The Sacrifice of My Pride

sacrificeofmypride

My name is Martha Shafer and I volunteer on the weekends by leading a production team of about nine people at the Broadcast Campus of a seven-campus church. I serve twice a month for about two or three services in a weekend. In normal business hours I’m a middle school teacher. Those crazy hormonal lovable nuggets are just the balanced diet of crazy I need for preparing my heart for the weekend services–– mostly because they’ve taught me that it doesn’t matter how much I prepare or how confident I feel, I’m going to totally botch it by the end of the day.

In the world of church production, my screw-ups range from forgetting to set the marker for the beginning of the sermon (so the other campuses have a starting frame) to getting a nice friendly reminder from our speaking pastor, “Hey if you guys don’t start the countdown clock soon, I won’t ever stop,” Mid-service. From. Stage. [Insert a gif of me beating my head against the table]. Church tech leaders already have a reputation for nerdy perfectionism. Throw in a stressed teacher with crippling anxiety and you’ve got yourself a train wreck waiting to happen.

Lucky for me, God LOVES using broken people. It’s everywhere in His Word. Jesus came to rescue the sick, not the healthy (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31, Matthew 9:12). He dines with the thieving tax collectors (Mark 2) and lifts up the poor uneducated fishermen (Matthew 4). Paul BOASTS gladly in his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12) so that the power of Christ can be made known. In 1 Kings 17, God took away Elijah’s ability to provide and drove him into the wilderness, in a drought, to teach him dependence.

I try my best to prepare for every weekend. Arrive early (check). Meet with pastors and worship leaders (check). Write reminders to start recordings, set video markers, (check, check). I desperately want to make the service as distraction-free as possible. However, at some point I have to let it go and trust that God is going to move where He wants to move and no one (not even I) can stop that from happening. When I’m making mistakes or when my team is making mistakes, we’re now in perfect position for God to show His sovereignty.

On the flip side, the Bible is also full of instances of God shaming the strong (Genesis 11, 1 Corinthians 1:27). If I don’t start in humility, you better believe it’s coming because dependence on God is the goal. We can’t do it without Him. Recognizing that and embracing it, hands open to the sky, “Lord, I’m going to make mistakes today but I PRAISE You that You aren’t held back by my weaknesses. That You’ll show how powerful You are by moving in spite of my failures.” It gives me clear eyes to see the truth of my place before God.

Every week, before the service, a group of us pray that we would be less and God would be more–– that we wouldn’t obsess over our own individual pieces of serving. You’ve heard the prayer before, “Remind us that it’s not about the band, or the lights, or the video…” You’d think that the character traits of submissiveness and humility would get easier with time, but it’s a sacrifice of my pride every single week. In a position of leadership on the weekends, the best I can do is be honest about my faults and ask for prayer from the people I serve beside, praising God for those bold enough to encourage me in truth.

“The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.” – Judges 7:2-3

Let’s be honest. If I look at the facts, I want an Assyrian army… the one that never loses, always conquers, always wins. But if I look at the Bible, I see that the Assyrian army is no match for God, who wants us as dependent on Him as possible so there is no doubt who is the one that saves. I want everything to go perfectly, but at gut-check time, I want God to move mightily through me, and he’s only showing up if I’m ready and willing to depend on Him. I get to sacrifice my pride every week because I know what God can do through my weaknesses.

Rejection is God’s Protection

rejection

Rejection is God’s Protection.

I’ve heard my Senior Pastor say this phrase for years. But I never understood it for myself until recently.

I’m new to this whole writing thing. So, when I was asked to write my first article for CTL – a site that I deeply respect – I timidly accepted the challenge. I began to explore a multitude of technical tricks and tips – potential subject matter for my article – many that I wish had been shared with me early in my career.

But, instead of an article about turning knobs and pushing faders, this article will focus on what God is doing in my life as a technical leader, husband, and father.

Have you ever been charged with a project or had an idea that no one has ever had before? One that you believe could change the trajectory of the Church? (Insert sarcasm here, as well as a little verse by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.”)

And then, just like that, you’re removed from the project or have the idea shot down? Well, I have. And I can tell you that it hurts deeply and cause all kinds of reflection in your life.

