How Our Church Recruited Worship Volunteers, Part 3

Last week I shared with you The Plan for a wide scale recruitment campaign at our church encompassing four areas of the arts:

  • Dramatic
  • Musical
  • Technical (I wrote a specific post explaining why I called our audio visual volunteers Technical Artists)
  • Visual

Today I want to share what actually happened.

Week 1

I was curious and a little nervous going into the first Sunday, particularly because of the Live in the Lobby piece:

  • How would people react?
  • Would they be in a hurry and just brush past?
  • Would they complain about the lobby music feeling like cocktail hour?
  • Would anyone respond and sign up?

I was excited about the actual services because  we were presenting Painting Pictures of Egypt, by Sara Groves, and I had been able to do a cool design of the lyrics for projection. This song fit perfectly with my plan to have something special in the services in relation to the arts.

The services went wonderfully. People loved Painting Pictures of Egypt. The pastor giving the announcements set up Arts in Worship and Live in the Lobby wonderfully.

As soon as the first service was over I dodged out to the lobby to play. A bassist and I did some improv on worship songs as well as a little bluesy jazz. The response was warm and a good number of people seemed to be stopping by the information table.

Before the second service a trumpeter played solos and excerpts and we used that as the prelude music, simply keeping the doors to the lobby open right up to the beginning of the service. After the second service the men’s quartet started singing in the lobby. People crowded around for more than 20 minutes, soaking up the music and having a great time.

By the time the morning was over we had 15 responses ranging from children to adults, and many people had commented on how much they liked the Live in the Lobby concept. Needless to say, I was thrilled.

That week we divided up the responses between the leaders of the difference areas of the arts and contacted almost everyone. My assistant put together a spreadsheet with all of the information and we began tracking responses and interests. The majority of responses the first week were for Musical Arts, but we had a good number of Visual and Dramatic Arts responses as well.

Here is the Arts in Worship Information Request we asked people to fill out.

Week 2

Right up until the second Sunday the visual arts leader was fine tuning which artists would be displaying their art in our one-Sunday-only gallery. People had heard that someone was showing art and calls came in asking for the opportunity to participate. In the end we had five artists in the lobby: a photographer, 2 painters, 1 mixed medium artist, and 1 artist with painting and paper sculpture. Ages of the artists ranged from teenager to senior adult.

By the time the first service started they were all in place, sitting on stools or standing in front of their art, and our visual arts leader was actually working on a large painting. As people arrived they came right over to check the art and had a great time talking. Before and after both services people were milling around, asking questions, and enjoying the art.

The artists were greatly encouraged, and the people who saw the art, both children and adults, came away inspired and jazzed.

We had only three actual responses from artists, but we also had several verbal responses. We followed up on all of them and found out we have more artists at our church than we thought. Both I and our visual arts leader were overwhelmed by the experience that day.

We did not have a visual art element in the services that week, contrary to my plans, and we forgot to tell people to sign up for Arts in Worship, but the exposure in the lobby made up for it.

Week 3

The final week we focused on the Dramatic Arts.

In the services we once again encouraged artists to sign up, and we had a dramatic reading of a Scripture text from the Message translation.

For Live in the Lobby the Drama Team decided to do short scenes from their fall production of Old Testament Rewind, a Willow Creek ensemble script compressing the Old Testament into a humorous 45 minute experience. The portion of the lobby designated for Live in the Lobby was set up like a small stage use all of the props from the show.

We received a handful of responses that Sunday. The actors had some difficulty making themselves heard over the crowd noise in the lobby, but they had particular success walking around the lobby interacting with people while in character.

My Favorite Part

My favorite part of this whole experience so far has been the spiritual conversations and life stories that have been initiated through the discussion of the arts in worship.  People have been drawn back to the church.  Artists have been challenged to seek God more deeply.

While not everything went as well as we had hoped (later on I plan to share lessons we have learned from this process), the bar has been raised and there is an expectancy about the church.  I believe we are poised for a new expression of the arts at Covenant Life Church.

Later this week I will share the follow-up and First Step Weekend results with you, so stay tuned!

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How Our Church Recruited Worship Volunteers, Part 2

Yesterday I shared the plan we developed for a wide scale recruitment campaign at our church encompassing four areas of the arts:

  • Dramatic Arts
  • Musical Arts
  • Technical Arts
  • Visual Arts

Some of you may be thinking, “I know that artists do drama, create visual artwork, and perform musically, but technical artists?  What is that?”

Before we move on to what actually happened in the campaign, let’s unpack this issue briefly.  The names we give to people matter.

