That Time I Preached

ThatTimeIPreached

So this happened… During our At the Movies series this past summer I was asked to preach for the first time (well technically the second but you’ll see).

*no copyright infringement intended. I do not own the rights to the movie clips or songs used. Without the clips from the movie half of the message would have been missed.

3 Reasons to Consider Stage Design & 3 Reasons to Not

Church Stage Designs

A lot of churches are beginning to embrace the idea that a church platform can be visually engaging, enhance the room and message, and be a creative way to communicate with those who come through their doors.  We started toying around with the idea about 2 years ago and have seen the wonderful results from taking the time and energy to create spaces like this. We’ve had simple 3D paper mache letters on the front of our platform, a 16′ fishing boat, caution tape, giant LED light boxes and more (I mean obviously we’ve used Coroplast…).  We started small and continued to recycle what we could to created bigger elements.  Church Stage Design Ideas was a great place for us to get ideas and has great articles on this same topic – I highly encourage you to check them out.

Here are what I think are 5 great reasons to consider playing with the look of your stage.

1. It creates a visual environment. We all know culture is becoming more and more visual and while the Church shouldn’t always just give in to where culture is going and how it consumes, this is an area that the Church has been part of for most all of it’s history.  From stained glass windows, to cross shaped basilicas, to ornate decor on and around the stage and more, the church has seen a reason to create places that can transport someone to another world, or enhance the story they are telling with stunning visuals.  We are doing this more and more and the Visual Worship movement is spreading like wildfire.  The stage can be one of those elements, and I would argue should be.

2. It creates memorable ideas.  Sometimes creating a design around a sermon series can help someone recall or remember things from that series that they may have not otherwise.  Like I said earlier we had a 16′ fishing boat on stage for about a 6 week period.  People still remember that ugly green boat but most of all they remember what they took away from that series because they remember that boat.  We ask them about other ideas from other sermon series and it’s harder to recall for them.  It’s a Mnemonic device really.

3. It’s a great place for people to serve and volunteer. Think about the opportunity for those who like to work with their hands and like to build things, your creatives and designers who visualize things, and even those who don’t just want t place to serve.  The church should always be looking for ways to involve people in the church and finding ways they can serve.

3 Reasons to not consider stage design

1. It’s more about the creativity and design than about pointing people to Jesus.  I have fallen in this trap many times.  Sometimes is more about being cool than anything else.  Thats a great reason to stop or pause or not do it at all.  No matter how cool your stage is or how awesome things look let’s not forget the main reason we gather; to share the love and Grace of a great big God.  I’ve seen more ministry done on ugly stages than really pretty ones at times.

2. Your tradition and current environment is a extremely valued asset. Not every church needs to play with the look of the stage.  Some badly need to do so… (yeah burnt orange 70’s shag carpet stage… I’m talking to you).  But some places find comfort and importance in their “look” be it traditional or not.  It’s always important to think of what you are trying to communicate and how you are doing so.  That may lead to a realization that adding some Coroplast towers may take away from the ambiance that already exists.  Be smart, don’t do it just to do it, do it for a reason… one that you have poured over in prayer.

3. You’re doing it to be cool.  The church will never be as cool as MTV.  The church will never be cool no matter how hard we try.  That’s ok by me (some churches are cooler than others however… #JustSaying).  Like I mentioned above if you are doing it just to do it then you’ve missed something.   Actually all 3 of the “don’ts” could be summed but by saying, make sure you pray through the why.

Bonus: 4. Because you already have a bunch of ficus trees on stage.  Why would anyone ever think of changing that!!! Who would ever want to remove a ficus tree!!!

New Video Announcement Format

This is our new intro/outro for The Feed our video announcements that play each weekend in services.  This happens to be our Mother’s Day edition where we had kids make the announcements for that extra awe factor… (side note: the kids were easier to work with and accomplished the product in a fraction of the takes we normally have with the adults…)

