Tag Archives: media

Church Media (Part 3) – For Media Operators

The final post in this three-part series will focus on the oft-overlooked member of your ministry team: the operator. This is the guy or gal scurrying awkwardly before service. He’s keying in and ordering songs, choosing backgrounds, getting scriptures from the pastor, and generally panicking five minutes before every service.

Let me say it one last time before continuing: unless you’ve sat in his seat, you don’t know just how nerve-wrecking this job can be.

That being said, media operators can take many steps to ensure they’re serving their church and pastor to the best of their ability.

1. PUT THE LYRICS ON SCREENS BEFORE THEY ARE SUNG

I’ve actually fought with fellow media operators about this, but I feel it’s important enough to place at the top of the list (this is particularly important in churches with a screen on the back wall for singers to reference during worship service).

Every church has a library of hundreds of songs. Each worship song consists of around 200 words (based on 20 of our church’s worship songs that I’ve selected at random and averaged out). Realistically, we have around 60 songs that are in our regular rotation. That means that if you make the argument, “Well, the singers should know the words,” then you expect them to memorize the arrangement of around 12,000 words.

That’s just crazy talk.

Worship teams consist almost exclusively of volunteers. They have lives — jobs, children, schoolwork, finances, and other sources of stress other than memorizing thousands of lyrics to dozens (or hundreds) of songs. They need help!

As the worship leader gives signs to the musicians and singers, prepare the next verse/chorus/bridge, and place it on the screen as the last two words of the current slide are sung. This will ensure an easy transition into the next slide, and there won’t be an awkward pause when half of the worship team neglects to come in at the right time because they forgot the words, or worse yet, sing the wrong words.

Additionally, placing the slides on the screens with time to spare will help the congregation join in when a new song is being played for the first or second time, assisting them in learning the song.

Finally, the most important reason for you placing the lyrics on the screen beforehand is that if you don’t, the awkward transition has the potential to snap someone out of worship. You actually have the potential to make or break the worship during a song. If they’re focusing on the mistake made by the singers, then they’re not focusing on worship, period.

2. PAY ATTENTION

At our church, the media operator is the floating head atop the media booth, perched high in our church’s risers. This is often the case — very few media computers are situated in open sight for the rest of the congregation to observe. The good thing about this: members of the congregation are less likely to bug your media operator with personal complaints (oftentimes unrelated to the media operator’s responsibilities) at inopportune moments because of close proximity and accessibility. The bad: media operators can be surrounded by distractions of their own.

Techies are chronic multi-taskers by nature. This benefits us in many situations, but it can also be a great hindrance when unobstructed focus is required. If you’re playing Angry Birds at the same time you’re supposed to be paying attention to the worship leader’s hand signals, you are about 5,000,000,000,000% more likely to miss the sign, make a mistake, and send the service into a realm of awkwardness.

Just in case you weren’t paying attention, that’s 5 trillion percent. I arrived at that figure by pure science.

It’s true.

3. ARRIVE EARLY

Running media requires time. If your pastor needs you to take a look at a video that he wants played before his message, and you’re not there at least 30 minutes early, then you’re not giving the job the respect it requires.

No, you won’t be needed early 90% of the time, but for that 10% you are, and you’re not there — that spells trouble.

4. DON’T REQUIRE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

As I’ve stated several times in this series of posts, your job as media operator is to never draw attention to yourself. The only times that people will acknowledge your presence is when you make a mistake.

If you throw Ezekiel 2:2 on the screens instead of Ecclesiastes 2:2, then people will look at you and scowl. If you start Verse 3 instead of the Bridge, singers will look at you in terror, then they will scowl.

But if you do your job properly, almost no one will be aware of your presence, and that’s okay! I’m sure your media team leader will thank you from time to time and your pastor might say, “Thank you, ______” when you look up a scripture quickly, but for the most part, media operations is a thankless job.

There is a certain nobility to doing a job faithfully and never requiring a pat on the back. It’s the heart of a servant, and God will certainly reward it.

IN CONCLUSION:

The demands of the modern church have changed over the years, and media has been an integral part of that change. Used properly, it is a fantastic tool that can aid in adding a level of accessibility and polish to your services.