Most performing artists have the mindset that the “AV guys” (sound, lighting, projection) are glorified computer techies who like to dabble in geeky stuff like sound boards, wires, and gadgets and do not have a clue musically.  Those same “AV guys” often think that performing artists are whiny, finicky, uppity, difficult-to-please people.

Unfortunately, sometimes both are true, but that is not the complete picture.   Churches who stop there will end up with technical teams and artists who are always fighting for power and cutting each other down.

A Different Way

Followers of Christ are called to a different standard.  Jesus prayed that everyone would know we are Christians by our love, not our superiority, technical mastery, or any other prideful and sinful perspective of ourselves.  In that same vein I believe that Christian artists are called to a higher standard where we support and honor each other rather than fighting for supremacy.

Secondly, working on the technical team is a highly creative calling.

  1. Discerning musicians and sound professionals alike will quickly point out that a great sound man is also a good musician.  Mixing a great monitor mix or FOH mix takes not only technical savvy but also great ears and artistic sense.
  2. Lighting is by nature a creative activity.  The brightness, color, and focus of a light has great impact on the mood in a room.
  3. Running projection requires a sense of beat in order for the operator to change the slides at the proper time.
  4. Creating projection slides definitely requires a creative touch.
  5. Even working as a stage hand can be creative, from the way cabling is done (there IS a right way and a wrong way and the right way looks and works much better) to the layout of equipment on a stage.

Those on the technical team deserve to be treated as artists and not as second-class button pushers.  If you call your technical people artists, you are communicating several things to them:

  1. Your work is important.
  2. Quality matters.
  3. Think creatively, not mechanically.
  4. Behind-the-scenes workers are as important (if not more so) than those in the limelight.
  5. The computers, sound and lighting boards, and other equipment are instruments, not tools.
  6. Because you are working with instruments, treat them with care.

By referring to technical volunteers as artists just as we call actors and musicians and painters artists, our hope is to encourage unity rather than factions and creativity rather than rote service.   Time will tell, but I believe the end result will be greater unity and effectiveness, and a greater sense of calling among all of our artists.

What about your church?  Do your technical artists and performing artists work together well, or are they pitted against each other? 

How Our Church Recruited Worship Volunteers, Part 1

Every recruitment campaign begins with a plan, even if that is a plan to “wing it.”  This past April I initiated a large scale arts recruitment campaign at our church.  I had been talking about this for months, but I finally got around to it in April.

Fortunately I had more than a plan to “wing it.”  Unfortunately I had been so busy that I had little time to get it done.  I am very grateful to the volunteers who helped make this campaign happen.

Beginning today I want to share the story with you:
  1. The Plan
  2. Why “Technical Arts?”
  3. The Campaign
  4. The Follow-Up
  5. The Lessons

I am learning tons from this process and I hope by looking over my shoulder you will discover ideas of what to do or what not to do.

The mission for this recruitment campaign was two-fold:
  1. Recruit more volunteers to serve in worship ministry
  2. Discover and enable as many artists as possible to use their gifts to glorify God and encourage others.

In order to do this I wanted to create an image, a brand, if you will, for the campaign itself.  I also wanted this brand to work well with the church so that I could use it again in the future and not have to always recreate the wheel.

I called the campaign Arts in Worship, encompassing Dramatic, Musical, Technical, and Visual arts.  I enlisted a friend of mine to help me design the logo and we ended up with this image:

Arts In Worship Graphic

We printed this out as a 6 foot long canvas banner.

In order to get the word out, we decided to do several things, one of which I had never done before:
  1. Announce the campaign in the services and project the banner.
  2. Place a big ad in the bulletin.
  3. Have a sign up table in the lobby under this beautiful banner.
  4. Have a series of live performances in the lobby called Live in the Lobby, one each week during the campaign.

This last one was new for me.  We do not have a huge lobby, but we do have an area that can be cleared out and adapted for various uses without disturbing the traffic patterns.  The plan was to highlight one of the areas in the arts each week.  Week 1 I invited musicians to play and sing live music before and after the services.  Week 2 I began working with a painter in the church to set up a gallery and have him painting live on Sunday morning.  Week 3 I invited the drama team to do something interactive with the people.

My goal for Live in the Lobby became threefold:

  1. To cement the call for artists into people’s minds as they enter and leave the auditorium.
  2. To draw attention to the place in the lobby where people can sign up for more information.
  3. To engage people in discussion about art as a part of worship.

I also wanted to do something extra related to the arts in the services each of those weeks.  Week 1 have a cool special song, week 2 incorporate the visual arts, and week 3 have a dramatic element in the services.

