Friday, May 14, 2010

David and Solomon - a lesson in leadership

Today as I was studying 1 Chronicles 22 I stumbled on a fabulous leadership lesson from David and Solomon.

David wanted to build the temple. God told him no and even gave him the reason. God told him not only that one of his sons would build it instead, but also specifically named which son. God made arrangements to keep the fighting with other peoples at bay while Solomon was on the throne so that he could work on the temple and devote his focus there and so that his hands would not be covered in blood as his father's were.

David made a great statement, (I Chron. 22:5) "My son... is young and inexperienced, and the [temple] must be great and all the lands. Therefore, I must make provision for it."

David's not going to build it, but he is going to set his son up to succeed.

Not only does David assemble materials for the building of the temple, he also assembles workers to do the building, and he gives Solomon some wise counsel going into the project and his reign as king. (vs. 11-13) He also challenged those who would follow Solomon's lead to be confident, to seek God and to get started.

Where is it that I lead people that God has called to do a thing that I am not called to do?

Am I providing everything I can for them? Am I giving them good instruction? Am I encouraging those that will work under them to follow not only their lead, but God's?

How about you?

[image by "Cowboy"BenAlman]

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rut A vs. Rut B

This morning I ran across a video recommendation from a friend of mine, Paul Steinbrueck.  It was hysterical and sobering all at the same time.

Take a look and see what you think.

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Our services become predictable. Well, I shouldn't speak for you, but my services become predictable. We refer to this in our planning meetings as the Rut Syndrome. Now, for variety's sake, we have more than one rut. We're probably up to about 5 by now. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Rut A: Worship, drama, announcements, offering, teaching
2. Rut B: Worship, announcements, offering, sermon bumper, teaching
3. Rut C: Worship, announcements, offering, teaching, closing song (ahhh! a refreshing wrinkle!)
4. Rut D: Worship, set up, drama, teaching part I, song, teaching part II, video, wrap up (now there's creativity at work!)

I hope you're chuckling as you read this because I am as I write. I wonder, what are some of your ruts? Perhaps, from the comments, we can all get a new one to add to our repertoire!

Thank you to North Point Media for sharing this with us!  I have a feeling I'll view it often. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Where's your focus?

I've spent some time today doing the things that refuel me.  Today is the day I've chosen to be the Sabbath in my week.  So I've been shooting, reading and now a little writing.

The one thought that has stood out to me the most today is not at all new and maybe it's not terribly profound, but it is foundational.

What you choose to focus on determines what you see and therefore how you react.

David chose to see his God that was with him rather than the giant.  Peter could ignore and walk across the waves as long as he was focused on Jesus.  When the disciples were looking at thousands of hungry people they were overwhelmed, but when Jesus took what they had and chose to look to God with gratitude there was abundance.

The seeming impossibilities of a situation become irrelevant when we are looking instead at God.  He trumps it all.  There is nothing bigger, stronger or more constant than Him.

So, today, where's your focus?

[image by OrganizedArtist]

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Flood in Franklin, TN

Over the weekend thousands of people in Nashville and Franklin TN were devastated by the worst flooding in 500 years.  Many churches were obviously affected and many churches are stepping in to help wherever they can.  CrossPoint is stepping up to help in organize efforts in the area.  You can get the information here.

I'm wondering, does anyone know of churches that were directly affected by the flooding and what needs they have for restoration. 

Maybe we at The Organized Artist could be churches helping churches in this time of need.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

How far out do you plan?

One of the most frequent questions I hear in conversation at arts conferences is "How far out do you plan your services?"

The answers are as varied as the arts leaders themselves.

In the span of my 13 years in service planning I have seen our services run the gamut from planning a few days out to planning several weeks out.  One of my biggest goals when I took the lead of our arts department was to become consistent in a planning system to allow us to average being 5 weeks out in our planning. Here is an example of the system I use:

1.  The upcoming Sunday:  Any final changes?
In our planning meeting (which we hold on Tuesdays) the first week we address is the upcoming Sunday.  We review the order we've created discuss any technical needs that haven't been discussed, think through transitions and check for anything we may have overlooked.

