Some insights on Worship from Ben Kolarcik

We are excited to have some a wide scope of influence on our teams and specifically through our worship experiences on the weekends as we partner with worship leaders from around the country.  Ben Kolarcik is one of our main worship leaders, but he actually lives with his family in Peoria, Arizona and is a frequent leader at CCV Phoenix, their campuses and partners with CIY conferences throughout the summer. His heart for worship and its full expression within the church is incredible. We love having him on our weekends and even overlook the fact he is a diehard Dodgers and Dolphins fan.

We asked him to sit down and share some of his thoughts specific to the creative process as the worship leader especially when you are working in different context and environments. So…here’s Benny K.

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Weekend Review…A Series of Unfortunate Events (April 24th, 2016)

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 1.27.57 PM.pngSomewhere in the course of our weekend services, our FOH audio engineer leaned over and said to no one in particular, “My daddy warned me there would be days like this.” He was speaking truth. It was a Sunday filled with many wins in the midst of many challenges. As is always the case, upon review some where just a unfortunate events while others could possibly have been avoided. Here’s a rundown of how the day went down.

Our creative moment for the day was centered around a combination video-song piece highlighted by a small set change involving a picture frame screen running black and white images of families submitted through social media.

Challenge #1: Construct the frame for projection. This project took us many directions as we wrestled with how to place the screen on stage in the appropriate position during the 2 minute video we had to reset. Constructed out of fancy base board (Home Depot) and with muslin stretch fabric across the back, the screen worked well to receive the images. Our final choice was to use large structures left and right with hooks added. The trick was the frame/screen needed to hang freely so the rear projection would be unimpaired.

Challenge #2: To execute the song within our set piece look we needed to move the following elements in 2 minutes.

  1. Stand up piano shell with audio lines
  2. Throw carpet
  3. Three stools for musicians
  4. Two Structures for Frame
  5. Frame to Hang
  6. Floor lamp for ambiance

Now you see the potential issue. We immediately realized …ok, not immediately but on Sunday AM that our normal one Stage Manager would not be able to pull this off. So we went into recruitment mode. A couple “lucky” volunteers were snatched alongside our Production Assistant.

Challenge #3:  We realized during run through that our plan to have the keyboard “live” bed the set up video was just not going to work. The reason? Our keyboard player needed to move from their normal key rig down to the stand up piano. There really was no other way to underscore the song (bass guitar solo would not get it done), so we had to scramble and quickly add a stock music bed to the set up video allowing our keyboard player, etc to reset. Crisis averted.

Challenge #4: Communication problems were ongoing between our laptop computer running the picture loop for the song and the projector designated just for that moment. Our Live Video guy spent the morning trying to get the hiccups out of the system. It was touch and go throughout the day which put everyone on edge. The entire set piece would seem a bit unnecessary if the images did not run in the background. (Update: There was only one instance of the loop bogging down briefly)

Challenge #5: Call outs. We had a DAY where for various reasons our volunteer productions team was short in a number of spots. The scrambling and moving that was necessary added stress to the already full day.

So here’s how the service actually went. In the end, the service was effective and moving despite our behind the scene challenges.  Our topic was “Fight For Your Kids”. Earlier in the week, our Video “Guru” Dave Cowan flew down to Phoenix to shoot a set up video with our worship leader Ben Kolarcik in order for him to tell his own story of his family, parents, and growing up. This would lay the groundwork for the song to follow.

We then reworked lyrics to the song “7 Years” and added a slide montage of family photos submitted through our social media channels.  It was a great set up to the message and was well-executed by Ben Kolarcik.

Here’s the song:

Learnings:

  • There are just days. You can do your best to avoid them, but eventually…they will touch us all. Don’t lose your mind. Adjust.
  • As much as possible, protect those in the seats from the “drama” that may be happening. Keep them unaware.
  • Don’t overlook transitions. Most of our challenges from this past weekend could have been avoided if we would have looked more closely at the “heavy lifting” our major creative transition moment was going to involve. We would have planned ahead, staffed better, etc.

Weekend Run Sheet:

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Worship Leader Platoon and Weekend Recap: Fight Like A Man (April 17th, 2016)

We have a unique worship leading situation at The Crossing. We have an amazing Musical Director (Michelle Shepherd) and Music Asst. (Matt Biel) who work alongside our creative team in the execution of the music aspects of our weekend worship experience. However, each weekend we have a platoon rotation of leaders who take the point leading our services. They are scheduled 3-4 months out and work alongside our team in choosing songs and executing it especially the special music we may use. How does this work?  Well.