As my assistant and I recruited people to help with sign ups and Live in the Lobby performances, I even created guidelines so that volunteers would know what is expected of them.  This piece was a new one for me as well.

Here is what I wrote for those volunteer to be at the sign up table:
  1. Maintain a friendly demeanor.
  2. Direct interested individuals to the handouts we will provide.
  3. Share how you are involved in worship at CLC.
  4. Answer the questions you know and direct other questions to Maurice Overholt.
Here is what I wrote for Live in the Lobby performers:
  1. Maintain a friendly demeanor.
  2. Begin playing/painting/acting the moment the service ends.
  3. Play for 15 minutes.

I also wanted to have a social media presence during this time to keep the buzz going throughout the week.

That was the plan.  In my next post I will share what really happened, so stay tuned!

Re-Post: Six Steps for Taking Your Worship Ministry to the Next Level

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Trying to understand how to grow your church’s worship ministry can be challenging and overwhelming.  Anyone, however, can discover how to take their worship ministry to the next level by applying six simple steps.

I distinctly remember the feeling of wondering how in the world I was going to unearth the next steps for my ministry.  I had been at this church for five years and now they were applying a new accountability structure requiring me to really understand where we needed to go in worship.

Not knowing what steps to take, I was completely overwhelmed by the untold possibilities.  What kinds of new music should we introduce?  What kinds of physical improvements did we need to make to the auditorium?  Should we keep the pews or go with theater seating?  Should we replace the aging projectors with HD or standard definition projectors?  What role should the choir have in the next five years?

Nothing had prepared me for these kinds of decisions.  Nothing in my upbringing as a pastor’s kid, in my two professional music degrees, or in my year at Bible college had hinted at resources for making these questions.

Of course, the congregation and leadership had plenty of ideas, which only made me feel more overwhelmed.  One person was certain they had just found the sound technology our church needed.  Another well meaning person had very strong suggestions about the kinds of music we should use and how loud it should be.  Others said, “Make up your mind and don’t worry about the nay-sayers.”  Elders urged caution.

Over time I began to get a sense of how to move forward without being overwhelmed.  Below are six steps anyone can take to get a grasp on where God might be leading them.

  1. Pray.  So often this is the last thing on our list, even as ministry leaders.  Solomon, near the beginning of his reign, asked God for the wisdom and understanding to rule the people of Israel, and God granted his request.  Jesus also reminds us, “Ask, and it will be given to you.”
  2. Study God’s Word.  Learn what God has to say about worship and it’s place in the church and in our lives.  God is your ultimate leader.  Know what is close to his heart.
  3. Study your senior pastor.  Regardless of whether your church is elder-led, pastor-led, or congregation-led, your senior pastor is going to set the tone and agenda for the church.  He is the one God has set in place to lead your church.  Get to know what is on his heart.
  4. Study your church vision.  Everything you do in the future will need to be in service to your church-wide mission.  Dig into it, even if you think you already understand it fully.  Take it apart with your senior pastor so that you can understand how to apply it accurately to your ministry.
  5. Study the health of your ministry. The growth your ministry needs may be more internal than external.  Some seasons are for growing in size and others are for strengthening what we have.  Endeavor to know your ministry better than ever before, whether you have been leading it for two months, two years, or 20 years.
  6. Study your personal health.  We often forget that we can only lead within our capacity and experience.  Sometimes the best growth steps for our ministry involves growing ourselves in order to improve our leadership.

Through prayer and study God will begin to reveal to you the areas of your ministry that need shoring up and the areas that are doing well.  Over the next week we will dig deeper into how you can plan the next steps for the ministry you lead.

Which of these six steps needs attention in your ministry, and how are you going to address that step this week?

Re-Post: A Guide to Planning Center Online Permission Levels

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Planning Center Online (PCO) is a powerful resource for churches, but it can also be complicated.  Permission levels is one of those potentially confusing features.

PCO provides multiple permission settings for each person.  For instance, if your church is like ours, several ministries use PCO.  At our church Worship Ministry, Children’s Ministry, and Student Ministries use PCO.  As a result every person has four permission settings:

  • Site Permissions
  • Children’s Ministry
  • Student Ministries
  • Worship Ministry

The other day I noticed that our setup of PCO had 10 people listed as Administrators at the Site level, which is inviting disaster to camp out on your doorstep.  I have since adjusted permission levels accordingly.

Let me share my reasoning with you.

Several years ago I was editing categories for my people on PCO and I decided that a particular category was incorrect – not matching across the program.  I deleted it.  Then I found out that I had just deleted all of the activity under that heading throughout my PCO history.  Oops.

