Weekend Rundown: You Asked For It Wk. 5 (Jan. 31)

This weekend our team was tasked with tackling a very difficult subject:  “What is the deal with Homosexuality and Gay Marriage?” This obviously is a very hot topic both within the church and in the culture. Because of this we spent quite a few weeks having conversations around our approach both from a communication and creative standpoint.

We needed the message to be clear. The challenge and tension with any creative element was the potential for it to distract or confuse the core of the message that day. If our programming value is to enhance, we committed to guard against it. For this reason we made the decision to lean into two of our churches Core Values:

  1. Come As Your Are
  2. Transformation is the Expectation of Every Believer

Our team made the decision to afford our lead pastor more time to communicate than normal to thoroughly unpack the message. And instead of adding tension, we choose to conclude with a song to emphasize the point we believed, “Come As You Are” as originally sung by David Crowder.  The lyrics and tone of the song reflected the message we desired to resonate at the conclusion of our service.

Lyrics:

Come out of sadness From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens Lay down your shame
All who are broken Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t cure

So lay down your burdens Lay down your shame
All who are broken Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt Lay down your heart
Come as you are Come as you are
Fall in his arms Come as you are
There’s joy for the morning Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens Lay down your shame
All who are broken Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt Lay down your heart
Come as you are Come as you are Come as you are Continue reading “Weekend Rundown: You Asked For It Wk. 5 (Jan. 31)”

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Inspire: Why We Do What We Do

Ever wonder why there are so many Disneyland fans?   Granted… not everyone is a Disney fan. But for those that are… What exactly keeps them coming back?  Is it the spinning tea cups?  The long lines to get a pic with Mickey or Minnie?  Is it the mouse ears or churros?  It’s none of the above, actually…  Though who doesn’t enjoy a good churro every now and then? 🙂  In the end, it’s the inspiration people feel when they are at the parks that keeps them coming back.  People are inspired when they see the fireworks at the end of the night.  They are inspired when they realize that are literally walking through Walt Disney’s vision when they are in the park.  People are inspired to dream big dreams and see them become a reality when they “wish upon a star.”

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Thankfully, inspiration is not only found in Disneyland but can be found everywhere: in a song, a movie, a book, or a story.  Inspiration lifts us up; inspiration shifts our thoughts from the common to the uncommon.  Inspiration stirs the soul.

In fact, the word inspire means “to breathe” – it literally means to take a breath in.  Breathing is what distinguishes us from the dead. Only the living breathe…  Sounds like inspiration should be a vital part of worship services, huh?  We sing songs, we watch videos, hear from the Bible, and hear stories of life change.  All of these things should inspire.  As a church, the goal is to “breathe” life into people.  That’s the goal. Literally.

Week after week our Creative Team dreams up and executes creative elements in our services that inspire people in various ways.  We fight against the usual or mundane and fight for the unique and extraordinary.  We seek to find the creative elements that go beyond the common to discover the uncommon.  As you can imagine, this process is often a challenge.  Like many things in life, familiarity drives away awe. When we are around something enough, the gleam and shine wears off.  As much as we hate to say it, the same is true about spiritual truth for those of us that have been in church for years.  Some of us have been through 30+ Christmas stories or 30+ Easters.

Yet in many churches (but thankfully, not all), “awe” is often lacking.  Christians in many churches have lost their “awe,” and few non-believers attending services are calling their experience “awesome.” Creative elements are viewed in suspect or seen as unnecessary leaving the inspiration to a great sermon.  Perhaps that’s why one could call preaching “thirty minutes to raise the dead.”  No one element of a service should carry the creative load, but rather each part should work together.

This is not, by the way, a critique of a particular worship style.  There is not a worship style that is more creative than another.  People are inspired by many traditional worship services, liturgical, and contemporary services alike.  At the same time, people have felt the malaise of all three as well. What was the difference?  Inspiration.

To be clear, the point is not to put on a show, but rather to inspire. These are two different things.  Cool lights do not inspire. A great guitar lick is cool, but does not inspire.  But lighting that fits a creative piece or a well-played instrument can work together to create a moment that moves someone.  And that’s the goal of the creative process: creative elements or content that moves someone towards life change.  That’s inspirational. 

