Keep Your Head Up… Concluding Our Money Series

Sometimes you just have to do something because it is fun. As we wrapped up our Money series we did our own version of the popular song “Keep Your Head Up”.  Tyriq, one of our vocalist, is also a performer on the Strip and around the country. His interpretation of the song was on point – and we even transitioned from our Host moment by using our Student Ministry pastor to get us into the song with a little be box.   And so ….

 

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.

Take Your Creative Team to Mars…

rightkindofcrazy.jpgMaybe we need a little more crazy within the church. Part of moving there in our creativity is expanding the sources of “inputs” into our process. A great way to push into this is by exploring the creative process from different perspectives.

That’s where Mars comes in.

In August of 2012, millions of people around the world watched as the rover Curiosity landed on the planet to begin a new phase of exploration. It was a journey nine years in the making and only accomplished through strenuous effort and innovation from hundreds of brilliant, innovative minds. Ultimately the rover was able to reach the surface through an never before attempted maneuver. It was lowered to the surface of the red planet by a sky crane powered by booster rockets. It sounds like something out of an IronMan movie, but it was actually birthed through the minds of engineers and scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.

Engineer Adam Steltzner was at the center of of these efforts and though he doesn’t look like a typical engineer, he was the perfect leader for this intense 2.5 billion project with so many unknowns.  He has now written his own account of this journey in his new book, The Right Kind of Crazy.  (You can read an excerpt here.) Part personal memoir, scientific insights, creative process and leadership lessons, it is a recommended read for those involved in innovation and creative problem solving. That is where the book really shines. right kind of crazy

One key concept that is helpful for church creatives he calls,  holding onto doubt. Here’s how he describes it:

“I recognized that I had to learn to hold onto that open question. I called it holding onto the doubt. I had to be able to sit beside that open question without feeling anxious, without rushing. If I did that my answers were better [because] I more deeply understood the question.

This is not analysis paralysis. I’m not talking about waiting until you have 100% certainty in the answer. These are fuzzy questions for which there won’t be a final analysis until Mars, and you’ll have to invest billions of dollar to get there. Those are the questions I love. Frequently the answer lies inside the question, like a bud waiting to bloom. When you’re up against a question that subtle, you have to hold onto the doubt and really sit long enough in its presence to let [the answer] unfold in front of you.”

Holding onto doubt is an amazing concept as we run through creative process with our teams. In the hurry to have an idea we can execute, there is the temptation to settle or to fail to properly process. Through our 2-4-6 weekly process, we put a natural barrier around settling. It forces us to hold onto doubt.

Don’t fall into that trap. Steltzner calls this staying “in this dark room”.

When you are up against an impasse, a creative block, an inability to find a solution, you can become very anxious. You feel like you’re in this dark room, this black state, and you don’t know where the exit is. Sometimes you don’t find the exit until you’ve given up trying. It’s not that you’ve given up hope, or resigned yourself to always being in the dark room. It’s that you’ve let go of your preconceived notions about what that solution was going to be. You’ve got to be open to a broader set of solutions.”

Learnings for Creatives:

  1. Don’t release the doubt around an idea too soon…if ever. When you do you will miss holes or enhancements on the idea.
  2. Be aware of those on your team due to “wiring” who will not want to wrestle with doubt. It will make them uncomfortable. Don’t let them hijack the role of doubt on your creative.
  3. Bringing a TEAM into the dark room is preferred over going there in ISOLATION. The dark room alone is a scary place to be.

Grab the Book Here

Listen to the Accidental Creative Podcast with Adam Steltzner Here.

Adam Steltzner, engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and author of “The Right Kind of Crazy” (written with William Patrick). He tweets @steltzner.

The Power of a Penny: Wkend Recap (Feb. 28)

Sometimes we wink at the focus of the weekend…other times we stare deeply into it and embrace it fully.

Ok, that’s probably a bit too mushy and queasy a visual image, but there is some truth in the perspective.

Our approach to each weekend is to fully immerse those gathered in the direction of the day through visuals, music, environments, message, and any potential takeaway items. From week to week our CPT (Creative Programming Team) works in unison with our Production Team to accomplish this from start to finish.


Our Goal: To create an uninterrupted worship experience that fully immerses and engages the participant in a moment that catalyzes movement in their hearts and lives.


This week was an example of that process. As we continued our Messy Grace series, the focus was on our identity in Christ and specifically Paul’s words in Romans 8 regarding adoption.  Our communicator this weekend (Lee Coate) had a direct, personal link to the topic through his own adoption so we leaned into that experience and included a video narrative in which Lee told his story of adoption concluding with an element of his story centered on a penny.

Watch The Video Story Here

This element was wrapped into the day as we handed each person a penny as they entered the auditorium. The message concluded with a explanation of the pennies significance and application for everyone in the room. We close this moment with the Danny Gokey song “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again” and utilized our Center Video Screen to add some time lapse visuals of movement, growth and new life.

Penny.jpg

The key to the day was the seamless connection between the elements that left a mark on individuals.

Learnings:

  1. When your communicator has a personal connection to the topic, lean into it.

  2. Look for ways to move your congregation from observers to participants.

  3. Takeaways can be a powerful tool when used correctly and appropriately

Continue reading “The Power of a Penny: Wkend Recap (Feb. 28)”

Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) on Creativity & Divinity

This past Sunday, Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) led us in worship.  Carlos is one of our regular worship leaders here at The Crossing and refers to us as his “Vegas Church.” It’s always an incredible weekend when Carlos is with us drawing people into worship and our church community truly looks forward to having him with us.

We asked him to take a moment and share some thoughts on Creativity in the church context. Here’s what he had to say… specifically about Creativity & Divinity.

Watch. Engage. Share.

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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 8.18.20 AM.png

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?

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?