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So you want to work at a church

help_wanted1Hello, readers… I know it has been a while since I posted ANYthing. Let’s not make this awkward, I’ll just get to what’s on my mind today.

Almost every Monday that I can remember for many years, I have received an email from churchstaffing.com with the latest church media/creative/technical job opportunities. Early on, as well as a couple of times since, it was a great resource for finding new jobs. These days, I remain subscribed to the emails, but now it’s more about curiosity; It never fails to amaze me how churches will package their media/production needs into job posts and the titles they give these jobs.

After working for three different churches, I look at these job posts much differently than I did years ago. I realize now that when I was actively looking for a job, I was really just looking for a few buzz words that pertained to my particular set of skills. I figured if I could just get an interview that I could play-up what I excelled at, show potential in areas in where I could learn and grow, and we could work out the rest of the details when a job offer was made. I know now that this was pretty short sighted. If I were to interview for a church job today, I would ask A LOT more questions about many more topics than just the job itself. Here are a few pointers on navigating the job search and interview process.

Pray. Duh. Don’t ever go about looking for a job within the church without seeking God… perhaps like you never have before.

Read the WHOLE job post. And then, read it again. And then again. The details are necessary. All of them. Look at what the ad says AND what it doesn’t say. When you find a lack of information in the post or the full job description itself, make sure that those items become good questions if things move forward. It is generally understood that the interviewee is on the hot seat in these situations; most people fail to realize that you are interviewing them too. They will have their questions, you should have plenty to ask them as well.

Research the church. You can usually find out most of what you need to get started by visiting the church’s website. Look through it thoroughly. Watch a few previous services on video. See what they post about in various social media platforms. A look into these areas will tell you what is most important to any organization. No matter how good a job posting may look, you need to know if you can fit into the church culture.

New position or replacement? This is a big deal either way. If the position is a new job classification for a church, you would be coming in to a very unique situation and you should weigh ALL of the pros and cons and ask a lot of questions about what would be expected of you. Similarly, in a situation where you would be replacing someone, you need to ask very detailed questions about the job. While a church is not likely to tell you all of the details of your predecessor’s departure, you still have a responsibility to yourself to get an understanding of the dynamics of what you could be walking into.

Job vs. Calling. This post is specifically for those who are looking to enter church work in the area(s) of technical production and/or media creation. I have found that these types of positions are often viewed as jobs and not callings. Aren’t they the same? In my opinion, no. I believe that any job classification at a church is ministry, even if your work is primarily behind the scenes. You are not just a monkey pushing buttons; this is a calling… and one that shouldn’t be entered into lightly by the church or the candidate. Be very weary of a job that centers so much on the tasks and not the holistic picture of ministry. Be sure to ask about what kinds of ways that you, as a staff member, will be encouraged and built up spiritually as well as opportunities to learn more about your craft.

Ask yourself good questions. Can i work there? Can I sit under the pastor’s teaching? Is it worth packing up my family and moving for this job? Dialog with yourself and with your spouse is critical. Don’t ever get so caught up in the emotions of what may seem like your dream job and leave out the details that would get you there.

Do the math. Believe it or not, this has NOTHING to do with the proposed salary or benefits. This has to do with the totality of the work that would be expected from you versus your capacity to complete it all. While much of a job description might sound very appealing to you, consider all that you would need to do on a weekly basis. How many hours will it typically take? Would there be some kind of compensation for extra hours/days worked? How often are you working alone versus how often would you be working with a team? Be sure to weigh in on your own expectations of a work week, keeping in mind that there are seasons in church work that can be very demanding (Not just Christmas and Easter). A job with a great church can be wonderful, but don’t ever lose sight of having the right margin for family and personal time as well. Case in point:

A few months ago, I came across a posting for a “Media Director” at a church just outside of Seattle, Washington. Between the job title and most of what was listed as the desired experience and job functions, I would have jumped at the opportunity a few years ago. Then I started doing the math. Here are the litany of duties (directly from the posting):

  • Oversee the recruitment and training of the Media Team volunteers and staff and our entire sound, video, and lighting experience for Sunday mornings and throughout the week so that our people can consistently encounter God deeply without distractions
  • Manage/oversee all church worship experiences, events, and ministries
  • Create professional technical presentations for all in-house and external presentations

…and the required experience:

