Wednesday, July 29, 2015

End of Season Reflections: 5 tips for the director

The 2015-2016 season was one of the shortest I've directed in the last 4 years with my ministry team. Despite that, it has been a wonderfully productive season with it's own set of challenges and blessings.

Looking back on this season, I've come to realize that I've remembered some old lessons and learned new ones as a director...

Learn to work with what you have

Last season, we staged an adaptation of "Heavenly Street" by Carrie Murphy. We survived our first completely live production complete with microphones, large set pieces and a huge variety of props and creative arts. The message was beautiful and we rehearsed long and hard... yet by the end of each performance and the season the team was exhausted. Why? The production was originally done with 16 people... our team had 9 including myself and our tech girl.

This year, I opted for a more simple production, "the Original Love Story," which cleverly (if I do say so myself) wove in video segments and illusions with the songs into one sweeping narrative. The transitions advanced the story but also freed the team up to prepare for the next song. Really, it was a production better suited to a team of our size and capability.

Yet again, the message was beautiful... but we didn't have to work nearly as hard before/during/after. The team enjoyed the production much more.

It's easy, and in fact I encourage you, to dream BIG. Yet, learn to be realistic and see how you can accomplish your vision with your current resources.

Don't be afraid to recycle

Sadly, we were only able to present "Heavenly Street" twice last season and, as much as I loved the production, I was hesitant to stage it again with only a team of 8 this time. I'm also known for not wanting to "do the same thing twice." Still, we dedicated so much time to learning the songs and painting sets that I didn't want it to go to waste...

So I re-used some of the songs in a new context for "the Original Love Story." I didn't do "exactly" what we did last time and this kept the material fresh for our church and my team. 

Have fun

We work hard and, though I didn't always make as much time as I should have, we made time to just have fun as a team. We play Charades together and get pretty competitive. We take the scenic route home and stop to take pictures on long drives back from a performance. We even had a "pizza party" where I bought pizza dough and everyone brought toppings so we could make and eat our own custom pizzas.

Having fun with your team is a way to build your team and share some fun moments together. Let them know it's not all business, it's also friendship and fellowship.

Motivate your team

It's one thing to direct your team. It's an entirely different thing to believe in your team. 

I am my team's #1 encourager. I am always cheering them on, constructively giving feedback to encourage excellence and challenging them to try something new and step out of their comfort zone. 

Do your best and let God take care of the rest!

I often remind my team of this, especially before a performance. It's so easy to get caught up in being "perfect." I want them to remember that their honest best is matters but what God does matters most.

I like to think I've always done this for my team but sometimes believing in your team means accepting that this is their best, and it may not be the way you wanted it. Or they are so terrified of a particular part that you need to stop everything and just pray for them. 

Remember the big picture

My leaders and I are always reminding our team the why of our ministry. We do stage these productions because they are fun but, ultimately, we're hoping to present the life-changing message of God's love through Christ. 

Make time for devotionals, share testimonies with each other and prayer with and for your team. Ask them what is their takeaway from a song or what impacts them most about the program.

My biggest highlight this year was when I sent a group text to my team thanking them for their hard work and reminding them that they never know the impact they might have on someone's life.

One of my students, who doesn't always appear to be "on" during rehearsals, replied: "No need to thank me! I've come to realize that I'm doing this for God and to try and change someone's life. Thank you, good night, and God bless you."

In summary...

What a blessing the 2015-2016 season was! Although ministry is tiring... it is also encouraging and a privilege to serve. I hope to apply these lessons as I move forward and begin to plan a new year. Let's pray that my team enjoys their sabbatical and returns refreshed and eager to serve. 

Did you try something new this year? What have you learned in your recent experiences? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I-Fest 2015 -the Family of Ministry

And just like that, my favorite week of the year has ended: the 2015 International Festival of Creative Arts Ministry (#IFest2015)... WOW! What an incredible week it was.

I will never forget my first I-Fest. I had attended a Regional Creative Ministry Festival and met an absolutely wonderful workshop leader that just raved about I-Fest, the 200+ workshops they offered and the experience you would have.

I was only 17 but I determined that I wanted to attend I-Fest. I flew out by myself and little did I know what expected me. I met wonderful creative people who have poured so much into me, I was spiritually challenged and I had never before witnessed such excellence in ministry. My life and ministry was forever changed.

A week of encouragement and inspiration 

I haven't missed an I-Fest/MAX conference since. Each summer I arrive tired, low on spiritual and motivational juices. Yet, each summer, I leave encouraged, challenged and beyond pumped to continue in ministry.

This year was no different. Each jam-packed day consisted of this dynamic formula (which really is dynamic, you have to GO to experience it for yourself)

Christy Watkins lead several
hands-on performance

  • Breakfast on-campus with attendees that share your passion and experiences in ministry
  • Morning Chapel with Pastor Lenny Corliss (anointed pastor that will encourage and challenge you) and workshop presentations
  • 2 Mid-Morning Workshops (variety of seminars ranging from puppetry, drama, painting, blacklight, sign language, and more!)
  • Lunch on-campus with, yet again, those amazing people you can network with in the morning or maybe make some new friends
  • 2 Afternoon Workshops (includes "hands-on" workshops where you can learn by doing: puppet building, prop construction, learn a human video or drama, stage a puppet song)
Virtuous Reality Blacklight
Theater debuted Langston
Hatch's "the Suprings"
  • Dinner on-campus with more amazing people! Maybe even have lunch with that workshop leader who really struck you or who's brain you want to pick?
  • Evening Programs that feature exceptional performances from the workshop leaders (who range in backgrounds from senior pastors, ventriloquists, jugglers and so on) and local ministry teams
  • Night-time Competitions where ministry teams and individuals can receive feedback from an expert panel of judges to continue to polish their technique and ministry
  • Bedtime... if you can manage to sleep from all the ideas buzzing in your head and your excitement for the next day!

Be challenged: creatively and spiritually

The 2015 Creative Ministry Dream Team
Now I know I cannot call everything a highlight... but a big highlight is always the "Dream Team" finale performance that closes I-Fest. The Dream Team is a special team formed of talented youth from across the world under the direction of highly creative and seasoned directors. Members submit an audition video and application for consideration. 

They come together on Monday as strangers... and  leave Friday as friends that have impacted all the attendees with a powerful message and exceptional program... that they learned in just 5 days!

This year's Dream Team was directed by Sheri Brubeck of Buffalo Grove, IL and Carrie Murphy of Rapid City, SD. Their production, "Finding Foreverland," told the story of Wendy's visit to Neverland to teach the Lost Boys about God's Heavenly Family in Foreverland. 

Remove "M-Y" Part From "F-A-M-I-L-Y" & We "F-A-I-L."

I could write a novel about the I-Fest experience but, really, I hope this gives you a glimpse of the special week it is and encourages you to consider attending yourself or recommending this conference to someone.

I'll close with words from Pastor Lenny Corliss, our Conference Chaplain. Each day, his message was centered around the theme of the "Family of Ministry." We are a "FAMILY" and should each do our part.

We are each given talents, skills or attributes that we can contribute to the Body of Christ for the benefit of the kingdom. For some, it's teaching. For some, it's preaching. For some, it's reaching. Maybe for you it's using a puppet, or being an usher, or writing a song. Whatever it is, let us work together to expand the Kingdom and give God Glory. 

I challenge you to not be a Christian spectator, or consumer, but one who contributes to the Body and teachers others to do the same. Remember 1 Corinthians 12:25-26:

"so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

You can learn more about I-Fest by visiting Creative Ministry Solutions
View more pictures from I-Fest 2015 on our Facebook page