The roadmap to inspiration:

In order to inspire in a worship service, the author of inspiration must be involved. For us as a creative team, our number one job is to seek what it is that God seeks to do in a service. What is the main point?  We then work backwards to the beginning. What is created is a roadmap to inspiration.

Weekend Rundown: You Asked For It Wk. 4 (Jan. 24)

 

This weekend our team was tasked with tackling a very difficult subject:  “If God Is Powerful, Why Does He Allow Tragedy and Suffering?”  We could have dealt with this discussion from a philosophical level, theoretical level, or even at an academic level, but in truth this subject is troubling for most of us because it hits each of us at a very personal level.  Each of us know tragedy and suffering first hand in our own way.  In truth, there are no easy answers to the question at hand, and cliché answers tend to be offensive especially when we’re in the midst of suffering.

Therefore, our team felt we needed to find a story that encapsulated the personal struggle each of us feel with this topic, but also find one where hope wins in the end in spite of the lack of easy answers.

We found such a story with Jordan & Danielle Connell and their son Carson.  The Connell’s gave birth to their son Carson in April of 2015, and everything seemed fine at first.  But soon it was discovered that Carson had a rare, but life threatening, liver disease where the only cure was a liver transplant. Carson brought nothing but joy and smiles to all around him due to his infectiously positive attitude and heart-warming smile.  In spite of all the hardships this little boy faced, he took all of them head on with a grin.  Still, the disease was too much for Carson… and within eight months Carson lost his life. Obviously, the Connells were devastated, but in those eight months they grew closer to Jesus more than they ever had before.  They didn’t have answers as to why God allows tragedy or suffering.  All they knew was that those short eight months with Carson shaped them for eternity in a way nothing else could.

Some of us on our Creative Team had been journeying with the Connell’s through all of this and felt like their story would fit exactly what we were looking for.  We decided to shoot a video of their story so that the audience could personally connect with their story.

But we also wanted some form of live element with the Connell’s at the end to bring a message of hope. So after a great deal of discussion we landed on something we had never really done before:  We had Jordan and Danielle on stage (on stools with hand held microphones) immediately after their video to share a message of hope live and in person.  As a team, we felt that just keeping the story in video form only – though powerful – would not deliver the full impact we were seeking. We wanted to show the persistent tenaciousness of HOPE in the face of tragedy and suffering.  Having Jordan and Danielle on stage after telling their story to share that part live was our best idea for achieving that. This made it…personal. It’s not something we would normally execute to on regular basis, but our sense in this place was it needed that touch and it proved to be true.

Watch Their Story Here:

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We concluded this moment in the service with the Ben Rector song, “When A Heart Breaks.” This was a song we accidentally landed on a few weeks out after laying in another song earlier.  We loved the tension that the song created and allowed people to wrestle with their true feelings around pain and suffering.  The staging and execution of the song allowed for people to process what they had just heard (message) and experienced (Connell Story).  It was a positive use of a song to put a period on the moment.

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Learnings:

  • When dealing with a difficult and emotional topic, resist the temptation to address it in intellectual fashion only and address the personal and emotional issues the audience is wrestling with.
  • Stories matter. A story can help everyone process a difficult subject in a way that talking points cannot. When it is personal, keep it personal.
  • Get a sense for where God is leading in the service and clear the pathway to that end. What will drive that message home the best? Lean into that.

Sunday Set List:

This is Amazing Grace

It Is Well

Good Good Father

Special: When A Heart Breaks

Run Sheet: January 24, 2016

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Discovering and Pursuing “The Last 10%”

The urgency of planning and producing a worship experience on a weekly basis can be overwhelming and stress filled. If we are honest, many times we are scrambling to just pull of what we have planned as Sunday rushes at us full speed. It’s a reality and especially true for those who are operating in places that have limited staff and tight resources. But there is hope. This hope lies in leaning into the Last 10%. This is where many churches could immediately up the impact of their services.

