conversation
    • Our Arts team believes that we are always meeting. Though we are not in the same room or following a specific agenda, the collaboration continues. Hallway conversations, group texts, doorway creativity are all part of our creative process. An idea is like Playdoh. It is something to be rolled, kneaded, twisted and flattened until the best result is obtained. Unhindered communication is the key no matter what position you may hold in our department. Be very aware of barriers to your collaboration and limitations on your conversations. Eliminate them as soon as they arise. Your team must feel completely to create and comment at will in order to consistently produce content that meets the ultimate objective. This means that we can’t wait for things to be perfect before they are shared. This is where the battle with ego largely wages war. It is important to note that the organizational leader must set the tone. If there is a sense that critique equals disloyalty, then there is no real collaboration happening. Ideas must be held loosely so that as the best one emerges, it can rise to the top from wherever it surfaces. Ultimately when there is a call that has to be made either based on time or lack of clarity, the Creative Lead must make the decision. But our hope and actually reality is that this would be a rare occurrence.
      Unhindered Collaboration breeds Originality
  • Multiple Mental Touches
    • Though every idea has an owner, every idea also has a village. The owner of an idea on the team should never operate in isolation. Feedback, proofing, wrestling, and pondering should all be part of the creative process. The more minds that are involved, the more powerful moments will be created. In a healthy creative process, feedback is not just randomly received, it is asked for and sought out. So are those invites happening in the “laboratory” of your creative team? Are you producing content merely in isolation or in a vacuum? If so, it’s time to put your work out there. Tough? Yes, but necessary. The “third way” is almost always discovered by accident. And those accidents happen as ideas are thrown around viciously and intentionally. Ed Catmull (Pixar and Disney) says, “If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources”. This principle demands that you put the right people around the table and around an idea. Simple gathering more minds does not bring breakthrough. This will only breed random, often unhelpful input. Be strategic about the strengths and personalities you gather around the table.
      More Minds around ideas produces More Breakthrough Moments.
  • 2-4-6 Planning Rhythm
    • This is better discussed in an entire blog post for sure. But suffice it to say, this is our green, yellow, read production strategy. We attack each weekend based on this priority. For example, a worship experience 2-wks out is green and the elements should be in full execution mode and locked in. However, a 6-wk out idea is on the radar, but red and probably still in a holding pattern. Because we are daily having conversations and weekly formally meeting to pour through these ideas, we know that the red weeks will become the yellow weeks (3-4 weeks out) and eventually the green weeks (1-2 weeks out). In the process, ideas will be honed, changed, or eliminated all together. This strategy allows for 6 different conversations of a single weekend experience, separated by time, to help to insure it will be fully thought through. Working week to week creatively is much like living paycheck to paycheck financially. It leaves no room for the crisis that is always just around the corner. Your team’s ability to respond to that crisis is largely dependent on the rhythm of planning that has previously been in place.
      Disciplined Process is the mechanism that allows for the Inevitable Crisis

The ability of a team to integrate these principles into their processes and repeat them consistently over a long period of time that will produce the necessary results. Creativity is unexpected connection between unrelated concepts. Finding that connection is a process that needs intentionality, time, and continuity to reach its full potential. But remember the process itself is not the goal. Working on these processes is essential, but only because it produces an actual experience where the impact and life-change happen.

Love Is Here Christmas 2015

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 4.28.39 PM.pngChristmas. It always has that special challenge to present a unique, creative, moving experience that will give a fresh perspective on a well known narrative. One of the keys for us as we begin the process each year is to have a conversation around the tone and emotional objective we are looking for in the Christmas service experience. This will become the catalyst forward as we begin working with elements, choosing music, and enhancing the environments.

This year we landed on the theme, “Love Is Here”.  The theme was actually inspired by a Laura Story song we ended up NOT using (but it is an awesome song we may use someday). Love is such a cliche term, but we wanted to communicate the warmth and security of God’s love especially in the midst of some real tumultuous times people were experiencing. We expected that people would be looking for a sense of confidence and comfort this holiday season so we let that be our tone.