Used improperly, media could be a constant distraction for your congregation. Whether your’e the pastor, worship pastor, media team leader, or media operator, be sure you’re doing what you can to help make your church’s media flow smoothly. It WILL make a difference.

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Church Media (Part 2) – For Worship Pastors

Image

I had a friend joke several years ago that it was “time to praise the screens.” I shot him a puzzled look, and he nodded towards everyone who was standing for worship service. As the music started, hands were lifted, eyes were turned upward, and lyrics were sung with passion — all towards the projector screens.

It’s humorous (and perhaps slightly sad), but considering that decades ago, our faces were turned downward to page 142 in a battered hymnal, it’s hard to be critical. Would you rather crane your neck slightly upward to read the lyrics from the screens, or emphasize your double chin by looking down at a weathered book? You get my point.

Regardless, it’s nice that even with our new songs, we can still sing alone fairly well because of the accessibility of the lyrics to the entire church. This is probably the greatest benefit to having projectors set up in your church, but for it to run optimally, we’ll need your help, worship pastors.

Note: if you read my last post, some of this will be slightly redundant.

1. SUBMIT YOUR LYRICS EARLIER

Our worship pastor, Brad Crow, Emails new lyrics to the entire media team, usually at least a day before we sing them for the very first time. I cannot emphasize how helpful this is to all of us who run the screens. He also gives us the worship sets for both AM and PM services the day before. I don’t have to ask him for a set list or bug him for lyrics — he’s already on top of it.

Keying in lyrics takes time. An average song at our church consists of at least two verses, a chorus, and a bridge. This might not seem like a lot, but when you also have to select backgrounds for each song, ensure formatting is correct, make sure all announcements are up to date, and other small items on the checklist, throwing a new song on a media operator ten minutes before service can cause a minor emotional breakdown.

Preparation is absolutely essential. Getting new songs to the media team at least 30 minutes before service is the minimum amount of time you should allow. It’s even better if you submit them a day before.

2. DON’T TELL THE MEDIA OPERATOR TO “GET THE LYRICS ONLINE”

Do you ever read Facebook and wonder if there’s anyone left in this world who remembers any of their second-grade spelling lessons? Have you noticed that no one understands when to use a comma, what to capitalize, or the difference between “they’re” and “their”?

These same people are often the ones responsible for entering lyrics on these “song lyrics” web-sites.

If you don’t care about your worship lyrics being correct on the screens, then by all means, send your media operator to that lyrics database web-site with inappropriate banner ads. However, if you want it done right, then type out the lyrics yourself, or at least check them for accuracy before printing them off and handing them to a media operator.

3. HAND SIGNALS: MAKE THEM EARLY, MAKE THEM VISIBLE

If you have a responsible media operator, they should be watching you like a hawk to see whether you’re going back into the second verse or the bridge. Don’t just assume they know the song as well as you or have some kind of telepathic superpower — give them hand signals that they can clearly see, and give them 2 or 3 seconds in advance. Obviously, you need to give the hand signals to your musicians first, but don’t forget the media operator!

DO NOT:

  • Point the hand signal at them like a gun. Your singers/musicians to your right and left can see it, but for your media operator, it looks like an indiscernable, mangled nub of human flesh.
  • Assume that a centimeter-wide separation between your index and middle fingers constitutes a clearly-visible distinction between “verse 2” and “unison.” You’d better make it look more like this.
  • Make your hand signals behind your back. This isn’t 1972, your torso isn’t transparent, and your media operators don’t have Superman’s x-ray vision.

4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADDRESS WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED

If you see room for improvement, communicate it to the team. If the lyrics aren’t formatted correctly for a particular song, shoot the media team an Email and let them know that it’s confusing for the worship team.

If the media operators aren’t getting the lyrics onto the screens quickly enough (especially if you have a rear-wall screen set up for your singers), tell them to put them up in advance (much more on this on the next post).

Whatever issues you might have, talk them over with the media team with confidence and clarity. We’re all working for the same team, and the ultimate goal is that media provides a service that basically disappears into a person’s consciousness. The goal of media operators everywhere should be to run church media in such a way that is always a subtle help, but NEVER a distraction. Help them accomplish this goal by communicating often.

