By Duncan Earley –
Production in a church context can often be misunderstood and I have seen it play out in a couple of unhelpful ways. Whether, it is overdone and breeds a culture of a ‘show’; or is neglected and an opportunity to leverage creativity gets missed.
Here are six do’s and don’t that I have found useful, and will hopefully be helpful to anyone working in a production context in your church.
1. Do see the whole
Compartmentalising is the enemy. We often separate our AV from our lighting from our sound etc. We see them as isolated systems and often we are stronger in some compared to others. Here’s the problem with that: the people in your gatherings don’t isolate. To them, it is one experience with all the elements coming together into one mosaic perspective. I lead production at our church, I have one team. Yes, there different departments and areas of production (AV, lights, sound, camera, video, stage management) but I am always communicating that we are one team, this helps embed this ‘one experience’ philosophy.
2. Don’t settle
Practically production costs. Generally it is one of the largest departmental budgets within a church structure. It’s equipment heavy and when it comes to gear, very often you get what you pay for.
Don’t settle in two ways:
– Don’t settle for what you currently have
Whether that means adding some gear or manpower, always be thinking how your production can grow in excellence. I know budget often gets in the way of this, we would all love a blank cheque to make it happen but what I have found is that there are often small changes (for example an extra light here or there) that can drastically improve what someone coming into your gathering experiences.
– Don’t settle in how you are using your current gear
Often a lighting rig can be setup in innumerable ways that are better than what you have setup right now. Don’t be afraid to play around with different arrangements, redistribute gear in other areas. You will be amazed how you can level up without it costing you anything.
3. Do Evaluate
Production in most church contexts is either majority or completely volunteer-run. This means we often attempt or expect the impossible: Volunteer-non-professionals to execute professional grade production.
Here’s what I have learnt: it is possible to get there or at least get incredibly close to it, but it can never be expected. There is nothing worse for a volunteer than being pressurized to be professional for excellence sake, however a culture can be developed where we strive for excellence and volunteers are so encouraged that they outperform the level seen as ‘possible’.
This means never coming down on volunteers for mistakes, but rather evaluating mistakes with them and coming up with ways for that mistake not to happen again. My production team knows: we do make mistakes, but never the same mistake twice. Does that always happen? Sometimes no, but by having this as our goal I have seen volunteers level up to professional grade production when it just shouldn’t have been possible.
5. Don’t distract
Every gathering has a message, not just limited to what is preached. Through the music, prayer and the Word, God is speaking and this is where production cannot get in the way of that. It is an old cliché, but often the best production happens when it goes unnoticed.
5. Do add
Similar to the previous point, our goal has to be to add to the message God is communicating. How can we tell the story better? Package what is happening in the most relatable way to most people possible.
6. Don’t forget the point
God has been taking our production through an amazing process where we see what we do in production as Worship and not simply pushing buttons and moving faders. The point of production is to serve the church and the mission of God. As practical as it is, if this is not the focus we will fall into the trap of this becoming a task and not the way we can help people meet and experience God. I left this for last because honestly, this is the most important aspect of production within a church. If we get this wrong we have missed the point and are off track and it is my prayer that God would lovingly lead us back into right focus.
I believe God has called us to a life of excellence, individually and as His church; so in production, why not? He has called us to a life of God-focus; so in production, why not?