5 Tips for Better Lyric Screens

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When I started leading worship years ago we were still using an overhead projector and clear plastic sheets with the lyrics printed on them. If you wanted to get fancy you would either hand write the lyrics in different colors and with artistic flair or use your computer to do something similar. God forbid you want to allow the spirit to move and repeat something… Now we have tremendous power at our fingertips with presentation software that is basically limitless with potential; multiple screens, 3D, moving text and so much more. But simply put you don’t need super fancy software to make your lyric presentation add to your services rather than just be part of the service.
I wrote my college thesis on a concept that would shortly after be termed as “Visual Worship.” In the recent history of the church we have been completely neglecting worshipping visually; worshipping with our eyes and not just our voice. Historically the church tried to connect worship with more senses that we do today, especially visually. Basilicas were built with a huge verticality to draw the eyes towards heaven. Every aspect of the architecture had a theological reasoning behind it. Stained glass windows were not much different than our modern worship screens today; colored glass telling visual stories when illuminated with light. If we understand the visual history of the church then maybe we should consider our lyric screens with more prayer and preparation than we currently might. It is not unusual for me to spend and hour or two on the screens to make sure every aspect is adding to our worship service. I consider the font, the background, the transitions, the colors, and so much more each week to hopefully add to the service weekly. This is not something to just pass to another person or secretary to just complete. This is something that can dramatically add to your worship service every weekend.

Here are 5 easy ways to start seeing your lyric screens as more than just words and part of your overall worship experience.

Continue reading…

Home Made RBG LED Lights: A How-to

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I am a huge fan of ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com.  It’s a great place for inspiration and ideas for stage design.  Recently I was looking through the newer posts and came across this one – Tightly Gridded.  I was looking for a new quarterly design for our stage and honestly I just plainly ripped off this idea.  I had seen these light strips around Lowes and Home Depot before and had always wondered how you could manipulate them to be used in a DMX setting.  I had done a little research but I didn’t find much useful other than the parts you may need but without any instructions on how.

After running across this post at Church Stage Design Ideas, I was able to contact the person who put together this one and ask some more specific questions as to the application of all the employed parts.  The post itself helped more than what research I did but didn’t detail quite enough for me to be able to just up and make these LED strip lights work.  After working with a few small tests I was able to determine how to best go about building these LED light boxes.  While you may not want to build the boxes, I hope this more in depth post helps inspire you to work with the LED strip lights to create other great things.

The Light Boxes
Step 1: Measured the stage to determine what size boxes would work best.  We settled on 4’x6′ as being the best size for our stage and 4 boxes would best work.  We really wanted to keep the width at 4 foot cause the diffusion material we wanted to use for this was 4 foot wide so it made things easy.

Continue reading…

So You Want To Be a Worship Leader

worshipleader

It wasn’t too many years ago when the worship leader was a rare position in the church.  Now you can get a formal education specifically to be a worship leader.  It is becoming very popular and the opportunities are rapidly growing for worship leaders today.  I have been doing this professionally for about 7 years now and absolutely love what I do but that being said there are some things I wish I was told before jumped in.  So if you are looking to become a worship leader here are some helpful thing every worship leader should know as they think about entering that ministry.  Granted I don’t have the most experience but so far in my ministry career these are some things that I have found helpful.

10. Learn to play your instrument.  No REALLY learn to play your instrument. You should never stop improving your craft.  4 chords and a capo wont cut it. (if you play guitar obviously).  Take piano lessons, guitar lessons, voice lessons, and more.  This is a gift God has given you, don’t be lazy with it. Continue reading…

Interviewing Movie Stars

We do a summer sermon series every year called At the Movies.  It’s not the most original but is very effective.  It’s a series Lifechurch.tv started maybe 12 years ago and hundreds of churches have done similar if not exactly the same thing ever since.  It’s a way of mashing up Pop culture and God’s truths.  It is a great series and always a lot of fun.  This year (kind of last min) we had the idea to interview stars from our first weekend movie – The Avengers, starting this coming weekend.  We had the idea to basically find some interviews from the movie online somewhere, film ourselves into the interview asking our own questions and making the interviewees say things they never actually said.  This was just an innocuous way to promo the upcoming sermon series and have some fun at the same time.  This was a concept to product situation in 3 days.  Kinda rushed but we loved the idea so much we made it happen.

Enjoy our Youth Intern interviewing Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo from the Avengers.

Oh, and apparently I need to fire the video editor… nano pants…

Church A/V Rent or Buy?

