Sunday is always coming.
The biggest challenge for any church wanting to lean more heavily into creative communication and art is the demand it places on the team and the level of planning required to be effective. But a word of caution:
If your team is not prepared for the pain of disciplined planning,
don’t even think about embracing the creative.
So many creative cultures are built around the principles of sense and scramble. The team senses there is an idea somewhere percolating and then scrambles to execute the underdeveloped concept.
What is the biggest threat to preemptive planning? Success.
Every idea that a team executes last minute with a any degree of success pushes the need for real contemplative, collaborative planning further down the strategic priority list. The team becomes a victim of its own giftings. The stronger the team, the more likely they will be to leave too much to the urgency of the last moment, which in the long run will potentially be that team’s demise. When an idea crashes and burns, egos and personality differences will be to blame and not the lack of planning.
The opposite approach, one with systematic planning, is actually the more effective strategy in getting great ideas to come to life. Assign owners with a real time frame for completion, and plan thoroughly and consistently. And when that brilliant last-minute idea surfaces, there is adequate space for it to be pulled off.
Last minute moments:
- Should be the exception, not the rule.
- Should be so brilliant that you can’t help but do everything possible to make it happen would be.
- Should leave the team feeling inspired and accomplished, not sweaty and bitter.
One of our key disciplines to assist with disciplined planning and allow for last minute moments of inspiration is our 2-4-6 Programming Flow.
Very simple. Very powerful. Very productive.
Each week at our weekly creative programming gathering (note: weekly….) we produce a flow sheet that puts all the pertinent information in front of our team and a roadmap for our discussion. Yes, it is something that could be located online (evernote, google docs, etc) but we have found having the physical sheet allows for one glance interaction, and its a great place to doodle and jot down ideas on the fly.
Within that flow we use green, yellow, and red color coding. These colors are mental barriers for us in our collaborative conversation.
Weeks 1-2 Green : We know that these weeks are staring us in the face. Creative elements can still be tweaked and adjusted, but they should be in full execution mode. Any challenges or changes that need to happen, any decisions that need to made are approached with a “green” mindset. Those calls must be made now. These conversations are often brief and minimal in our programming meetings. Our production and music teams are usually deep into these elements and those detail conversations happen in another context.
**Our goal here is full execution in a way that makes the moment and creates adequate space for God to move while communicating clearly the message of the day.
Week 3-4 Yellow: These weeks usually receive the bulk of our focus and creative conversation. Within days they will be moving into the green (execution) category so these elements must begin to be locked in. There will be additional conversations in the coming weeks, but those conversations will happen as the weekend is moving up the flow and up the timeline. Ideas are laid in and details to these ideas are discussed from a yellow perspective.
**Our goal here is to start tightening up ideas and prepare for execution.
Week 5-6 Red: Five to six weeks off seems like an eternity in the programming world, but time moves at a light speed. However, the early creative conversations can bring relieve the stress sure to come. We realize that these weekends will be discussed 3-4 more times before they move fully into green. For this reason, we have wide conversations around this week and are more likely to quickly lay in placeholders (songs, potential video elements, takeaways) that may never actually come to full fruition. Many of the red ideas get flushed out during the yellow stage and take on a completely different form as they arrive at green. **Our goal here is to simply get ideas down on the page.
- A disciplined, structured process will allow for the undisciplined, crazy, chaotic flow of ideas that birth the best ideas and elements.
- A planning structure is only effective if it is INTENTIONAL and CONSISTENT. Only gathering when there is urgency will not produce any sustainable traction for your team.
- Structure will bring to light new creative frontiers that will inspire your team to dig deeper into fresh thoughts.
- Those responsible for the execution and creation of elements will be the biggest fans of clear process. What they produce will be substantially stronger as a result of these early conversations.
- Ideas thrive in an environment that is facilitated by the time to incubate, develop, and grow.
Whatever structure or intentional format works best for you…initiate it.
Stick to it, and improve upon it.
A consistent, intentional process will bring about substantial, sustainable creativity.
What is your process?
What learnings has your team made in the pursuit of strong systems?