The last 10% is a simple tweak, enhancement or addition that elevates a moment from possibly ordinary and just “ok” to potentially outstanding. If you are the leader of the creative process, this should be a regular part of your weekend review preferably early in the process of final preparation. If you are executing elements, discovering the last 10% should be on your weekly checklist.

A recent example in our context surrounded the new Gungor tune “Us For Them”. We choose this song in the midst of our normal planning process weeks prior to the actual weekend it would be used. As the song resurfaced on our planning radar in the weeks leading up, our Music Asst. Matt suggested a tweak that took it from ok to ‘Ah hah.’ As he re-listened to the song, he heard toms and a midi pad accenting the experience and enhancing the song.. He suggested we eliminate our normal drum kit accompaniment and go this direction instead. Enough said.

Our musical team reworked the song to include these two elements. As the song was executed in our services, we pulled the two percussion players forward alongside the song lead and added a lyric video playing overhead to highlight the environment. The combination of this and appropriate lighting added that “last 10%” that immediately increased its impact and staying power.

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Watch The Song

Gungor Original Lyric Video

(Note: this song and weekend incidentally fell the week of the Paris shooting tragedy. It’s message was on point. This was a God thing (who knew) and shows that even in the midst of our planning, God has a greater plan.

Could we have done the song without those tweaks?

Of course.

Would it have been fine?

Absolutely.

However, the attention to these little opportunities transformed the ordinary into something that resonated.

What does the last 10% look like? Often it is simple adjustments.

A lighting look.
A staging of a song with musicians.
The addition of environmental projection elements either on screen or in the room.

Where can you discover the last 10% that can take your experience to the next level of impact?
As this weekend approaches, where is that last 10% still lurking out there you can capitalize on?

Weekend Rundown: You Asked For It Wk. 3 (Jan. 17)

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This was a weekend that our team was tasked with extending our creative programming muscles into one of the most vital aspects of our church… our Reach Missions. This is an annual weekend emphasis each January at The Crossing and it left us with a dilemma. There was nothing in our current series or the weekend theme (Are We Living in the End Times?) that directly related to the mobilization and movement of people beyond our comfortable life into a collision with the rest of the world. So we made the decision to create a smooth, but clear line of demarcation.

Let’s pause here and address a key concept for creatives. One of our core values as a church is to always be catalyzing movement within people. This is a combination of spiritual and practical steps. Each weekend our hope is that we will grab the spiritual attention of our church, present a clear biblical perspective and then catalyze movement on their part. Sometimes it is a move spiritually (re-commit to a spiritual discipline, confess sin, etc.) and other times it is more practical as they discover their next spiritual step and act upon it in some way by engaging in an active way (often by signing up, register or joining something ).  If a moment in a worship service, catalyzes movement on the part of the individual towards God, then we are meeting our objective.

So with that in mind, we used the communion moment post-message to shift the tone. This is important. When you are going to make such a potentially abrupt shift, look for a transition moment that eases the shock and sets up the move. For us, communion naturally provides that shift as people are contemplative and it generally puts a reflective period on the message.

Following communion, we introduced our Reach initiatives for 2016  with the stories of individuals who had traveled to another country for the first time in 2015. These were recorded 6 months earlier and worked perfectly  for this moment when combined with appropriate b-roll.

Note: If you constantly find yourself saying, “I WISH we had footage of _________”, begin taking the approach that EVERYTHING has potential for a future story and if you have the means…capture it. Keeping those moments in the video vault will often be extremely valuable in these type of moments. If your video team can lean into this and organize these archives effectively it will pay huge dividends.

Here’s a link to see the video: https://youtu.be/DQh6LWa0RzI

Our Missions Director took the stage following this video for a 4 minute recap, appeal, and information download of their next steps. Specifically on this day we had:

  • Local outreach partners from our community available to interact and provide information on potential service projects.
  • An interactive replication of our Mexico Home Build homes which included “text to learn more” options for each upcoming Global Reach Trip. A simple text  with the key word of the country the individual was interested in would reply with a link to a short video from each trip leader giving info and encouraging them to participate.
  • Information Center for all of these trips.