IN CONCLUSION:

I can honestly say that we have almost no problems with our entire worship team here at POBC. They all have a tremendous grasp on what they’re doing. Our pastoral staff and worship leaders are exceptional in the areas that I’ve addressed in the first two blog posts.

When a guest attends your worship service and a horribly misspelled word or grammatical error pops onto the screen, it’s not just embarrassing — it’s distracting. Being concerned with ensuring quality presentation of the worship lyrics on your church’s screens isn’t being overly-concerned with your image. On the contrary, it’s making sure that image is never a concern one way or the other.

I’ll say again: MEDIA SHOULD DISAPPEAR. All sloppy spelling and grammar does is draw attention to what should be ninja-like in its application. Make sure you’re doing what you can to help.

Next: Church Media (Part 3) – For Media Operators.

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Church Media (Part 1) – For Ministers

Over the last two decades, nearly every church has incorporated at least one media projector into their services. Instead of people burying their heads into a hymnal or mouthing nonsense words as they search for the correct lyrics, they now lift their heads, read along as they sing, and can understand even the most mumble-mouthed soloist.

We read scriptures from them, play announcement videos on them, and share videos from missionaries and religious organizations. Media projectors can be incredibly useful in every church service, but we need to be aware of how to use them, how to prepare for them, and how to interact with those who are performing the unenviable task of running them.

I am in a unique position of serving from both behind the pulpit and the iMac on a regular basis, thereby having an understanding of what is required from both sides. Unfortunately, many ministers have no idea what is going on in the media booth. From time to time, that creates massive problems.

Luckily, at The Pentecostals of Bossier City, we have Pastor Dean and Pastor Stanley, who fully understand that media operators need to be given as many tools as possible to help them prepare, and do everything within their power to make sure things will run smoothly, even when late inspiration strikes. This ensures fewer miscues during our services. Even for funerals, Pastor Dean often reminds the funeral home or family that any slideshows or media need to be handed in well in advance.

However, I have often seen ministers embarrass media operators during the middle of service, sometimes in front of large crowds, and the entire congregation laughs at the clueless media operator as the omniscient preacher continues to rush and chastise the hapless soul from the pulpit. In actuality, I would estimate that in 90% of these cases, the fault actually does not lie with the media operator, but with the minister who is publicly shaming him.

Fellow ministers, listen up.

1. MEDIA OPERATORS NEED YOU TO HELP THEM PREPARE

Media presentation software is not magic. If you fail to give your scripture references before service, you cannot scream, “2 Chronicles 2:14-20! Get it on the screen! Get it on the screen! What’s taking so long? Are you asleep up there? My God, we can’t get it together today…”

First of all, it’s not as simple as typing the scripture reference and hitting a magic button that sends it immediately to the screens. For a multi-verse reference in ProPresenter (my recommended church presentation software), it takes me an average of 8 seconds to have it on the screens, and I type over 90 words per minute.

If you decide to incorporate video into your service, it is even more important that you get the video or DVD in the hands of your media operators at least 30 minutes before service. There are a number of things that could go terribly wrong when dealing with video files, and they need plenty of time to prepare. Again: MEDIA SOFTWARE IS NOT MAGICAL. If you’ve ever had a problem setting up a Powerpoint, formatting a Word document, or paying a bill online, then you should know that things don’t always work the way they’re supposed to.

Hear me now: if you publicly ridicule your media operator for something that is actually your fault, then it shows one or a combination of these:

  • A lack of understanding.
  • A lack of compassion.
  • A lack of character.
There are obviously times when you might joke with a media operator when things go awry, but if it’s done with the right spirit, it goes a long way in not alienating one of your volunteers. It’s especially difficult for those who are more introverted, as most of your tech-minded volunteers tend to be.
Ministry is a stressful job with many demands pulling you in every direction, but we must remain aware that for media operators, what they’re doing is their ministry, and they should not be unnecessarily humiliated. Please help them by giving them your scriptures, videos, and graphics as soon as you have them yourself.
Email them. Dropbox them. Give them a USB thumb drive. Whatever you have to do, equip them.

2. MEDIA CANNOT BE RUN ON ANTIQUATED OR UNDERPOWERED HARDWARE

If you expect to run your church media off of a computer that is older than the double-breasted suit you haven’t taken out of the closet since the AOL days, then don’t be stunned and angered when that video of an Argentine missionary starts skipping uncontrollably, creating those horrible awkward pauses that leave the congregation cringing.