I was pulled off a major project and it was a huge blow to my ego. The rejection revealed – and continues to reveal in some ways – that I think my ways are the best ways.

It came during a season when I didn’t feel as though I needed protection from anything, especially something that only required my time. But God, in His goodness, was protecting me from something that I could not see for myself. I had become busier than ever He intended me to be.

Looking back to our friend King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, we can see a truth that we as ‘creatives’ often forget. There are no new ideas! Our way is not always the best way. If everything has been done before, then we should take the opportunity to learn from others and share the load with others. Galatians 6:2 tells us that clearly.

This rejection, adding up to what was clearly God’s protection. has been life-changing for my family and me. I’ve learned to work harder and smarter, not longer, which means I’m home much more with my wife and three kids. My laptop rarely makes it home with me these days. And unless they’re urgent, work emails and texts go unanswered until the next day. God protected me from my own nature: working until I fall over, a trait that I see in most technical folks.

I’ve also heard my pastor say that our personal ministry should be a reflection of our personal lives. It should overflow from what’s happening at home. If our home lives are out of balance and unhealthy, then I would suggest that it’s impossible to have a thriving ministry or at least one that reflects the character of God.

So, how do you deal with rejection?

  • I think it is okay to be upset, at least for a short season. Rejection hurts and you may need some time to process the rejection.
  • Be honest with your leadership about the new direction your team or organization is moving in and try to understand their vision with an open heart and mind. Hopefully they will appreciate your honest feedback. Choose to trust them.
  • Be honest with yourself and try to see where God may be protecting you, maybe with your time, resources, or relationships.
  • Have a grateful attitude for all that the Lord has done for you as we are reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

timcainTim Cain is the Production Manger at the Fort Mill, SC campus of Forest Hill Church based out of Charlotte, NC. He has worked in live production for the past 10 years after an eight-year career as a touring musician. He has been married to his wife Jenny for 10 years and has three children. Tim can be reached at tim.cain@foresthill.org.

Where Is Your Worship?

whereisyourworship

Everyone who has anything to do with church ministry world will say we hold this truth to be self-evident: Sunday is coming. Ok, Saturday for you Adventists out there. Regardless of your actual day of worship, the fact remains that there is an endless list of details, big and small, that needs addressing every week, and no one knows this more than a church tech team. Sunday is coming. Again. Rinse and repeat.

There are input lists, patch sheets, sermon notes (and the inevitable last-minute changes to said sermon notes), lighting cues, a new Crowder song with a bouzouki part– something you didn’t even know was an instrument, much less what it sounds like– a video to edit (wait, are we even allowed to use this clip?), and that’s all before we even talk about the double ear infection your daughter brought home from daycare and the two-day trip your wife has to take with her co-worker, and…

As funny as the “headless chicken” picture can be, it doesn’t make a very pretty picture of leadership. Yes, you read that correctly: leadership. You may be thinking that leadership is for someone else. Leadership is the luxury of churches with a big staff and the budget to match, right? You can’t even recruit a volunteer to help set up a mic for this Tuesday’s handbell choir alumni luncheon.

“No, I’m not a leader. Not really. Am I?”

You are a Worship Leader

That may sound strange to a person used to coming in through a door that no one else uses at a time when no one in their right mind should be up, dressed in all black, trying not to be noticed. In fact, you have probably been told something along the lines of, “You’ll know you’re doing a great job when no one notices you.” And sometimes, you may have even walked away enjoying the confidence of a job well done while preserving your anonymity. However, being invisible does not mean being insignificant. You need to understand that you are a worship leader. How can you be a worship leader? Isn’t the worship leader the person on stage with the microphone? Yes. And so are you. We all know it doesn’t matter what the person with the mic says or does if it’s not communicated or translated well by the crew pressing the buttons and making the technical decisions.

Our role in tech world is to help prepare and facilitate an environment for the people of God to experience the presence of God through the praises of God. The first facilitators we know about are in the Old Testament. Aaron was the very first high priest called from the tribe of Levi to serve Israel. Exodus 28 goes into great detail on what he is to wear, when he is to wear it, and why. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t say, “Wear all black.”)

