Church Communications resources and tips from Justin Dean

Getting Creative Teams on the Same Page

There are basically two types of creative teams at churches. There are (1) centrally controlled, focused creative teams and (2) multiple creative teams, usually focused on a unique discipline (worship, lighting, design, video, web, the children?s team, etc). I?d even venture to say the majority of people find themselves and their teams somewhere in this spectrum and hopefully moving towards something united and focused. Let?s take some time and understand how we got here and how to get on the same page.

Multiple Creative Teams

It?s natural to look on with appreciation (and if we?re honest, a little bit of envy) at a well-done approach to communication. Depending on the age and size of your church or organization and the structure of its creative teams, your tendency could be to look on and say, ?Man, if we could just be like those guys, all of our problems would be figured out. I bet they have a great structure in place to make that happen.? The truth is: maybe they do, but maybe they don?t. Still, even with a well-executed plan for communication, it takes work to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Multiple creative teams within a church or organization sometimes makes sense, and sometimes it creates overlap and competition that is not in the best interest of the greater organization. There are some that have a history of growth that unintentionally resulted in silos and individual teams that focused on specific disciplines. Or perhaps the changing landscape of technology led to having multiple teams. Maybe the workloads of different areas required dedicated teams to keep up with the demands of the Sunday service needs. There could also be different visions and objectives for different outreach initiatives (think broadcast TV/radio outreaches, or more recently apps and podcasts) that led to dedicated creative teams.

Regardless of the origin of multiple creative teams, at some point you have to realize that you are not the only creative person/group in your organization. Sure, you have gifts and talents, but so do others. You or the team you are on may have formal training, degrees, and real industry experience?maybe even a few awards. Then another creative team within the organization may only have a handful of self-taught savants who are eager to learn and try new things while blissfully ignorant of ?rules? taught in places that come with student loans. The takeaway here is this: if you get to the point where you focus on the frustration that there are multiple teams and the concern of stepping on toes, you lose focus of the larger mission of the place you were once called to. Sadly, an inevitable byproduct of this is that your own creative work will start to suffer.[quote]You are not the only creative person/group in your organization.[/quote]

The Benefits of Creative Teams on the Same Page

Now we understand how and why multiple creative teams can exist within a church or organization. But unless anyone has a DeLorean with a flux capacitor, we can?t sit and wish things were different. We have to look at how we can make the future better for how we work.

This better future is built on the understanding that having creative teams on the same page can bring many benefits, such as:

  • increased message adherence and improved creative output;
  • deeper creative paths with increased opportunities for staff which can lead to increased retention along with less burnout;
  • best practices becoming standardized when it comes to project management processes;
  • specialization of roles leading to less people wearing multiple hats.

The Importance of Role Clarity?and Relationships

As you examine creative teams, you will see that they are comprised of both technicians and artists. The technician is typically the expert in a practical application of something (lighting, sound, projection, programs) and usually takes the vision the artist has created (graphic, song, video) and makes it happen. This isn?t to say that technicians can?t have ideas too or technical fence posts should bind the artist. Similarly, the artist can?t be dismissive of the tech limitations too. John Lasseter of Pixar & Disney fame states it this way: ?Art challenges technology, and technology inspires art.? There is an importance of relationship that cannot be underestimated here?there needs to be respect, understanding, and communication to let the iron sharpen the iron.

There is also similar distinction between directors and producers. Typically, a director is operating with a broader perspective of multiple projects and initiatives organizationally while a producer is someone who has more intentional focus of discipline. A good director has authority but does not lead with heavy-handedness. Instead, they look to recognize and leverage the gifts and skills that the artists, producers, and technicians bring to the table. They ensure consistency in message content, message style, and message tone across all mediums.

Sure, there will naturally be times when there are perceived overlaps of roles or creative authority, but that?s the place where the senior-most leader involved with the teams needs to set the tone. As John Maxwell put it, ?Everything rises and falls on leadership.? That leader needs to know where to go through these creative differences with clear decision making, guiding the end result to something that benefits the whole of the organization.

The Importance of Patience

The effort it takes to get creative teams on the same page is great, but the juice is truly worth the squeeze. Bringing change to a single group, let alone multiple groups, can be a daunting task and you cannot expect it to occur within a few months. To fully obtain the benefits, give yourself a year, and recognize the true effort and attention the endeavor will require.

If the creative teams have an imbalance of clarity of why they individually exist in supporting the whole organization, this would be the perfect time to create a mission statement for your creative teams?especially if there is a merging of creative teams. If this cannot happen, focusing on the greater mission of the church or organization rather than individual objectives (or egos) of the creative teams will help.

Communication is crucial to the process too. Good communication is important between the teams. But even the most well-intentioned and well-designed interdepartmental communication program won’t tear down silos unless those who created them want them down or unless those that inherited them purpose to tear them down and build bridges in their place.

You may find yourself on one of these teams and going through the process and because you are not a leader or?you?think you have no authority to help make these ideas a reality. Don?t limit yourself and your potential that way?you can still use your influence to encourage your leaders to consider these things. You can still be the example of change in your organization by building relationships with your peers on the creative teams.

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