2. 2 weeks out:  When does what happen?
For the service that is two weeks out we look closely at the elements planned for the service and create the order or flow of service we think will best convey the Big Idea at hand.  We take into consideration several things like the tone of elements (is it fast/slow, somber/funny, etc.) and make sure that we won't cause any awkward moments.  More importantly we will try to anticipate where elements may create holy moments in the service and allow for space for people to have these moments and not let them be violated.

3.  3 weeks out:  Who's in What?
Three weeks out we make the selection of elements that we will use in the service and plan who will perform what role in the elements.  This gives our team leaders time to ask our volunteers if they can serve in those roles and give the leaders and planning team time to change plans if that is necessary.

4.  4 weeks out:  Whatcha' Got?
Four weeks out we put "on the table" elements we have found that we have found in our research of the Big Idea.  My hope is that everyone at the meeting will come prepared with a few ideas of songs, dramas, videos, personal stories or out-of-the box elements. This is the time when any original videos or scripts should be suggested to allow time for element creation. 

5.  5 weeks out:  What's the Big Idea?
Finally we take a look at the service that is five weeks out and determine what the main point or "Big Idea" as Andy Stanley calls it will be for that service.  We make it a point to leave this meeting with a very clear understanding of the Big Idea so that we can research elements for the next meeting. 

This system isn't perfect and neither is our ability to stay on it week in and week out all year long.  But it does provide a great framework to easily know where we should be to allow the time necessary to create a strong service in a manageable time frame.

Do you have a similar system?  What have you found that works for you?

[image by prettydaiseys]

So, tell me about your blog...

This past Sunday I was asked about my blog. Well, to be specific, this blog. I found myself stumbling around and said something like... "well, in the past I've discussed the similarities of raising toddlers and leading artists in the church." OK, well, that's not exactly my intention for this blog, nor is that statement entirely true.

The question did get me thinking.

Today, I began reading an e-book by Darren Rowse about blogging. The first chapter addressed exactly my dilemma Sunday. Darren challenges the reader to develop an "elevator pitch" for their blog. While that seems terribly "spin-savvy" I was incredibly intrigued by the possibility for focus and intentionality that this offers. It felt very much to me like the process of writing a mission statement for my ministry or for any business or organization for that matter.

The process helps to refine the purpose of the organization, or in this case the blog. It also serves as a sort of ruler by which future actions are measured. You can always go back to the statement and check to be sure you are on target with your next move.

Of course, my next thoughts were musings about the purpose of this blog. A friend recently said that they would be discontinuing their blog because they had begun to realize that the reason they were blogging was more about having a place to be heard and then feel validated by the number of people who wanted to hear what they had to say. Ouch, I, like probably many other bloggers, can admit the same when I'm very honest with myself. And, I agree. If that is the purpose behind my blog, I really should just focus these bits of time on other things.

So what is The Organized Artist all about? I am a systems and spreadsheets kind of girl working in, living in and loving a world of church artists. I am the translator who speaks both languages: the process and details needed to get it all done and the beauty with which we long to do it. My hope is to be able to help and encourage other leaders of arts in the church by sharing my experiences, knowledge, in some cases scar tissue.

Serving in arts in the church is hard. It's very hard. It takes a toll on your time, your family, your sanity, sometimes even a toll on your relationship with God. I want to be able to pass on suggestions and tools that can help others in their hard work in arts in the church. I don't begin to think that I have all of the answers. In fact, some days I don't even think I'm asking the right questions. But I would love to get the conversation started. I would love to be able to help other church arts leaders find just the right program for Christmas, figure out a great solution for the service planning timeline crunch, pray with them about struggles in their teams, suggest resources that have been lifelines for me.

So, hello, I'm the Organized Artist. What's your name? And is there some way that I can help you in your ministry?

