Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

The Planning

There were some major challenges in planning for Christmas Spectacular in 2012. One of the main challenges manifested itself in a recent amount of staff turnover. Many of their staff (including their creative arts pastor) came on board in November.

They began planning back in July of 2012. Their worship leader, Trent Langrehr, headed the creative planning because they didn?t yet have a creative director. They held two big brainstorming meetings early on to get ideas and set a general course for their variety show spectacular.

Then in October, a month before the new creative director, Marty, came on staff, he met with the team for another brainstorming session. They?d already offered him the position with his acceptance, and knew they had to get the ball rolling so they didn?t get too behind. Because they were closer to the event and had someone whose job was to think about big picture things, this is where they got the most solid ideas for the Christmas services. They salvaged a few ideas from their original brainstorming meetings, but they were able to settle on some even stronger ones too.

In churches, planning for something like this normally starts with an audio-centric point of view. You decide what songs you want to do then figure out how to make them visually appealing. But Marty didn?t want to take that approach.

They began the planning by deciding what progression of feelings, emotions, and styles they wanted. They knew there would be quite a few new faces in the building, and they wanted to take them on a cohesive journey. More than that, they wanted it to be clear from the beginning that the Christmas services were all about Jesus. They wanted to establish that early?before any of the craziness began. That was the basis for the brainstorming and for the ideas they were inviting into the process.

These creative ideas set the framework for much of what they did during the Christmas services. But they also allowed a lot of liberty for the various creative staff members and volunteers involved in the process. Trent actually relied heavily on volunteers to design loops, build auxiliary percussion instruments, and even choose dance teams and string players that they needed to find externally. Much of the creative process was decentralized, allowing different expertise to make its way into the service. (This is obviously a much easier task since the service was segmented into a variety of different acts with very different feels.)

Once they had the elements in place, Marty and the team tweaked the order of the elements (many, many times) to make it flow as well as possible. They wanted a seamless segue into the message. The last thing he wanted was a hard left turn?a silly musical piece followed by a serious message. So there was a lot of tweaking to do.

They knew from their plans and from previous years that this special Christmas service would require quite a bit of technical planning. To avoid stressing out staff and volunteers, they knew they had to communicate early and often to make a much better experience for the almost 10,000 folks that would show up at the event during the seven different services.

Lessons Learned

During the brainstorming, an idea came out that was a bit scarier and different than anything they?d tried before. They wondered what a Dubstep Nutcracker would look like. That idea led to a Dubstep ?Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy? number.

One of Marty?s big goals as the new creative arts pastor was to raise the level of artistry in this program. And he knew that a Dubstep dance was risky if they didn?t have the talent to make it happen. So he began searching outside the church for a dance team to make it happen.

He ran across Remote Kontrol, an Atlanta based Dubstep team. Then he asked them, ?Would you be willing to work up a new dance based on what we?re were trying to accomplish.?

The team agreed, and they began rehearsing and performing the dance over FaceTime. The day before the final dress rehearsal was the first time the dance team even set foot inside the church.

But that risk paid off big time. That piece was one of the more memorable pieces during the whole Christmas Spectacular. And the buzz surrounding the event really increased.

The lesson is this: It?s okay to look for talent outside your church. Don’t be afraid to work with other talent. They’ll make you better. Any time you watch a great production?something from Disney, Pixar, or Lucas Film?you always see different entities contributing to the project. It?s not just their own staff people. There?s power in working with others.

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