The moment concluded with the song Invitation Fountain and our Guest Services team distributed Prayer Bands that each contained one of our  40 individual partners. The bands were distributed during the song rather than at the doors to tie them directly to the moment and encourage individual response. The song was also backed with a video loop containing highlight pics from the past years Reach missions experiences.

At our conclusion, they were then encouraged to head out to the interactive area.

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The home is a replication of what is built in Baja Mexico in our regular partnership with Youth With A Mission. Volunteers spent Saturday prepping the house to a point and we then had volunteers on site throughout our services painting, roofing, etc to interact with people.  Tons of work. Totally worth it.

Learnings:

  • If something doesn’t naturally fit in your normal service flow,  give real intentional thought as to how to best transition into that moment with the least amount of disruption.
  • Transitions matter. (Repeat that) Transitions matter. Pay attention to them.
  • Visuals and interactive experiences are always a great enhancement to any presentation. Look for ways to infuse them in these moments.
  • If something is of HIGH VALUE to your organization, put in the effort that COMMUNICATE VALUE (see: Home Build)
  • Look for opportunities for your theme AND your creativity to extend outside the walls of your auditorium.  Constantly ask the question ….how can we EXTEND IT?

Sunday Set List:

You Are Good

My Heart Is Yours

Cornerstone

Special: Invitation Fountain

Run SheetJanuary 17, 2016

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11 Tips For Making a Great Story Video

Here are 11 tips for making a great story video !

1.  Everyone has a story:   Looking for a great story?  Get to know your people!  Most of the best stories you’ll discover will come from relationships from people you already know. Undoubtedly, there is someone that you or someone on your team knows that has experienced God move in a significant way through some life experience.  Know who those people are and learn about their stories!

2.  Store your stories: As you discover or hear about a story of interest, take note and start a list.  You never know when the intended message will intersect perfectly with a relevant story, so keep a list in whatever format works best for you.

3.  Compelling story for a compelling message:  Just having a compelling story is not enough. The story must match the message and flow of a particular message or series.  And when they do, the results can truly resonate with people.  Aim for that synergy.

4.  Set the scene:  One of the key ingredients to a great story video is the filming location. I often spend a great deal of time thinking through the shot of the video before I begin. What place best suits the story?  Is it indoor?  On location somewhere?  How will that impact the shoot?  Will external lighting be needed?  How will sound be captured?

5.  First Source:  Sometimes what can make a story video pop most is to go to the very place where the story occurred.  I remember when 9/11 happened and I was planting a church in Baltimore, I remember thinking I could just edit news clips together of what happened or I could go to the source which was just a three hour drive away.  I chose the latter, and the results will forever be a part of my life.  The end result is always more powerful if you can help take your viewers to the source of the story.

6.  Preparation and synergy with message: Before you begin, you should know the story well… It is your job to discover where their story has synergy with the speaker’s message and capture that on video.  Direct the one(s) being interviewed towards that goal, but do not manipulate their story to fit.

7.  Know your limits: It’s important to know the length of video you’re aiming for before you begin. Usually 2-3 minutes is ideal. I’ve often found it to be very helpful to have the one being interviewed to get their story down on paper to about 3/4 of a page.  I’d rather have them edit their story to the good stuff.  Making them get it down to 3/4 of a page makes them think it through beforehand so the interview truly gets to the good stuff… the important stuff.  If you have someone go on and on with their story knowing full well that you only have 2-3 minutes in the service to work with, you end up doing everyone a disservice. You’ll have to edit out what might be the best part, and the content you end up with will most likely end up uneven and feel disconnected.

8.  Never too much B-Roll:  Seriously. There’s never enough. Capture hands. Gestures. Close ups. Establishing shots. You name it. Make sure you have enough space on your cards for all of that extra video and make sure you have enough batteries for the task at hand.

9.  Visually engaging yet not distracting:  I’ll often shoot the interview with one camera on a tripod and another hand held.  That’s a given.  But I am also on the hunt for how I can make the video visually appealing.  I want the people watching to be engaged, yet not distracted.  If they are thinking “wow, that’s a cool shot…” and not about the content of the story, I’ve crossed a line.  So I may save a visually compelling clip or scene for when there is a break in dialogue.