[image by anniemole]

Two worlds collide - not really

This past Sunday at Willow Creek Community Church, Nancy Beach spoke on the concept of Sabbath. She has also recently shared some of her personal thoughts and experiences on Sabbath on her own blog. Since that is a topic I've discussed recently here, I thought I'd send you in Nancy's direction as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gratituesday - The Women Who Have Gone Before Me

I'm reading a great book this week, Tough Choices by Carly Fiorina. It reminded me again of how grateful I am for the women who have gone before me in leadership and specifically in leadership in the church. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't have the opportunities I have today to use my gifts and strengths to serve on staff in the arts at a church.

Leading in arts in the church can often feel like a boys club. I've been at conferences and in meetings where I'm the only one wearing heels around the table. And while it can be awkward, God has put me there at that time for a reason. There is something specific that I have had to offer to the situation that was unique to me including the fact that I am a lady.

So, the next time you find yourself in one of those situations be confident in all that God has created in you including all of the wonderful qualities and attributes that come with being who you are as a daughter of God.

By the way, another great book in this vein is Gifted to Lead by Nancy Beach. I gained a lot of insight and confidence in my role by reading this. If you are a lady in any leadership position you would be doing yourself a favor to read these books.

[image by Thomas Hawk]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gratituesday - Healing

I was reminded today of the first time my oldest son got a really bad cut on his forehead. At the time that it happened I remember feeling devastated at how his formerly perfect face now had this ugly gash in it.

Of course he was still perfect to me, but now had this terrible wound that was the first thing your eye was drawn to when you looked at him. I didn't want anyone looking at my son and thinking of him as anything other than perfect.

OK, so that is the raw, very proud reaction of an adoring mom.

It's almost a year later now. The horrid gash that was so difficult to look at is now almost non-existent.

The reality is that there are so many ways we all get wounded or sick in life.

Today I am so thankful for healing.

God has an amazing way of, so often, bringing us through the wound or illness and giving us complete healing on the other side.

Healing and a little wisdom that will help keep us from a similar wound again.

[image by bluewinx15(busy)]

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Gratituesday - Nothing profound, just life

Today, what am I most grateful for?

A family where I belong and am loved wildly.
Enough friends that I have to book coffees and dinners three weeks out.
A home that is so big that even my car has a room in it.
Enough clothes to want to complain about the amount of laundry I do.
Two freezers that are full of food.
Appliances that really are the ones who wash the dishes, laundry and cook the meals.
A phone that does everything short of cooking for me.
A laptop that gives me instant access to just about anything I could imagine including friends and family miles away.
A job that is fun, challenging and flexible.

Today I am grateful for the incredibly over-privileged life I live.

[image by John Wardell]

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sabbath - more food for thought

Recently I wrote about my musings over the concept and importance of recognizing the Sabbath in my week. Today Pete Wilson tweeted about a resource that may prove helpful in addressing the questions that still linger in my mind and maybe yours.

Sabbath: The Ancient Practices is a book by Dan Allender that goes in depth on the subject.

Thought you might want to check it out too.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gratituesday - a lesson in letting go

What you may know about me is that I'm a control freak. Of course, the first half of the battle is admitting our problems, right?

What you may not know about me is that I'm a biker chic. Not your ordinary biker chic, but I am one none-the-less.

It had been a long while since I had had the opportunity to get away on the bike with my favorite biker guy and just ride. We got a chance to do just that this past Sunday.

I was flooded with reminders of why I love it so much.

First, when you're out on the bike it's just us and the bike and the road. No distractions. None of the normally multiple things I carry with me everywhere I go - no purse, laptop bag, daytimer. (OK, so I take my phone... there might be an emergency! And, this is a "lesson in letting go." I've obviously not arrived fully.)

Second, it gives me space to rest my mind, think and pray. I usually sit back and have a chance to just be - no responsibilities other than leaning left or right at the appropriate times.

But the one thing I love most about being out on the bike is what God teaches me about faith and trust as we ride.

The area we live in is definitely not biker friendly in my opinion. Traffic is crazy and crowded and fast. But as I sit on the back of the bike and we take off I am reminded of what it feels like to truly let go and let someone else be in charge.