The most taxing things you can do with a computer are graphics-based. If you’re running media software, it’s already taxing your system. If you’re running video, especially HD video, it’s probably going to be pushing your church’s computer to its limits. If you underfund your media department, then don’t be surprised when it all grinds to a halt.

I understand that every church has to operate under a budget, and media often seems like an unnecessary expense (until you desperately need it). There are bargain deals to be found. Search Apple’s refurbished section on their store. Search NewEgg.com. Search for a slightly-used iMac. Just please don’t bust out the Packard Bell and hope that it plays that 720p video your youth department put together.

3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

Pastors are often required to juggle study, hospital visits, prayer meetings, outside jobs, counseling sessions, church finances, and family time in a way that would make most people’s heads spin. I know this, and I know that for most of you, it’s a daunting task to not only prepare a sermon, but also gather together media or create a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation to accompany your sermons.

Ask for help.

The person running your media for church can probably put together a serious presentation and gather supplementary images/video much faster than you can. Give your media operator 30-45 minutes of heads-up time before service, and they can likely put a level of polish on your sermon media that greatly enhances the vibe of your church.

Find a member of your church who is artistically and technically inclined, and put them to work. They want to help. They want the church to be represented well graphically. Throwing up a Powerpoint using the default styles will get the job done, but using an interesting graphic and unique text/formatting will go a long way in making your church’s media look more professional.

IN CONCLUSION:

Your church’s media solutions might not be the fanciest or the prettiest, but with some training, investment, and encouragement, you can have a staff put together that will do the best job possible for your church under whatever budget you can assign. Ministers are becoming more tech-savvy every day, and companies like Apple have changed the way we approach media and design, whether it be for our businesses or our churches.

Even while operating under a basic budget, our church media can look good enough represent us well. Just imagine where we will be twenty years from now.

Next: Church Media (Part 2) – For Worship Pastors

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Do You Still Believe?

The story of the Beijing Olympics was not the opening ceremonies which featured over 15,000 Chinese performers working perfectly in sync (especially the syncing of lips) and costing over $100,000,000.

It wasn’t the Free Tibet protests, to which the Chinese government reacted aggressively despite their insistence that there would be zones set up for the demonstrations. The focus wasn’t Usain Bolt’s amazing 100m and 200m record-breaking sprints. It wasn’t on the smog in Beijing that forced at least one athlete to drop out of the Games due to asthmatic issues.

No, the focus of the 2008 Olympic Games was on Michael Fred Phelps.

Sports Illustrated’s illustrious Sportsman of the Year award went to Phelps; the identity of the recipient was never in doubt. The swimmer pulled in an unprecedented eight gold medals, breaking the world record in each event (including the relays), prompting the previous record holder for most medals, Mark Spitz, to declare, “It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.”

The media fawned over Phelps, noting his apparent willingness to interact and play with children after practices. When questioned about possible doping to enhance his performance in the Olympics, Phelps pointed out that he had signed up for Project Believe, which takes those who volunteered and submits them to addition testing, beyond what is required by World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines. Phelps has been called a “solitary man” with a “rigid focus,” “kind-hearted” and “incredibly invested in the success of the people he cares about.”

This guy is competitive, enormously gifted, driven, and by golly, he’s American (also known as ‘Mericun). The United States press and public could find no wrong in Michael Phelps.


In the past few hours, the sporting world has experienced a bit of a shock…

Phelps bong

According to sources reporting to News of the World, Michael Phelps is the man in the above picture, almost certainly taking a hit from a bong.

THIS is the astonishing picture which could destroy the career of the greatest competitor in Olympic history.

In our exclusive photo Michael Phelps, who won a record EIGHT gold medals for swimming at the Beijing games last summer, draws from a bong.

And after sporting chiefs announced laws which mean four-year bans for drug-taking, Phelps’ dreams of adding to his overall 14 gold medal tally at the 2012 games in London could already be OVER.

Over three years away, Phelps’ dreams of matching his Beijing accomplishments at the 2012 Olympics in London are quite possibly finished. Our hero has not only fallen, but been described as loud, obnoxious, and seemingly at home with a bong in his hands.