10.  Film school never ends: Three point lighting. Law of thirds.  Know your camera.  Know your lenses.  Watch your color balance.  Get good clean audio.  Watch blogs.  Be inspired by directors and cinematographers.  Watch documentaries.  Get fresh ideas. Always be open to learn.

11. Your edit should reflect the emotion of the story: Is the story upbeat?  Shoot hand held and make lots of cuts.  Keep it moving.  Is it serious?  Use a tripod… slow movement. Pick music that fits the mood as well… I will often find the song first that fits the mood of the story before I even begin the edit.  I may even edit the song down to the exact length I need and make the video fit that.

Now it’s your turn!  What tips do you have for making great story videos?  Comment below! We’d love to hear from you!

DC

Examples of story videos I’ve shot (most are first source videos):

Mother’s Day Video 2015:

U2 Fan Becomes Something More… (Adam Bevell “All I Want Is You”)

Adam Deardorff’s Story:

Nathan Arnold’s Story:

Facing and Overcoming Creative Ruts

graphicheaderWe have all been there, the creative rut. As a Graphic Designer working at a church, I know everything I am designing communicates something important. Whether a kid’s baptism event invite, or a directional sign for our new care ministry, I know God is doing something big all over our campus. Each project is a small part of making that happen. It can put some healthy pressure on the quality of these graphics, and how well I can visually communicate even the smallest thing. Sometimes, I just can’t come up with anything, or at least anything good. What I like to do when facing a creative rut, is lean on all the guidelines I have been building. Sometimes these are things I can do while in my rut, or things I need to consider as I start to put pen to paper, or image to document. I think these things could be helpful in different creative areas, if you place them in your context.

1. Listen to the heartbeat…

There is a lot that you can get out of listening to a leader’s passion about their ministry, or hearing stories about how and why someone was impacted by a specific ministry or event. When I first started, I tried to attend each ministry’s event to get a good feel of their inner-workings and purpose. It is hard to design for something you don’t understand. I assume it is hard to pick worship songs if you don’t understand that Sunday’s message, or choose a stage design when you don’t understand the series. All upbeat, energetic worship wouldn’t work on a heavy, contemplative message week, just like a bright, bubbly flyer wouldn’t make sense with a ministry that serves those who are grieving.

2. Watch out for the impact…

There is a kind of assurance when I can see that a printed item catches attention and interest, that means I designed the piece well. If the response is a lot of questions, that could indicate interest, but sometimes it means I did not communicate clearly enough. Interest is ideal, confusion is detrimental. Even more important than whether something looks or sounds great, is if it communicates well.

3. Take advantage of Candid Criticism…

As a member of the staff that isn’t featured publicly, I have a bit of an advantage as I meet new people and hear their stories. No one knows that I designed the invite card they are turning in their hand. People tend to be more honest when they don’t know you’re involved. Some of the best feedback I have gotten has been from the candid criticism of new guests. Being watchful and taking in candid feedback is important to staying relevant and innovative. Ask people who you know don’t mind hurting your feelings, or don’t know it impacts you at all.

4. Put as much good design in front of you as possible…

No matter where you go, there is good and bad design, you are inundated with it daily. There are billboards, logos, advertisements, packaging, banners, menus, email blasts, and more. As you go through your daily life, take stock of what was both aesthetically pleasing, and well communicated. If something is particularly bad, take stock of that as well, and lay out why. When I said “take stock” I meant keep these items if possible, take a picture, write a note. I am sure it is the same for other areas, keep great worship songs in stock, go to sites that have great sound and tech tips. Like it has been mentioned in a past post, PINTEREST! Pinterest.com has so many beautiful design ideas, and one great advantage is that these are constantly being found and updated. There are lots of design sites that can offer a similar wealth of ideas, take advantage.

As I take these actions, and keep the things I learn in mind, the quality of communication tends to improve and grow. When I get in a creative rut, it seems to simply be a need to recalibrate. By going back to these things, I can do just that.

What ways do you use to overcome that inevitable rut?