Rather than being filled with the anxiety and fear that fills my heart often in other situations, I can really relax knowing a couple of things.

My driver can be fully trusted. He loves me and will do everything in his power to keep us safe as we ride.

Also because he loves me he'll intentionally go out of his way to take routes that are not only safe but beautiful just for my sheer enjoyment.

While I do avail myself to as many pieces of "saftey" equipment as possible, I realize that they really offer false security. The sissy bar and my helmet will likely offer limited protection in the event of something going wrong. My only real security is in the driver keeping us out of that situation.

I do catch myself occasionally closing my eyes when the ride gets filled with complications (too much traffic, bad weather, or any other potential hazard) but when I do I know that we're still safe because again, I'm not the one who's in control.

Finally, the point of the ride is me being with the driver, my husband. It's all about us having time to be away from it all, just the two of us.

As I ride I think about those things and I think about God and the fact that all of these things and more can be said about the ride He has me on in this life. So, as I head into my new work week, I'm thankful for lessons in letting go and I'm challenging myself to take the ride this week eyes wide open and holding on tight as God takes me down the next stretch of the journey.

What lesson have you had recently in letting go?

[image by dave77459]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gratituesday - Sabbath

If you, like me are in any form of ministry, you know that the Sabbath is a day that is to be set aside as holy.

Maybe, though, you're like me in another way and wonder a bit about this.

Those of us in full-time ministry as staff work on Sunday. It's just part of the deal.

We also tend to be workaholoics. Ministry work is not 9-5 no matter how hard you try to make it fit in a time frame. Ministry = people and people will need you (and rightly so) at times that are outside of your ministry calendar blocks.

So, how do you do it? How do you work faithfully in your ministry to a degree that allows you to put your head on your pillow at night and know that you've given it 100%? But also how do you find a Sabbath in which you can regularly, and frequently (every 7 days) rest.

I don't have the answers. I am very much wrestling with these questions in my life and ministry. Here are some thoughts that I've had in my wrestlings:

1. Truly resting my mind from my ministry and work responsibilities is one of the best things I can do to improve myself for and in my work. When I go non-stop my brain becomes a tangled mess and I'm not nearly as efficient or productive as I can be. When I come at my work rested I have more optimism, more ideas, more grace, more direction, more clarity and more love. But it's easy to forget how much this benefits my work.

2. Someone recently gave me some advice that was given to him. One day you will leave your church and you will leave it with only two things: your relationship with God and your relationship with your spouse. This was a powerful thought. It motivated me to want to invest wisely. If these are the things that remain then I want to pour into them in a huge way. So I'm working hard to be present - really fully present - when I'm spending time with God and with my husband.

3. Turning my ministry/work brain off is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I've learned that there are things I can do to help me leave work at work. I have times in my day and week that I ignore my phone and laptop altogether. They're always on. They're always near by. But there are times I just tuck them away and forget them for a few hours. If there is an emergency, someone will find me. If not, I can return the call, email, tweet or comment later.

4. I've also learned that as music can be a great tool to help me focus on God or communicate a truth in a service, it can also be a great tool to remind me how much I love my family. On my drive home if you were listening in, you'd hear the songs that I love that remind me of my husband and my children. This almost always makes me want to get home faster and has a smile on my face as I walk in the door.

There is some interesting food for thought along these lines in Anne Jackson's book Mad Church Disease. If you haven't read it yet, it's a good place to start.

Recognizing the Sabbath, in all honesty, is one I get wrong more often than I get it right. But, I can tell you that when I've gotten it right I know to the core of my being why God put it in the top 5 of the Big 10.

When I get it right I am truly grateful for a God who knows my needs way better than I know my own.

So, when is your Sabbath? When was the last time you really rested?

[image by fusiasa]

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


This will come as no surprise to any of you who know me... I'm a systems girl. I love having a I require a plan. The lack of a plan will throw me completely off kilter. So, this Tuesday I am truly grateful for Systems.