Benefits:

  • Built in variety
  • No larger than life personality
  • Raised bar of musicanship
  • Unique leadership and perspective of the music execution
  • Fresh energy each weekend

Our Weekend Schedule:

  • Weekend worship leader arrives Sat. AM (early flight)
  • Saturday afternoon Rehearsal (2-4 pm)
  • Sunday call time (6:30 am)
  • Sunday production time (7:15 am)
  • Three AM Services
  • Six PM service call time (5:15 pm)
  • Six PM service

Leaders fly out either Sunday night (west coast) or Monday am (east coast).

Crazy? Maybe. But over the last 3+ years it has become a solid part of our worship experiences. The key element is having solid musical direction on site to work within our creative team and make the music happen. We actually choose special songs often based on the leader on that weekend based on energy, song style, etc.

So…this weekend we were so glad to have Sam Hancock join our platoon rotation. A worship leader out of Indiana, Sam has traveled for years as a part of the band Luminate. Now leading worship full time, he has been a real strong add to our team.

This weekend in the midst of our Fight series, we were able to use Sam’s hit song, “Heal This Home”. Packaged with a background loop, the song was a strong add to the service and set up the rest of the day well.

A highlight of the day was a great life story told by Gil, a MMA fighting coach here in Las Vegas. His story moved through his early life and we celebrated his huge step of baptism on Easter. As our guest speaker, Mike Breaux tackled the topic, Fight Like A Man, Gil’s story strongly resonated.

Here is that video:

Here’s the rest of the service lineup:

Glory To God

This Is Amazing Grace

Great Are You Lord

Special: Heal This Home

Weekend Run Sheet:

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Weekend Recap: Fight Fair (April 10th, 2016)

This week we kicked continued our Fight series centered around relationships and the family.  We actually imploded our normal weekend service template this weekend and completely “back-loaded” our service. Normally our services split with the message in the middle. We have wrestled with the the placement of our Host moment (Announcements, Offering) at the conclusion of our service which creates a seamless worship experience, but also faces mass exodus of people in the last spot.

This weekend we front loaded all of our worship music including communion, slotted our host moment including a summer camp roll out video as a transition piece, and then went into our message. We ended the service with the song “Love Is Worth The Fight” (Jon Foreman). It added a punch at the close and a period on the service.

Watch the song here: (Carlos Whitaker soloist)

We definitely threw some of our normal people off as our crowd tends to arrive late and try and leave early. Mixing up the order created some baffled looks among our people. But it allowed us to see that following the programming lead, our order can be shifted to provide the best movement and moments for impact. Don’t be afraid to shake it up. It will do you and your worship experience a lot of good.

Set List:

Alive

All Who Are Thirsty

Cornerstone

Good, Good Father / How He Loves

Special Song: Love Alone Is Worth The Fight

Weekend Run Sheet:

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Weekend Recap: Fight Series Kick Off (April 3rd, 2016)

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This week we kicked off a new series post-Easter centered around relationships and the family. This is actually a topic we haven’t touched on for over two years which is odd, but reality. So we were excited to begin diving into these truths. These series present a challenge in that we want to embrace biblical perspectives on these topics, not Dr. Phil perspectives.  So from our creative to our communication, this was our intent.

Also, this week we wanted to spend a moment celebrating our Easter weekend. It was a huge highlight with almost 9000 in attendance and 231 baptisms. When we cast vision on a regular basis, ask our church community to come alongside us in living that out, we have to be certain to celebrate appropriately. Our video team had been tasked to capture footage during Easter weekend of everything taking place in preparation. Note: Make this a part of your big days. It is footage you can never go back and capture so always have a team tasked to capture the moments.

Here is that highlight video:

We inserted an up-front Host Moment which is out of our normal template. The reason for this was we needed to separate the Easter celebration from the content of the day around our series. It would be too jarring otherwise. There is always a risk to switch up your normal  template, but with some forethought it is crucial.

As we kicked off the series we had limited time for an element to set up both the message and the series. We choose the obscure Toby Mac song, “Family” to bring some tension not only to the day but the entire six weeks. Early in the week we decided to add a stock video produced by COTM. The idea was to lay it under the song with no dialogue. The way the video was put together it established tension and also followed a solid narrative with no dialogue necessary.

At the last minute (Sunday AM), we re-rendered out the video loop adding 30 seconds to the front end that included some dialogue . The feeling was this allowed an establishment of the moment and grabbed everyone’s attention as we transitioned. Even though it was last minute, our video team made it happen quickly.  With our current stage set up including a center shark tooth scrim we were able to integrate the video with our IMAG throughout the song and it definitely got the point across. It was a song and video that left things unresolved.

Shane, our Senior Pastor, did a great job of transitioning from song w/video to message. A common mistake is to not think through this moment and it becomes either awkward or it appears the speaker is ignoring what just happened. We are grateful that Shane is aware of this and works hard to make things flow.

Here is the video with song:

Learnings:

  1. Look for creative and innovative ways to use material that is stock. There is always ways to flex and maneuver to bring new life to any material.