The reason we didn’t use the Laura Story song was because our Music Asst. Matt Biel had written a Christmas song that we loved in its raw form and encouraged him to strengthen and refine. Fittingly, the song was titled, Love is Here. Matt and the band recorded an acoustic version and followed that up with a music video. This was used in our Christmas promotion and marketing as a free download and a “share” opportunity on social media channels.  This was released the first week of December and created some great traction for us.

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Our desire was to start the service up, lite and big. So we kicked it off with a great video from Igniter. The power of this video is the whisper element as it really grabbed everyone’s attention even as they were still loading into the room and finding seats.

We tied this element together seamlessly with our own original element using a Brady Bunch opener motif. The idea was to contrast the appeal to slow down and breathe with the realities of what many are feeling.  We projected this on a 9-surface screen that was build specifically for this element, but used throughout the service. For effect, we lowered the screen using our lift motors and truss and started the service with the screen near the surface of the stage. At the conclusion of the video, we raised the screen as the band kicked into an upbeat version of the original song, Love Is Here (rough mix).

Two Christmas worship tunes:
*Joy To The World (Ashes Remain)
*He Shall Reign Forevermore (Chris Tomlin)

Our big element was an interwoven piece combining monologue, live painting, and music to set up the message. April Holiday, one of our key creative players, delivered a moving introductory monologue setting the context for the arrival of Christ. It can be found here.


Cloverton’s Christmas Hallelujah accompanied by the cello and highlighted with the live painting contained a powerful moment that set up the message so well. Our intent was to execute this moment with subtlety and allow it to speak to the heart without going over the top.

Following the message, O Holy Night (Kerrie Roberts) was sung as the painting was completed. One of our signature moments each Christmas is to feature our local and global missions partners. We chose to do this as candles were being lit throughout the room via video. Each of our partners sent a video of candles being lit as they said, “love is here, Merry Christmas” in their native language. It was powerful as the light from the screens were overwhelmed by the light in the room as 1000’s of candles were lit.



We concluded with our traditional singing of Silent Night.

Element Links:

Full Video of Christmas Service 2015

Christmas 2015 PCO Run Sheet

Let It Be Week 3 Christmas Series

This week concluded our Christmas series. Each week we highlighted the message and our theme by introducing a communion mediation moment. Communion is a part of every weekend service, but it is most often a private, “self-serve” moment. We wanted to change this up and add a personal element to it while leading everyone through communion together. This week we focused on being open to what and where God may move in your life.

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David Cowan Communion Meditation:

It was Christmas time, 1980. My mom and dad had just separated, so mom and I were temporarily living with my grandparents. My mom was now a single mom trying to make ends meet, so I spent my days with my grandmother. Now that wouldn’t normally seem unusual except that my grandmother was on staff at a large church in the Bible Belt. Imagine, if you will, an evangelistic old lady with a beehive hairdo. That was my grandmother. She would take me with her to visit people door to door. I would watch as – one by one – people that seemingly didn’t have the time to talk would 20 minutes later be in tears and giving their lives to God and asking Jesus into their hearts. You can imagine the impact that had on a 8 year old boy.

One night my mom had to work late, and my grandmother put me to bed. She walked by my door many times that evening and noticed that my eyes were wide open. She finally came in to ask me if I wanted to read something. We went into the living room by the Christmas tree in the corner. She pulled out her Bible and had me read the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew. I read the following verse: She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1.1:21 and at that point, I looked up at my grandmother and asked “Can’t you tell me how to get to heaven?” You see, she had been telling everyone in Ft. Smith, Arkansas about Jesus except me. Now, of course, she did this because she wanted my decision to follow Jesus to be my own and not one forced by a well-meaning grandmother.

I knew, even at a young age, that there was a huge gap between me and God, and I was powerless on my own to bridge that gap. Knowing that Jesus bridged that gap for me radically changed my life.

That day I began the journey I’m still on, and communion – for me – has always been tied to Christmas. Because I learned at a young age why we celebrate Christmas. God became flesh and dwelt among us to take our place to take on a death that was meant for us and exchange it for life. His body was broken, and His blood was shed… for me. For you. On a cross. And three days later, He conquered that death and our sin by raising from the dead. And so this Christmas, I encourage each of us as we take communion to not only receive the elements, but receive Him as Savior and Lord.