  • Proficient in all aspects of live sound reinforcement
  • Full knowledge of live production, including video, audio, lighting, multi-media and staging
  • Minimum 3 years of troubleshooting technical equipment and overseeing preventative maintenance
  • Knowledge and ability to operate technical gear including video switcher, cameras, recording gear and digital recording equipment
  • Minimum 3 years leading and supervising a production team to include staff and volunteers
  • Ability to operate various platforms of large analog and digital consoles, including audio mixing
  • MacOSX, Pro-Tools, MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite, Final Cut Pro, Pro-Presenter, and general computer skills
  • Ability to troubleshoot audio system
  • Excellent organizational skills, written, verbal, and interpersonal communication skills
  • Ability to multitask and manage projects; delegating tasks to others and meeting deadlines
  • Commitment to excellence
  • Follower of Jesus Christ, reflecting maturity in faith
  • Strong teaching/training skills with the ability to communicate technical terms into non-technical language

Now, you couple this list with a visit to the church’s website where you will discover that this is a church with traditional and contemporary services; this means that this person would have all of the duties listed above in what amounts to two different congregations. Also, notice how far down the list you have to go before you hit “Follower of Jesus”. Do the math. While I am not a Human Resources expert, I would access that this single job posting would be better covered by no less than three different people. Simply put: This is an incredibly unrealistic hire. I actually printed out the post to keep because I couldn’t quite believe all that they were asking for. My guess is that even if they could find someone to take on this daunting request, they would be looking for a replacement inside of two years. This person will burn out and his/her marriage and kids will pay a big price.

Churches have creative and technical needs but don’t often have big budgets; I understand that. But that doesn’t mean that you have to take a vow of poverty (in salary AND time) to work there. This is not all that needs to be said on this topic and I may address it again in the future. My hope is to help potential candidates really think through the process and make good decisions.

Anything you would add to this list?

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Dear Church, Can We Please Stop Calling it an “Experience”?

WorshipWhile I have no way of going back to discover when church services began being called “experiences”, I can start a lobby suggesting that we stop calling them experiences.

The more that I’ve thought about this the more I am convinced that we are incapable of creating an experience for one simple reason: Experiences are far too subjective for anyone to take credit for manufacturing them.

  • You and I could go on a roller coaster together and have completely different experiences.
  • We could sit and watch the same movie and have different experiences.
  • We could witness the same car accident and yet give differing reports to a police officer.

For good or for bad, we all experience things differently. Why would our time together in a church service not fit that category?

I think we are in great danger of missing something when we can boil our services down to a compiled list of things that we hope will elicit a response from those in attendance, as if we can contrive that response on our own. I believe that these people aren’t looking for just another experience, they are hurting, broken, and looking for an encounter with something bigger than themselves… something tangible that offers them some hope for all that they are dealing with.

If we’re doing nothing more than sawing through a linear pile of songs, sermons and other elements, supposing that we can make people feel or react a certain way, we are missing the real awe and wonder that God offers. We can program the service elements, but not the response. We can, however, intentionally build atmospheres and environments where people can encounter God at their own pace and in their own way, unforced. We cannot assume that everyone showing up is just going to play along with whatever we’ve drawn up.

Our time in church can be a thrill ride. It can be uniquely inspiring and entertaining. It can be gut wrenching. It can be whatever God wants it to be. We should be incredibly prayerful and intentional about what we plan, program, and execute, but we should always leave margin for people to flow in and out of them.

I’m always up for discussion on topics like this; drop your thoughts in the comments and let’s keep the conversation going.

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Easter 2014 – Video Round Up

This Easter was a little odd for me in that it’s the first time in 8 years that I wasn’t working for a church. I was, however, keeping an eye on social media and watching what was being posted in the way of video for Good Friday and Easter services. Here are a few that I found particularly amazing. I hope that they inspire others to produce some great pieces for next year.

This Man Named Jesus

Produced for The Meeting House, Ontario, Canada

Director: Scott Trapasso @scottytrapasso
Producers: Joss Monzon @jossmonzon
Sandra Neufeld @sandraneufeld, Scott Trapasso
Script: Tom Loewen @lowelife
Director of Photography: Jesse Hunt @jessedhunt
Behind The Scenes: Graham Pulsen @gwpaulsen
Musical Score: Jeremy Bundy @puremindstudios
Voice Over: Tom Loewen @lowelife
Lighting / Grip: Paul Terpstra, Chris VanDijk, Joel Powley @joeladampowley Steve Kanaris, Josh Ruser @joshruser
Photography: Erin Trapasso @ebakerphotography
Make Up: Jessah Young and Shannon Roberts
Actors: Diego Lopez, Sebastian Lopez, Max White, Lisa Ball, Amanda Miles, Joss Monzon
(Another video from this series HERE, and a cool look behind the scenes HERE)