The high priest’s job was to be God’s instrument to connect to the people. This is such an essential part of worship for the Israelites that even details involving underwear choices are carefully described. (No – we are not going there.) Read more

Wired For Community

It was a long span of twenty months. I went from carrying details for the weekend services, events, leading staff and volunteers to sitting in meetings with construction trades, reading blueprints and helping make decisions that we would live with for a while. Yep, we were in construction mode.

The last few months leading up to the first service in the new room were pretty intense for me as a church technical leader. Our church opened a new auditorium in the first part of December and I had the opportunity to be very involved in many aspects of the project. For months leading up to the opening, the deeper into the project and the closer we got to open the new auditorium, the further my head was down and focused. From a details standpoint, that is exactly what the project needed to finish on time and on budget. All of this was happening just a few weeks before Christmas.

During the final phases of construction and install, I was careful to protect time with my family when I was not working. But that was as far as it went. And I was working a lot. Now that my workload has begun to lighten and I’ve had a chance to catch my breath, I am realizing that I isolated myself from everyone else. I withdrew from talking, texting, and even chatting on Twitter with my friends and peers. While this was necessary for me to focus on my job and family, I missed my friends. I missed the community of peers that I had around me. Maybe you can relate.

Since that realization I started texting, calling, and connecting with those people with who I share life. My heart is starting to feel rejuvenated. I am back in community. It is just what I need, what I am wired for.

God wired us for community. We have a God-created desire to share life and be connected with others. Having that support, especially in ministry, is vital. You would think that I would understand that by now- that I would make staying connected a priority, even when I am in crazy busy seasons of life. I wish that I had taken advantage of that support during the building project, but I didn’t.

The ministry that I was called to was causing me to feel isolated. But, I allowed it to happen. I had plenty of tasks to accomplish and details to manage. However, just like my spiritual growth, community involvement is my responsibility. Reaching out and meeting new people and maintaining relationships are hard to juggle in certain seasons of our life. You have to choose to do it. Be purposeful about doing life with others

Thankfully we are no longer constrained by proximity and can text and use social apps like Twitter and Facebook to achieve that connection. Church Technical Leaders is built on community. I want to encourage you to jump in and find those folks that can be there to support you. Our online community can connect you with church techs from around the country and around the world. The resources and articles available at churchtechleaders.org are written by members of the Church Technical Leaders community. These writers are sharing what God is showing them as they lead in their churches.

If God is stirring you to get connected even deeper, let us help you connect with other church technical leaders. You are not crazy for serving God the way you do. You are not alone; there are lots of folks doing what you do and understand your world. God is using you to make an impact in His kingdom and He lets us serve Him together.

Bio Paragraph: Bill Swaringim serves as president of the Church Technical Leaders organization as well as serves on staff at The Crossing in St. Louis, MO as the TechArts Director. You can reach Bill via email at bill@churchtechleaders.org or find him on twitter.com/billswaringim
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3 Questions and 3 Rules for Creative Critique

There are a ton of churches and creative organizations that I know and have worked with who have NO process of evaluation. They just do what they do and hope that it works. And those who actually do have some sort of evaluation process tend to shortcut or sidestep honest and helpful critique the following ways:

• Evaluating based on how they feel things went. They avoid honest and difficult feedback.

• Measuring the wrong things.

• Not having the right people around the circle. They simply listen to the loudest voice in the room.

• Failure to follow up and have action steps for improvement.

• Miss the essential balance of both evaluation and celebration.

We need to grow and get better at how and what we create. We can’t afford to offer God and those we work with anything less than our best. So, why wouldn’t we submit ourselves to a healthy process of celebration, evaluation, and critique?

At Soul City Church, I am the primary communicator and responsible for our Creative Team and process. Every Monday our team meets to look back at the gathering we just had and look ahead to the next couple of gatherings. We have three basic rules and ask three simple questions when it comes to our creative critique.

Our rules:

1. Come ready. We expect each team member to take notes during our gathering, pay attention to more than their part, etc.

2. Speak up. If you are quiet, we don’t grow.

3. Speak the truth in love. Be brutally honest without being totally brutal.

Our questions:

1. Where did we see God move?

We share stories from our volunteers or from our perspectives. Where did you tangibly sense the presence and movement of God? How were you personally moved by God?