[UPDATE] – It appears drug testing only eliminates a player from competition for four years during testing periods. 2012 is still on for Phelps.

Our hero has fallen.

The media (both American and international) has an alarming tendency to build our rising stars up with fanfare, and document their often rapid declines with barely-sustainable glee. Britney Spears, Kobe Bryant, Lindsay Lohan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are but a handful among the thousands that have been crushed by the media, every aspect of their lives criticized and mocked. We most often highlight their mistakes, sometimes deservedly (but not necessarily rightfully) so.

American has often called itself a nation that is quick to forgive. Perhaps, but we never forget. We also must admit to enjoying the trampling of a public figure underneath our collective feet.

But at what cost is this being done?

Michael Phelps has messed up, period. This is a crucial time of his life, and how he reacts to this fiasco is entirely up to him, but how we react is up to us. Even if he is banned from the 2012 London Olympics, would we still cheer on his return in 2016, hoping beyond hope that our fallen star could rise again?

I’m not sure, but despite Phelps’ mistake, and despite the fact that he could currently be called a questionable role model for young people everywhere at this moment, I’m concerned about the way we treat our celebrities.

These are people. They all have their hurts, their aches, and their weaknesses. We are not expected to be lenient towards wrongdoing, nor are we obligated to agree with the positions and lifestyles these people take.

But shouldn’t we at least remember there is always a human behind the headline?

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NBC: No Executive Criticism Allowed

NBC just isn’t interested in someone who is critical of someone inhabiting the Oval Office. That would just be wrong.

I’m not joking.

Ann Coulter

Okay, so he doesn’t occupy the Oval Office just yet, but criticism of President-Elect Barack Obama is apparently out of the question! After eight years of heavy criticism of George W. Bush, the hypocritical executives of NBC have banned perennial best-seller Ann Coulter for life. Why? Because she dared to be critical of Obama. From this soon-to-be-updated report:

But one network insider claims it was the book’s theme — a brutal examination of liberal bias in the new era — that got executives to dis-invite the controversialist.

We are just not interested in anyone so highly critical of President-elect Obama, right now,” a TODAY insider reveals. “It’s such a downer. It’s just not the time, and it’s not what our audience wants, either.”

It’s such a downer? It’s not the time? The audience doesn’t want it?

So incessantly reporting only the worst news (Abu Graib, roadside bombs, death toll…) from Iraq isn’t a downer? The years immediately following the worst attack on this nation’s soil, perpetrated by the very Islamic extremist types that we’ve gone after is the “right time” to be heavily critical? The audience isn’t interested in the truth?

Yes, Coulter is polarizing. Yes, she’s opinionated. And she is most definitely highly critical of anyone touting liberalistic views, but she’s also incredibly popular with a certain (evidently large) segment of society. But none of that is the issue, apparently. The issue is that she has the audacity to be critical of President-Elect Obama (I’m saying this with the smarmiest voice possible).

But, folks…she has a point. One of the main complaints filed against Obama in her new book, Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America, is that Obama is a hypocrite to label is family “off limits” in the presidential election while he has shown in the past to benefit off of personal attacks.

And I’m not even referring to Sarah Palin’s daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the barbs that following from the supposedly objective media. I’m speaking of the smashing of Blair Hull, who was defeated for the Illinois Senate seat primarily because of the public embarrassment that resulted after his divorce records were wrongfully unsealed, revealing that their were allegations of Hull threatening his wife (no charges were ever filed). Who pressured Hull to unseal the records? His opponents (one of them, a Barack H. Obama, Mr. “family off-limits” himself).

So evidently NBC has decided that what the country needs is a “positive note” to start off the next four years. This takes place after eight years of derision, slander, and mockery, all said through their vain, smirking expressions.

The fact that they banned Coulter is not a big deal to me; she’s an inflammatory figure (as are Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Rosie O’Donnell, Ariana Huffington…) who is bound to get banned from quite a few places. The problem is that NBC is apparently not going to allow anyone who is intensely critical of Obama to appear on some of their shows after eight years of making Bush-bashing popular.

No media bias? If you truly believe that, then you might want to consider just how deeply your partisanship has become embedded into your brain cells, because it’s apparently taking them over.

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