Those are the kinds of things that can happen when someone has Administrator privileges and does not know what they are doing.  Needless to say, I am much more careful now, and I train people to watch out for those hiccups.

PCO provides four permission levels in addition to Administrator.  Here are the permission levels in PCO, with PCO’s own descriptions:

  • Scheduled Viewer: Can only view plans that they have been scheduled for and that the notification email has been sent.
  • Viewer: Can view all plans & songs.
  • Scheduler: Can view all plans & songs. Can edit & schedule people.
  • Editor: Can edit all plans, people & songs.
  • Administrator: Can change permissions for the service (templates & categories).

I find it helpful to think about the different levels this way:

  • Scheduled Viewer: Use this level if you want the person to only have access to song, plan, media and people information when they are scheduled for an event.  At all other times they will only be able to access their own personal contact information and calendar.
  • Viewer: A person with this permission level can always access songs and media, view plans, and see contact information for other people, whether or not they have been scheduled.
  • Scheduler: Use this level for volunteers who help you schedule people.  They can edit people information, but they cannot edit anything else.  In every other area they are at the same level as a Viewer.
  • Editor: Volunteers who help with service planning, people management, and song entry need this level of permission.  These people are only restricted from global ministry category and template editing, which is reserved for Administrators.

The Site level permission setting determines the default permission level for the person throughout PCO.  If a person is set as a Viewer at the Site level they will have Viewer privileges in every ministry.  If a person is an Administrator at the Site level they will have Administrator privileges in every ministry.

In order to manage these different levels of permission PCO also provides two other permission modifiers:

  • Disabled: User cannot login and is excluded from all emails and is not able to be scheduled.  This modifier is only used at the Site level.
  • Same as Parent: Will use the same permissions as the group above that service. If there is not a group above it, it will inherit the site permissions.  This modifier is only used at the Ministry level and is the default setting.

I recommend Scheduled Viewer as the default setting for every volunteer and guest artist.

If you have people who are Administrators, Schedulers, or Editors you will want to decide if you want them to have those privileges in every ministry or just one ministry If your answer is every ministry set the Site permission level to the proper setting and leave the Ministry permissions at Same as Parent.  If your answer is just one ministry, then set the Site permission to your default permission for everyone (in my case, that is Scheduled Viewer) and then give them the proper permission level for the specific ministry.  Then make certain the other ministry permissions are set to the default level as well.

Finally, if you have a volunteer who moves out of state and no longer serves in your ministry, DO NOT DELETE THEM from PCO.  If you do you will lose all of their serving history.  Simply change their Site permission level to Disabled.  Their name will disappear from the People contact page but will remain in the history.  If you ever need to pull them back up you can go to the upper left hand side of the People page and select “View disabled accounts.”

A few important comments from Aaron Stewart, Product Manager for Planning Center Online:

Permissions are also what give people access to the main top tabs (Plans, Media, Songs, People). If you set a site or ANY permission to Viewer, those people can now access everything on the songs tab, the media tab, and the people tab. They can listen to and access any files and get to other people’s contact information. For this reason, we generally recommend you leave the site permission set to Scheduled Viewer unless you really want the person to access everything in all the other tabs.

From a song copyright standpoint and a people privacy standpoint, it’s usually not ideal to give this access to your regular volunteers. There is a way for you to change a master site setting so that Viewers can’t see the people page, but they will still be able to get to the song and media pages.

What strategy do you use in handling PCO permission levels?

Re-Post: What the Hatfields and McCoys Teach Us About Worship Wars

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

The Hatfield and McCoy families were at war with each other in the latter part of the 1800s, resulting in the death or imprisonment of dozens in their families and many more outside their families. At one point Kentucky and West Virginia almost went to war over the feud. In May of 2012 the History channel ran a three part miniseries on the feud, drawing record numbers of viewers.

Too often church members wage decades-long battles with each other over worship issues. We exchange angry and sometimes vengeful words with each other.

Not long into my first church job a long-time member marched into my office and pronounced firmly that she and 23 others all felt we should never do drama in the traditional service.

This church had three services and two styles and the arguments over worship style had been raging for almost 10 years by that time. Over the next eight years I got a first-hand taste of the Hatfields and McCoys worship style.