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Death to Life

Produced for Conroe Community Church, Conroe, Texas

This was a cool collaboration between Minister of Media Arts, Colton Holmes (@coltonmace) and Worship Pastor, Lance Dockery, with a little help on the second camera by Brooke Davis. (Another piece for Good Friday HERE)

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Two Kings

Produced for Christ’s Church of the Valley, Peoria, Arizona

Project Lead – Kris Bargen @krisbargen (Pre-production, DP, Editor)
Producer / Director – Cameron Smith @cameron987
Script & Underscore – Michael Olson @1michaelolson
Post Production – Nick Armenta @narmenta (Color Grade)
Actor – Jonathan King (Found him by posting a Casting Call on a Facebook Group called “Arizona Film”)
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What I love about each of these pieces is such wonderful differences in conveying the Gospel message as well as what great media can come from teams large and small. A good, well executed plan can make for such wonderfully engaging video.

Did you produce something for your church’s Easter or Good Friday services? Post a link in the comments so others can can see.

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Church Video Announcements; a Love/Hate Relationship

VA

I like church video announcements because I see them as a great way to communicate things in a way that someone standing at a podium reading the bulletin can’t.

I hate church video announcements because they are often viewed or esteemed to be doing something that they’re incapable of doing. Not to mention that they seem to have become the equivalent of 1990s church bulletin clip-art; every church seems to be doing them and not very well.

Some ramblings:

You have to have a real strategy. You can’t just take everything from the bulletin and make it a video thing. Map out what is really deserving of the real estate that is available. If doing video announcements is a goal for your church, start figuring out your strategy long before you start producing them.

Not just the WHAT, but the WHY. If all you do is spew dates and times, people won’t remember or act on anything. Give them reasons to get involved by telling why the church is offering or doing something.

There is a cost. Just because you have someone on staff putting the video together doesn’t mean that it’s free. It takes time to arrange the shoot, schedule the ‘talent’, shoot the segments, edit (and often re-dit), render and export the video… Don’t ever underestimate the value of these tasks.

Go all the way. If all you do is move that same dry, talking-head from the podium to a video screen, what have you really gained? Make things more appealing by being more visual. Don’t just talk about the up coming mission trip, show some pictures or video from the last one.

Video vs. Human. This seems to be something that very few churches think about; even if you do video announcements, some things are going to be received much better when they come from a real human on stage. For example, don’t waste valuable video-time each week by doing the same visitor card instructions. Leave this to a pastor or other staff who is standing in front of these people and can make a visitor feel much more welcome and at ease than a video screen ever will.

Know your audience. Will each segment of the announcements affect a majority of the people in the seats? If not, then it’s likely not worth the real estate. I was once asked to do an announcement that would have affected a segment, of a segment, of a segment (literally) of people that would be in attendance. After pointing that out to the requestor, he understood why other things would have a higher priority.

Go dark. We’re talking about video announcements, no one will die if they don’t happen every once in a while. Nothing will frustrate a video guy more than having to manufacture a 3 minute video about nothing. In the life of every church, there are some slower times, and that’s OK. When VAs are a part of the regular diet, people will tune them out. If you don’t have 2-3 items worth really talking about, go without.

Go beyond the calendar. Don’t always make them about calendar items; Shoot some video of your big events and then take some time in the VAs with a highlight package to celebrate something that the church has just done or accomplished.

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So, I’m curious… If your church does video announcements, why do you do them? Has the “why” ever been established? Chime in!

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Church IMAG Directors – You Are A Worship Leader

switcher

To: Church IMAG Video Directors

Whether you realize it or not, you are a worship leader.

But, I have no musical ability and I don’t even sing in the shower for fear that some one might accidentally hear me and claw their ears off so that they never have to hear me again!

It doesn’t matter. Get it through your head right now: YOU ARE A WORSHIP LEADER

Your instrument is a switcher and your song is a clear and passionate voice to your camera operators, lyrics operator, and anyone else on the line while you direct.

And you share the same environment as the guys with guitars and microphones.

While you may have been hired based on your technical abilities, you are now a part of helping to build atmospheres and environments where people come to encounter the power and presence of a Holy God. Learn to lean into that. Go into any service with the mindset that your contribution should virtually disappear as it blends with great lighting, sound and gifted musicians and singers.

