How many times do we gaze at photos of an amazing stage set or lighting show on our social media feeds? Cool right? How many times do we wish we could achieve the same thing? How many times do we wish we had that kind of budget? Or that kind of a room? Or a pastor who would let us do stuff like that?
While I’m fortunate to offer production leadership to the teams at Church on the Move, I do get to spend a lot of time working with other churches, speaking to groups and conferences, and doing events and concerts. Because of this, I get to see how a lot of churches use production in their services.
Understand that I love live production, and I love how technical elements can be used to help shape a specific, life-changing message. But here’s the deal: Even though we all have the ability to make something look really cool, have we considered if the look actually matches the tone, vibe, and sound coming from the stage? As much as I’d like to say yes, I’ve witnessed many times over that sometimes this IS NOT the case.
Is this familiar to anyone? The music, message, building, and attendees are quite conservative and traditional but the lighting and video production look like a page from a KISS show…with or without the flames, your choice. Sometimes it feels like a production element was added only because it COULD be done, not necessarily because it SHOULD be done.
Unfortunately, I can certainly be accused of this. Go big or go home, right? Well…wrong, actually. I dearly LOVE some of the events we’ve done and I make no apologies for them. They pushed me, they pushed our teams, they even pushed the limits of what was possible to do in church. But over the past few years, we’ve been trying to exercise another amazing production aspect:
Yep, restraint. What a concept. Don’t worry, I haven’t lost my mind, nor has Church on the Move changed what we believe. We still have the same values and still like to push the limits of what’s available to us. But from the production side, we’re doing it from a place of creative restraint. It’s actually harder than we thought—our set design takes a great deal more time, our sets have to last longer, our production elements have to be more versatile, and we have to put a lot more work into a service than we used to.
Some may think it’s easy to adopt this attitude as they’re operating on a small scale anyway. I say great! Embrace it! Perhaps your toil within defined boundaries and limitations is the very thing that may allow you to achieve something far more creative.
The next time you are thumbing around looking at the coolest stage or lighting design wishing you had something similar, or wondering how you can reproduce an arena show on your bar-gig budget, ask yourself if it would actually work for your particular audience. We’ve only achieved production greatness when the people occupying our seats are the ones being served best.
Consider this: Perhaps the coolest production moment is found in the most restrained production moment.