Perhaps I take systems to too much of an extreme, but there really are some significant benefits to having systems in place:

1. It's about the goal!
Systems allow you to focus your mental attention on the what of what you're doing rather than the how. They keep you on task.

2. Order from chaos
When approaching a particular goal (e.g. a production, a web redesign, the building of a new team) the number of "to-dos" can seem and be countless and overwhelming. Creating a system makes this less intimidating and gives you clear direction on where to start.

3. Auto pilot
There will always be days when we just have "off" days. Staying on goal on an off day can be at the very least challenging. A system allows you the luxury of going on "auto pilot" and not losing speed.

In the past year I have put systems into place for service planning, marketing, and team development. They have moved my goals for my ministry much further along than before. A plan truly is a beautiful thing, as long as you work the plan.

I recognize that systems come entirely from the organized side of this Organized Artist. What do you artists think?

[image by anthony mattox]

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Follow up to Tools of the Trade: Ziti

This morning I was sorting through my many thoughts from last nights meeting as I also sorted through silverware, pots, pans and plates.

Last night was really fun! There is something to be said for sharing conversation around a meal rather than around a conference room table

Here are some things I noted:

1. One of the most important actions I could participate in was listening. Leading, like everything else has a time for speaking and a time for listening. Last night some of the ways I felt we made the most progress was for me to listen.

2. The guys around my table are deeply invested in making the arts at Cypress work. These are folks who don't stop short of investing not only their skills and time but often even their funds directly into making things in the arts at Cypress better.

3. They had great ideas. I walked away from our meeting with two pages of implementable ideas. Ideas that will improve our services and improve our serving.

What have you done to hear from your team members on their thoughts for the team? I would strongly encourage sharing a meal and some laughs together. It's a great use of time and energy and hopefully a way to not only make a meeting not look like a meeting but a way to show your appreciation for your team.

[image by E.A. Sanabria]

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tools of the Trade

Today my tools of the trade are MS Entourage - my out-of-body brain, my china and a pan of baked ziti.

Ok, I realize this is a less than normal combination of items, but it is exactly what I believe my team needs.

Entourage as I've explained before, is a magnificent tool that I use to organize not only my time and contacts, but the Project Center truly rocks at helping me stay on top of large projects involving lots of people, events and tasks. Today I must have spent more than 1/2 my work day in just that software.

Tonight however, I'm hosting a meeting of a different kind. I want to have a chance to get to talk with team members, get to know them better, understand their hearts for our ministry, empower them to serve and lead even better. That kind of conversation feels odd to me surrounded by flip charts, laptops and budgets. Instead it feels like a dialog around my dining room table.

I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, do you have any of your meetings like this? How do they work for developing your relationships with your team members? What is the long term impact on your team?

Well... I'd better go, can't let the garlic bread burn!

[image by joebeone]

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Gratituesday - A Cheerleader, Challenger, Friend

Sunday morning we sang the song God of This City. I stood on the front row of the auditorium with tears leaking from my eyes. It is a powerful song. But for me it holds extra power because of a friend who sang it with me the first time we used it in a service.

My friend, Cheryl Khan, was a spiritual leader here at our church. She served on many teams including several within Cypress Arts.

She served as a mentor for me, she was an incredible cheerleader for our teams, our ministry and even for my leadership.

Cheryl was constantly trying, learning and excelling in new things. From studying to become and practicing as a lawyer, exposing herself to different cultures and experiences through travel, to creative endeavors such as cropping, cake decorating, acting and singing she wanted to constantly grow and constantly give back to her world around her.

She would regularly find resources that she felt would grow me as a person and as a leader and get them in my hands. She had the beautiful ability to see things as they could be and the tenacity to not settle for second best. She was not afraid to let me (or anyone) know when I was dropping the ball or not living up to my potential. She spoke the truth to me. I needed that in my life.

A year ago today Cheryl went to be with the One of whom we sang "There is no one like our God." And Sunday, as I sang those words again, I thought of her and how much I miss her on my teams, in our church but mostly in my life. I sang the words knowing that now she truly knows the full meaning of them.