  2. Pay attention to your service flow transitions. Don’t take people on a roller coaster ride unless you intend to. Let them absorb.

  3. There are appropriate moments to celebrate. Part of effectively casting vision is to include them when there are huge wins.

Continue reading “Weekend Recap: Fight Series Kick Off (April 3rd, 2016)”

Easter 2016 … The Final Week (Part 4)

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The week before Easter for any Creative/Production Team is undoubtedly an action packed week. Needless to say, no one working for Easter’s services will be bored.  If they are bored, they’re not doing it right. 🙂 The same goes for all of us at The Crossing during the final week of Easter preparation.

Here’s a breakdown of our final week into seven exciting parts:

STAGE:

On Monday, we attacked the stage to finish the install of our new look.  We removed the previous stage design which was from Mod Scenes (which we loved) and moved it to “The Venue” – our other auditorium that is used by our student ministry and other ministries at The Crossing.  Once the old set was gone, we cleared the stage of all risers and instrumentation.  Once cleared, we began to install the set we had been building for a couple of weeks in anticipation of Easter.

LED tape had to be installed within, fabric had to be wrapped, and set pieces hung in place. All in all, the new stage install took two days to complete. To read about the exact details of how we built this stage, please click on this link.

VIDEO:

There were several video elements that had to be created for Easter services.  We created a 5 min countdown that showed the course of three days at the tomb of Jesus that played on the center screen that was built into our set.  This was played before the opening of our service.  Watch the beginning of the service to catch a brief (yet epic) glimpse of this video:

We also had a video communion moment that had to be created.  We created a communion table look with bread, grapes, and a wine glass with juice that served as props for the shoot.  We used various people from our staff and high level volunteers to share their “comeback story” and how what we celebrate with Communion helped make such a comeback possible.

This video was “sandwiched” within the song “How Can It Be” by Lauren Daigle.

To see how this was done, watch the video below:

We also included a lyric video to Hillsong Young and Free’s song “Alive” that played with Ableton and was displayed on the center screen of our new set.

To see how this video, watch below:

Finally, finishing touches had to be made to our epic (all in one take) “Road” video: stabilization, audio edit/mixing, music bed secured, and color correction.  To see exactly how we shot this video, click this link to read all the details.

To see the video, watch below:

LIGHTING:

Lighting is always a challenge when you have a new stage design.  Almost everything is reset.  This is especially true for our latest set.  This was our first step into the bright and colorful world of LED tape.  Getting our lighting console to work with the new addition along with what we had before was somewhat challenging.  But our lighting team worked the problem and built new lighting cues/themes/etc. until the work was done… even bringing kids “camping” as they worked into the early morning hours.  Production team families: the struggle is real at Christmas and Easter.

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PROGRAMMING REHEARSAL:

Our programming rehearsal took place on Thursday night so that we would not be getting in the way of our musicians at their Friday rehearsal.  We wanted to make sure that all of our production cues were on point, that every video played properly, and that the audio of all the videos was mixed well for our room.  After an incredible meal at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria together (very important), we ran through our cues.  From this rehearsal, we knew we where  we needed to make a few tweaks.  Thankfully, we had given ourselves the time to make them since this rehearsal was on Thursday. It is always a good idea to meet deadlines well in advance in case of technical issues, because they generally tend to appear at the worst times.

MUSIC REHEARSAL:

On Good Friday, our worship team took to the stage to go over all of their songs.  Though we were only doing four songs, rehearsal took a bit longer than usual because we included a new element for tracking and click: Ableton. Though an incredible and powerful program, we had never used it before. It took some time and adjusting to get it on point, but eventually things fell in line.

COMBINED REHEARSAL:

On Saturday afternoon before our first two services, the time had finally arrived to not only bring every element together, but every volunteer – from camera people, to musicians, to lighting, and everyone else in production.  We all gathered (as we always do before services) to go over our Planning Center service order and discuss the details of the service. Once we went through the service order line by line and clarified any details, we gathered to pray.  Then we all took our places and rehearsed the service.

GAME ON:

Finally… it was now time for all of the planning… all of the preparation…. and all of the hard work to come together to create a moment in which God would speak and change the lives of many.  That’s why we do what we do.

To see Easter at The Crossing in it’s entirety, please feel free to watch the video below:

 

Learnings:

  • In order to pull off a complicated service, take it one day at a time. But do so with a plan, making sure you have time for adjustments.
  • Take time to celebrate with your team.  Nothing quite beats good fellowship over a meal to uplift spirits and encourage your team.
  • Separate your production rehearsal from your music rehearsal so that everyone can focus on their portion of the service details with enough space to make any necessary adjustments.
  • Hard work, preparation, and planning have the potential to pay off big time and lead to life change in others.  Keep up the good work!