Set List:


The First Noel

Hark The Herald Angels

Special: All Is Well

In Christ Alone


Run Sheet:  December 20, 2015

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Christmas 2015 Stage Set

This was one of our favorite Christmas sets to date.

Constructed over three days and involving numerous volunteers, the trees were made of 20 foot lengths of twine. Our strategy was to tie off each tree initially (100 strings per 6 ft. base/ 80 strings per 3 ft base) onto the large hook which we would later rig from our stage grid. This was a tedious process, but resulted in 6 ready to hang trees.

For our bases, we used pre-bent 1/2 rebar from a local steer company. Four 6 ft trees and two 3 ft trees would comprise our set.

After the rings were placed, a laser was used to hang each ring from the rigging. The next step was volunteer intensive and required patience. One individual on our man lift was responsible for isolating each string and 2-3 individuals on the ground would then tie the strings to the rebar. It was important to tie the strings on a rotating basis around the rebar to keep it in balance. We also weighted the rebar rings down with sand bags which allowed us to create some tension with the massive ring at the top of our trees. This was important to keep the taut look. Each string was tied approximately 2 inches apart with the excess being cut off as a final step.

This tying process took approximately 2 hours per tree.

Each tree was then lit with one colorblast LED on the inside and four colorblasts surrounding the outside to create the desired effect.

The back start lit drape was rented from a local stage shop here in Las Vegas.

Center Screen:
Constructed of 9 2×3 plywood panels wrapped in white muslin and then hog trough-ed together before being flow on our center truss. This truss was attached to our motors as we wanted the ability to raise and lower the screen.

Simple design. String trees are VERY cheap to construct, but time consuming.




Inspired by String Trees at Church Stage Design

Let It Be Week 2 Christmas Series

This week we continued our Christmas series. Each week we also highlighted the message and our theme by introducing a communion mediation moment. Traditionally our elementary kids join us on this weekend and present two full band Christmas songs. They are accompanied by emerging musicians from the local Shepherd School of Music and it is always a highlight.

This week our focus was on being compassionate as we reflect the light of Christ. We were privileged to have a very real, heartfelt communion moment that dealt with pain of loss that we especially feel during this holiday season. Laura’s story reflected that loss so vividly and she shared so openly. There is always power in the narrative of a life.

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Laura Hiatt Communion Meditation:

December has become a difficult month for me. In 2011, on Christmas Eve, my mother passed away. Then a year and 9 months ago, my husband Chuck – who poured his life into making this building a reality died. His birthday is in December and so was our wedding anniversary.

At 4 in the morning, my phone rang with the news that he had collapsed while praying at the wailing wall in Jerusalem. In an instant my world changed. Things, simple things, became hard to accomplish. Other things that had brought me joy – tasted like ashes in my mouth. I cried out to God for help and He was there – always there.

I was part of a loving small group, church family and many friends who prayed for me. One friend said something particularly impactful. “I can’t even begin to understand your pain, but I am here”. We text a simple greeting each morning and it continues to this day.

For a long time, all I could do was soak in the love and prayers of others – But that is not where God wanted me to stay. He desires each of His children to Do for One What You Wish You Could Do For All.

And by His grace – I have been drawn back to life. I began giving tours of the campus and enjoyed talking about the building that Chuck was so involved with. Then I went back to teaching His Word in Kids Crossing and the 3s and 4s in Early Childhood once a month. God has led me to reach out to others who are devastated by loss through GriefShare and Surviving the Holidays. And not to neglect my need for study and continued growth, I have been attending Life’s Healing Choices and will join Celebrate Recovery in January.

As God continues to lead, heal and bring back my joy – I can’t help but reach out to others with a simple, yet powerful message – I may not understand the pain that you are experiencing right now – but I am here.

So let’s take the bread, that represents Christ body and the juice that represents his blood shed for us and consider where God desires us to share His compassion and message of Hope this Season.

Set List:


This Is Amazing Grace

Trust It All


Run Sheet:  December 13, 2015

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