Now, looking back, I think of all the positive things that were overlooked because of the need to deal with conflict. The Hatfields and McCoys have showed us exactly what we will gain by fighting and arguing:

  1. Bitterness. In 2 Samuel 2 the armies of Israel and Judah were fighting each other and Abner, commander of Israel’s armies, said this to Joab, commander of Judah’s armies: “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” Joab then called off the pursuit of Israel.
  2. Self-righteous indignation. Worship wars are usually fought because one group claims the high moral ground over another group. Each group has it’s own standard of right and wrong and nothing can persuade them otherwise.
  3. Unhealthy pride. If your group “wins,” you can develop a very prideful spirit, and God has stern things to say about the proud. In Proverbs 16:18 God says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

These poisons will damage you and your church deeply. Instead, God calls us to demonstrate:

  1. Love. 1 Corinthians 13 says, “The greatest of these is love.” God’s currency is one of love, grace and forgiveness towards those who wrong you or disagree with you. Love brings more freedom than you could ever protect by being bitter and self-righteous.
  2. Humility. Christ gave us the ultimate picture of humility when he came as a child to save us. He actually had the high moral ground and he gave it up to save us. When he rose from the dead and proved he was the Christ, he did not flaunt it but gave credit to God the Father.

Philippians 2:3-11 points us to Christ’s model for our lives:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

P.S. The Hatfields and McCoys of today are very much at peace with each other, showing that even the staunchest of enemies can be reconciled.

How can you demonstrate more love and humility in your worship discussions?

Re-Post: Guest Post: How to Use Amps and Iso Cabs on Stage, Part 2

Throughout the month of April I am taking a break from writing in order to focus on other things.  As a result I am re-posting some of my most popular articles.

Kevin McPeakKevin McPeak is the Creative Director at EastLake Church in Chula Vista, California. He is a proponent of both tubes and digits.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmcpeak or find him on Facebook.  Kevin has kindly agreed to lend us some of his expertise in technical issues and will be posting from time to time.

Part 1 is available here.

Q: I play electric guitar and love my amp sound, but we donʼt use amps on stage because of stage volume. Is there some way I can use my amp so it does not impact stage volume?

Well, first off, letʼs identify the problem, because that will help us find a solution. The reasons that our mix engineer wants us to keep stage volume under control are many:

  • stage volume blurs front of house (FOH) mix clarity
  • stage volume creates ever-increasing demand for volume from stage monitors
  • stage volume leads to “hot spots” and “cold spots” where instruments are either too loud or too soft
  • stage volume dramatically limits the FOH engineerʼs ability to create a thoughtfully and musically designed mix.

So letʼs be clear: amps arenʼt the problem in and of themselves; the problem is that amps tend to get treated like personal monitors and turned up too loud. Furthermore, many amps donʼt sound their best without running at a decent volume. How the heck do we solve the problem?

Letʼs say that youʼve already got a combo amp – in other words, a single unit that has both the amplifier section and the speaker – that you love and you donʼt want to purchase an external cabinet or haul around something big. What can you do then?

In our case, we have an all-tube Mesa Boogie combo amp that our electric guitar 2 volunteers generally use. Although the amp can power an external cabinet, the amp already contains a perfectly matched built in 12” speaker, so we asked one of our volunteers to construct an iso cabinet for the amp.

This is what he made:

Iso Cube front

Iso Cube back

As you can see, itʼs effectively a four-sided cube. (For those of you trying to figure this out, a cube is a six-sided object with equally-sized sides. In the case of the iso cabinet above, we have a cube with no bottom and one side missing.

Okay, itʼs really not a cube because it doesn’t have equal sides. But I slept in Geometry class the day we talked about six-sided objects with unequally sized sides, so you will just have to go with it being called a “cube.”  If any of you would like to educate me as to the correct term for a six-sided object comprised of unequally sized sides, Iʼm happy to listen. If I can stay awake.)

You can see that the idea is to point the business end of the amp into the box. The top and interior walls are lined with sound baffling material and the floor takes care of itself by being carpeted. (If your stage floor is a hard, flat surface, you may want to throw a small rug in there.) This all works together to create a tremendous reduction in the sound output from the amp.

However, there is a catch in this case, and itʼs a very important one: this combo amp has an open-back cabinet.

Front side:

Mesa Boogie Amp frontBack side:

Mesa Boogie Amp back

As you can see, the back of the amp is open. (Thus the name, right?) Many guitarists prefer the tone produced by open-back amps. Open-back cabinets create a challenge because the back of the cabinet emits quite a lot of sound; putting an isolation box on the front of the amp only solves part of the problem of lowering stage volume.

In our case, we solved this problem by placing the amp off-stage, behind a thick curtain, and against a Tectum wall.  You could also create a matching iso box for the back side of the amp to limit the sound coming off the open-back side.  Make sure, however, that you allow sufficient airflow in and out of the amp because the amp will overheat and fail without airflow.

Have another technical question you would like Kevin to answer?  Post your question in the comments.