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I need your help and thoughts.  As churches we should be good stewards with our resources.  We should do our best to spend wisely and not abuse what we are given.  That leads me to the question of the day.  Should churches rent (long term) A/V equipment or purchase it to own?  Is long term rental more cost effective in the long run when you consider maintenance, care, and technology update speed? Should we buy the large items to effectively own them because of the constant outflow of cash with renting? Does the flexibility of renting make more sense for changing looks? How does budget play into the matter?  Small or large budget what do you think the best bet is?

Here is the article that has spurred on the questions – Production Gear: Rent or Buy?

What are your thoughts?  I’m curious.  Join the conversation below.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Worship Services

worshiptips

As worship leaders we should always be looking for ways to improve our services.  There is no magic formula for doing so.  In fact there is no measure by which we can, across the board, judge success or betterment when it comes to our worship services.  But each of us know when we have a weekend is better or more successful than others.  So what can we do to improve?  There are any number of ways but here are five easy ways I have found very useful.

1. Pray
I know that seems simple.  You probably already do so on your own, with your team, or with a prayer group.  But it is something that can’t be missed or overlooked.  It’s more than just circling up before you take the platform.  It’s prayer over what songs are being picked.  What service elements are being implemented.  It’s prayer over each detail that goes into a weekend.  As the great amateur theologian M.C. Hammer once pontificated, “That’s word, we pray, pray, ah yeah, we pray, pray. We got to pray just to make it today.”

2. Watch Yourself
In my  head I picture how I think I’m coming across when I move, or speak, or lead.  Having watched myself back consistently I discovered… I was wrong.  Thinking I was coming across one way and discovering it wasn’t as I had pictured made me think about each and every movement I made.  It’s humbling to do so. At times it’s hard to do so.  But watching yourself and your team can only help you identify things that hinder and benefit a service.  It’s as simple as setting up a static camera in the back with just the room mic on it.  If you multi track or record your services in a different manner, try to get as raw of a sound or as much natural feel you can.  I can sound as good as I want with the right plug-ins and tweaks but that doesn’t help me improve my stage presence, singing, or much else.  I suggest a room mic just to get a feel for the liveness.

3. Watch Others
Just as watching yourself helps you identify things about you on the platform, so does watching other churches.  I spend a portion of my mondays first watching back the service from yesterday and also watching the worship services from a few other churches.  It’s what we naturally do when we go to another church or attend a conference; picking up on little things here and there that seem effective, that you like, or you think would benefit your services.  So take some time each week and check out what other churches are doing.  I suggest checking out a church much larger than yours, a church smaller than yours and maybe one similar in size to see how each are using their resources to create their particular worship environment.  Check out Worship Set Ideas for a good place to start.

4. Transitions, Transitions, Transitions
Nothing is more distracting than awkward transitions.  And let’s face it even the best slip up from time to time and things happen.  But with some planning and thinking ahead you can help minimize them.  How does one song flow into another?  Do you need a hard stop and some talking? Can you start the next song with some rhythmic drums or a keys pad?  How do you transition from you last song to the message? Is a bumper needed? A greeting time?  All of these things can help keep the flow of service smooth.  If you take time when planning each service to think through your transitions your quickly find that things gel quicker and seem so much smoother.  Any way we can remove distractions only improves our worship services.

5. Communicate
There’s nothing worse than lack of communication.  So many things can be taken care of, prepared better, or just simply fixed ahead of time if communication takes place.  Being able to send a guitar player parts to look at for rehearsal ahead of rehearsal.  Being able to talk with your pastor about the direction he is heading helps plan songs, moments, or elements that connect on a deeper level.  Telling the keyboard player when to lay out ahead of time rather than in the heat of rehearsal right before service alleviates potential tension.  We all think communication happens and we do pretty well with it.  But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t get better.  The first step I took at communicating better was, while planning the services I would listen through each song an jot down notes for my players.  I would then email them out ahead of time so we could talk about them before we even got to rehearsal.  The result has been smoother rehearsals, overall happier players cause they aren’t spending time practicing one thing then I let them know the day before I want something else.  The result has been better moments in service that seem to connect on a deeper level than before.  Communication can’t be overlooked.  A good rule of thumb is over communication is better than a lack there of.

None of the ideas mentioned above are tremendously difficult to employ.  In fact they are super easy to do no matter where you are in your ministry.  Hopefully these help you achieve what only you can determine as better worship services.