The Long & Winding Road
When you look at something successful - a business, a church, a band, whatever - from the outside it can be easy to only see the finished product and never know just how much work went into getting that something to the place that you see now in front of you. Where we are now as a church has been the result of years of work, study, and intense evaluation. We’re not perfect, but I feel really good about the place that we’re at. We’ve successfully created a culture of fluidity at our church where we’re comfortable with constant change. It keeps us fresh and it keeps our environments interesting and engaging. The journey to this point has been a long one and for some time now I’ve wanted to blog about it in the hopes that our journey would be of some inspiration to anyone else out there going through the same thing!
Before I begin it needs to be said that we wouldn’t be where we are as church without the people that came before us. None of this “old school” footage is intended to mock or laugh at any of the people who have served here over the years. I merely post it to show the process and the journey of change.
1987 - 2002
This is what our church was like before we made the decision to change things up. Basically, we were on autopilot. We’d show up to church every weekend with no real plan other than to follow the same format we’d been using for 15 years. We didn’t teach in series, it was just everybody show up and do what you do and then go home.
In the fall of 2003, my dad and I visited Fellowship Church in Dallas and were blown away. I don’t think either one of us ever thought church could be anything other than the same old same old. When we came back we made some changes. We adjusted our stage lighting and darkened the house lights during worship (I know, I know, we were CRAZY!!! The next thing you know we’ll be running with scissors!). We relaxed our dress code on the stage just a little. I’m not sure what we were thinking having everyone wear black - it looks like we’re all headed to a funeral!
At this point, our worship & audio department was still separated from our media department and there wasn’t much coordination between the two. We gave some much needed visual polish to the service by adding some pre-service slides, a service countdown, a worship guide, and a few dramas here and there but we were a long way off from where we would eventually end up.
After the big changes in 2003 we spent the next two years pretty much on cruise control. Honestly, I thought that we had made all the changes we were gonna make as a church but in the summer of 2005 my dad surprised me by making some pretty big organizational shifts within the church. He hired a new worship pastor in Andy Chrisman and new audio/production guy in Andrew Stone and created a new department that he wanted me to head up called Performing Arts. I was thrilled. For the first time the visual artists, musicians, and production people were all under the same roof, so to speak, and this really set the wheels of change in motion.
If you look closely at the videos you’ll notice the subtle shifts in stage décor and lighting design. We were learning, testing, and changing all the time. This was really where the whole “culture of change” thing began. Now that I had control of everything in our services, we were free to adjust it as we saw fit, within certain parameters of course, but that freedom allowed us to try some new things and it really was huge in the development of our team.
At some point in 2006 a few of our people started to get mad about the changes we had made. I guess in their minds they had tolerated it for long enough and it was time to let us know about it. Oh well, you can’t please everybody. Got to keep moving forward.
The last four years had seen a lot of positive changes and things were going well but so much of what we wanted to do was limited by the room we were in. We were improving things, but there was only so much we could do. Our IMAG setup was awful. We had a couple of old boardroom quality projectors and the screens they projected on were 50 feet above the audience’s head. It was a bad setup, but we tried our best.
After years of making improvements little by little it seemed like it was time to shift things again. In February of 2009 I went to the C3 conference at Fellowship Church, and in visiting with some of the guys down there it became so clear to me that we didn’t involve enough younger people in what we were doing - everyone on our stage was 35+. There’s nothing wrong with being 35+ (I’m 34 myself!) but I knew that it would be so easy for all of us on the creative team to just sort of get older together without adding in any new blood. I knew we had to change again.
I started getting involved in our music pretty heavily around this time. We totally revamped our arsenal of songs and started incorporating as many young people as we had access to. Rehearsals were brutal. We would spend 7-8 hours on a Thursday night/evening just dialing in our songs and sounds for the weekend. We knew it wouldn’t be perfect overnight but we knew we had to do it. It’s paid off in a big way.
When we moved into our new room things took such a HUGE step forward for us. We finally had a setup that could accommodate all of our biggest ideas. No more crummy video screens, no more PA on the fritz, things just work like they’re supposed to.
We now live in a place where change is celebrated and our church loves it. We’re obviously not perfect but I’m so happy with the strides we’ve made as a church and you can really see just how far we’ve come when you look back through the years. God is good.