The Balancing Act — People vs. Projects
For more than a year now our battle cry throughout our worship department has been, “People over projects!” We came to the realization that in many ways we were asking our teams to pour themselves out for our cause more than we were pouring back into them.
The temptation to “use” the people on your team to meet the expectations of what we are to deliver for a weekend product can be hard to resist. Eventually, we can burn out faithful volunteers who just wanted to lend their talents to their church. But we love excellence!
There’s nothing wrong with the pursuit of excellence. We just need to love people more than the services we’re creating. Jesus put it in this order: God > Others > You. (See Matthew 22:37–39.) Essentially, focusing on our art equates to focusing on ourselves.
This philosophy was put to the test over the past few months as we prepared for our Seeds Conference, a three day event where our church’s creativity and excellence is put on display.
In the past we’ve put in more than 100 hours of rehearsal, along with several weeks of preproduction. And guess what? There were weekends that still needed to be created and executed in the meantime.
We needed a plan this year that wouldn’t ask too much of our volunteers (and of ourselves, honestly). How could we get all of this done and make sure our teams feel as though we loved them more than the labor and talent they were lending us?
Here are a few things we did to send the signal to our team members that they were more important to us than our art:
We set deadlines and kept them! Okay, we weren’t perfect here, but we did better than we have in the past. As artists we always want the freedom to change things right up until the last minute, but this puts undue pressure on the teams that have to pull off those last minute ideas. We set deadlines for sets and personnel as far in advance as possible so that people could set their work and family schedules without fear of change.
We set reasonable goals. Every song wasn’t going to be an epic reconstruction. This meant less time in preproduction and less time in rehearsal. Before we started the musical construction of the conference our lead pastor Whit George encouraged us to do music we’d typically do in a weekend service. Our teams didn’t have to learn a pile of new songs or stress over new arrangements of songs they already knew by heart. Yes, we did a few out-of-the-box musical moments, but allowing everything else to feel familiar minimized the tension for our teams.
We set the focus on Jesus. Remember Matthew 22? God first! Every song, every moment, every arrangement was injected with the mission of our church: introducing people to the real Jesus. The musicians on stage must be convinced that Jesus is the only one who should be glorified, that He is the reason we are even doing this in the first place. As it became more about Jesus it became less about being cool or innovative.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
After all that work we felt a sense of refreshing due to the fact that we had put more of our focus on Christ than on our art.
We know that pushing our art forward will always have a cost. How we manage that cost is a tension we’ll continue to wrestle with into the future. But at the very least, we will still be making progress if we remember that people are God’s most precious commodity…not the project.