2. What do we need to celebrate and improve on?

What worked? Where were we at our best? Who needs to be celebrated and encouraged?! We actually write those people notes of encouragement and thanks.

3. What didn’t work, and why?

Where/what did we miss? What can we improve? Who’s going to take ownership and responsibility to grow us in that area? What was worth the risk, but lacked the payoff?

I am always surprised at the level of feedback and growth that can come from such simple questions and when the right people in the room give honest and helpful critique and evaluation. When we lay our pride down and are committed to our growth and development, we hold our roles as artists and servants in the same way.

When we know what we are called to accomplish, it’s liberating to actually hold ourselves to it.

Jarrett grew up in the East Bay of San Francisco. He came to faith at a young age, but it wouldn’t be until college that he would intentionally start following Jesus.
He met Jeanne while on a week long trip to Chicago and never quite recovered. After dating a few years, they were married and began working at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.
Jarrett worked at Willow for 12 years as a teaching pastor for AXIS before moving to Atlanta to work with North Point Church. While there, Jarrett worked as the singles pastor and as leader and communicator for 7|22. He’s the author of The Deity Formerly Known as God as well as the upcoming title Four Small Words.
Jarrett is known for his humor and honesty in his teaching, and he is a creative leader with a pastor’s heart. Without a doubt his greatest joy is his relationship with Jeanne, who continues to fascinate him, as well as their two beautiful children, Elijah (whom Jarrett still dresses) and Gigi (self-proclaimed diva of the house).
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Doubting Your Calling as a Creative

I had a friend I used to work with at Willow Creek who is one of the most brilliant, prolific, and creative people I know. Together we created some of the most moving and memorable moments I’ve had in church. It was groundbreaking, hilarious stuff. Truly creative work!

But every couple of weeks, it would happen. Like a storm cloud on the horizon, my friend would begin to question everything he was doing. While he loved our church, the artist in him would whisper into his ear:

“Why are you doing this here? This isn’t art; this is work. Every weekend you have to pump something out and put it in front of people who either won’t get it or won’t remember it. You are an artist. This isn’t art.”

He wrestled with the fact that he not only had to come up with something new every weekend, but that his work would be evaluated every Monday. His “art” had to “work.”

By its nature, creativity tends to resist utility. When you do something as divine as creating something from nothing, the last thing you want to hear is that it went too long, or it wasn’t funny, or the dog in the tiny tuxedo walking down the aisle was a little much.

Isn’t it enough that we created something? Why does it have to be evaluated? No one ever evaluated Jesus’ sermons!

“Hey Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount was great this morning. Really inspired stuff. But if I’m being honest, it was a little long. Our kids ministry ran out of crafts and snacks before you even got to the part about divorce. Speaking of which, were there any main points? I don’t remember any. You might want to think that through for the 11 a.m. service. Also, the audio was a little rough; people in the back had a hard time hearing. I noticed a couple of people getting disengaged and doodling on their iParchments.”

While we may initially resist or avoid it, healthy critique and honest evaluation are some of the best gifts you can give to the people you serve and to your own creative development. Critique and evaluation are essential to the creative process. They let us know if we are accomplishing the mission of our organization. They force us to face the fact that there is room to grow and improve. And they put us in a posture of submission and serving.

We actually don’t create for ourselves; we create for God and for others.

Jarrett grew up in the East Bay of San Francisco. He came to faith at a young age, but it wouldn’t be until college that he would intentionally start following Jesus.
He met Jeanne while on a week long trip to Chicago and never quite recovered. After dating a few years, they were married and began working at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill.
Jarrett worked at Willow for 12 years as a teaching pastor for AXIS before moving to Atlanta to work with North Point Church. While there, Jarrett worked as the singles pastor and as leader and communicator for 7|22. He’s the author of The Deity Formerly Known as God as well as the upcoming title Four Small Words.
Jarrett is known for his humor and honesty in his teaching, and he is a creative leader with a pastor’s heart. Without a doubt his greatest joy is his relationship with Jeanne, who continues to fascinate him, as well as their two beautiful children, Elijah (whom Jarrett still dresses) and Gigi (self-proclaimed diva of the house).