So today I am very grateful for the influence Cheryl Khan was and in many ways still is in my life. I hope and pray that you too have someone who will challenge and cheerlead you. If you don't, persistently look for that person. You and your ministry will be better for it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

When was the last time...

[image by ajstarks] listened to a choral project?

I love choral work. I love the harmony and the precision required to make a choral piece excel. But it's been awhile.

These days I serve in a church that has a full band, a couple of vocalists usually, strong multimedia elements and the occasional texting exercise in our service.

We're what some people call contemporary, what my mom would call too edgy, what others call over-produced, we're what churches like our's call relevant, welcoming and we love your kids.

All of that to say that I don't have a real regular call to incorporate the latest octavo into our services.

But I come from a background of years of exposure to some of the best choirs and choral work in the church world.

I grew up in a large church that had a choir of 200 and for the first 13 years of my career I worked in the church music industry promoting all of the best musicals and octavos and hearing them performed by amazing choirs.

And while styles have been and will continue to be debated, there is something to be gained from all of them.

So, when was the last time you listened to Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir? or whoever your favorite choir is? Has it been too long?

I guarantee there is something to be gained by stretching your repertoire. Whether you add that element to your services or not, there is something to be learned, ideas that can be incorporated that can make your existing style better.

So, I think I'll put that on the playlist today. How about you?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thought Explosion

I am continuously in awe of the vastness of opportunities for learning, connecting, engaging and communicating offered by the web. It is so exciting and sobering at the same time.

With this little box of buttons and screen I feel at times as if I can do anything. Any given day I am brushing up on my photography skills; studying scripture; learning about parenting, web design, graphic design, leadership, arts in the church; connecting with friends from decades ago and others just down the street; finding entertainment for myself or my family; even answering the age old question, "Mom, what's for dinner?!"

Specifically, opportunities for community and relating online amaze me and concern me. I am on twitter, facebook, linkedin and host 4 blogs. So please don't read this as if I am not a fan of online relating, I just find that there is a very false sense of security in this form of relating. We let our guard down in this venue much more so than in person.

Recently, my friend, Paul Steinbrueck of LiveIntentionally and Christian Web Trends, wrote a post that I thought gives some great reminders and guidelines for managing online relating. Perhaps if we all were mindful of these the false security and skewed online relating would be kept at bay. Check it out and tell me what you think.

[image by Matt Hamm]

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gratituesday - Winter

Living in Florida I really have no concept of winter. At least not the kind of winter folks in Minnesota know. I've grown up knowing many Christmas and New Year's days on which I could wear shorts or even go to the beach.

This year, though, we've had a bit of winter.

It's really been funny in some ways. Our "winter" has consisted of several weeks at this point. During which I've been quite amused to sit back and watch all of the comments by my FL friends revolve around the bitter chill we are struggling against day in and day out and when will it end?! :)

Other than our temporary personal discomfort, I have seen some lasting effects of our winter. I noticed some of them just last week on my afternoon walk.

Plants all over my neighborhood are no longer fresh and green looking. They are instead brown and wilted and miserable looking from the effects of frost.

As I was noting this on my walk two thoughts came to me. The first?

Spring is going to ROCK this year!!! My absolute favorite season of the year is spring with its newness and life and color. I love it! And I love it even more when it follows a dark, cold winter. It makes it that much more to appreciate. So, this year, after the cold winter we've had, spring is going to be amazing!

My next thought was as I passed a particular house. (please note, I'm about to sound really snobby and judgmental so if that sort of thing offends you you might want to stop reading now.) As I began to pass this house I heard myself think - Well, they really could use this cold winter to kill off some of that overgrown jungle they have going on in their yard!

No sooner had the thought passed through my mind as I felt very convicted. I wonder, how often God could say the same of my life?

I know that it is in the winters of my soul that God is able to sort through the overgrown junk I have been holding on to and kill it off and make room for new life.

So, in my neighborhood and in my life, in a real, deep and sober way I am very grateful for winter. After winter comes spring... and this spring is going to ROCK!

[image by Ava aka GeorgiaOnMyMind]