What you are doing is so much more than any of the technical aspects of the work, it is real leadership. If this is the first time that you have even thought about this line of thinking, please take a moment and consider these words:

  • Every cut or dissolve should enhance the feel of the room. Know when to hit the gas to help build energy, but also know when to go very subtle so as not to distract from a quiet moment.
  • Have a good knowledge of the music – musical solos shouldn’t surprise you. Show more singers when there is singing and more instruments when there are solos or musical breaks.
  • Be proactive – be constantly aware of what’s coming next so that your team is prepared for it and not chasing things as (or after) they happen.
  • Be vocal – people can’t read your mind; ask for things clearly and thank your people constantly. Your words are powerful.
  • Master the transitions – how you navigate through the moments between the big pieces can be such a great help to the smooth flow of the service.
  • Remind everyone on your team regularly that even though their roles happen behind the scenes, their contributions are visible out in the open where everyone can see. Seek excellence and invisibility.
  • Be the calming voice when things get chaotic – even when your team is completely prepared, things can go wrong. Always be at the ready to keep things calm and  in order as solutions are sought.
  • Your “credit” will often be silence – your main goal should be that no one in attendance even recognized the balance between stage and screen. Be content with knowing you and your team did your best.

Don’t ever minimize your work into anything less than important. You play a vital part in the success of any service or special event. Do all that you can to help lead your congregation into meaningful times of worship.

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Stewardship – The Red Line

Red_LineIn this time of financial instability, much has been made about good stewardship when it comes to our money and other resources. What about our most important resource, people?

Money, tools, time… these are all diminishing resources; we always wish that we had more and are constantly trying to figure out how to make best use of what we have; that is the most simple form of good stewardship. What bothers me, especially when it comes to church creatives and media-types, is that very few of them seem to be properly stewarded.

One church that I worked at had an associate pastor who, when he would walk through the creative department, would refer to us as, “the one department that actually has to do things”. While that was a long-running joke with him, at one point it struck me how much truth there was in the statement. It seemed that most of the other staff members came and went with little stress while those of us preparing for the weekend or the next big event were often burning the midnight oil for days on end. I network with a lot of church media producers across the country and found that this is a situation repeated in countless other churches as well. We are constantly at the red line.

red line; noun – a safety limit, as marked on a gauge.

Do you live on 100% of your income? If you have any amount of wisdom at all, you know that you are much better off staying shy of the red line and living on about 80% of what you earn. That way, you will have some margin for emergencies and to be generous.

If you look at the RPM gauge in your car, it shows you a red line that indicates the point at which, if pushed, you will put your engine (and your life for that matter) in danger. No one in their right mind ever pushes their vehicle to that point, unless you’re in a Bruce Willis movie.

Why should our best resource, our people, be any different?

What is the actual capacity of your team? I believe that one of a leader’s greatest tasks is to constantly evaluate the full capacity of his or her team and then pull back some. Have a frank conversation with your people and make a genuine determination on what that red line looks like for the current team and stay on the healthy side of it. This way, much like money, we maintain some margin for the big dates and busy times. A leader should have a true finger on the pulse of what the team is doing at any given time and be able to step in and change the speed in order to maintain the general health of the group and its individuals.

Anything, or anyone, constantly pushed to the limit will break down. And the saddest part is when we act naive and surprised when it happens.

After many years in ministry work I’m well aware of the busy seasons; they are what they are and will always be. The problem that I have is knowing so many incredibly gifted and talented people who used to work at churches, but have now moved on to other things because no one took the time to properly steward their people and they burned out.

I know that this post might not win me any popularity points with a lot of Church leadership, but I feel like something needs to be said. If you think that I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill, check with the HR department of a church trying to hire a video producer or graphic artist; they are likely having a hard time finding someone to take the job.

For me, it comes down to one question; do you want the best church media (video, graphics, website)? Keep your team on ‘this side’ of the red line and you’ll get it.

Vroom-vroom.

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Minutes and Moments

Alarm_ClockA minute will expire – A moment can live in your heart and mind for the rest of your life.

Minutes are largely unremarkable and not necessarily memorable.

A moment is an opportunity; a bracketed collection of intentional minutes.

We can be slaves to the minutes… we need to master the moments.

While it may be difficult to seize an entire day, we can look for the opportunities to seize the right moments

  • To listen
  • To learn
  • To teach
  • To wait
  • To watch

We all have moments we wish we could have back; don’t miss the ones available to you today.

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