Turning A Battleship

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Thanks to Travis Paulding, (Tech Director) at St. Simons Community Church for sharing these great insights with us today.

I was a chaplain for a high school soccer team for a few years and one season there was a kid on the team that was great at a few things but none of those things included making a cut on the soccer pitch. In the midst of a game the coach yelled at him “You turn like a battleship!” As you can probably imagine, he earned a new nickname that night. I also had a vision that stuck with me. A battleship is designed to do a lot of things well, changing direction is not one of them. They are big, strong, awe-inspiring war ships but they don’t turn on a dime.

You may already know where I am going with this… Your church and the organization(s) within it are probably like battleships. They do a lot of things well but making changes may not be one of them. Your organization can be turned, like a battleship, but if there is ANY forward momentum then it is going to take a lot of power, planning, time, and a BIG rudder.

In 12+ years on staff at my church I have seen, participated in, resisted, fostered, championed and grieved a lot of change. Are there things in your realm that you wish would change or you could change yourself? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Don’t get caught up on being the change agent – When you see change finally coming, don’t get frustrated if you had that idea 6 months ago and no one listened. Thank God that your prayer (I hope) has been answered and jump on board. No one on your team wants to hear “I told you so!”
  2. Be patient – This should go without saying, but I’ll say it. We’ve had staff changes that brewed for over a year. We’ve had philosophy of ministry discussions that have been fluid for 2 years. We’ve had “official terminology” get changed before we were finished rolling it out after a design process. We could go to the Bible for plenty of examples on waiting for God’s timing.
  3. Look for root issues – Sometimes if a project isn’t gaining traction no matter how it gets spun around, it may be about the person/people leading that project. Find ways to get people in the right seat on the bus. (Terminology stolen from Good to Great.) That being said, sometimes the project/event/ministry just isn’t something God wants to happen.
  4. Identify strengths – Our staff recently went through StrengthsFinder 2.0 with a certified coach. It is amazing how much better people are working together. Many of the changes that people wanted to see happen ended up happening almost over night. When people start working in ways they are wired AND stop working in ways they aren’t, it’s awesome.
  5. Ignore titles – This goes with identifying strengths. If someone has a strategic strength and/or a passion for something that isn’t in their job description find ways for them to get involved. We’ve seen multiple people on our team shift jobs over the years as they discover their strengths and how our church can benefit from them. Two quick examples are, I went from Student Pastor to Tech & Production Director and our Children’s Director became our Ministry Coordinator and part of our leadership team. Both of these came about after we started really getting honest about our calling (and our un-calling?). It is important to remember that job shift does not have to be a natural evolution though. Our groups coordinator has a knack for page layout. She is where she is supposed to be and we just let her run point on all groups and volunteer print work and my team just finalizes things. This saves us both time and she gets to do something that gets creative and breaks monotony. Ignoring titles and working towards strengths could be a HUGE win for any organization.
  6. Maintain healthy expectations – I am responsible for all media, event production, communications, design, and IT in my church. I also follow a fair share of industry blogs and get magazines that are not church world specific. You can’t let the industry standards frustrate you. Don’t hear me wrong, I am not saying sacrifice quality because it is for Jesus. He deserves our best, pursue excellence, just make sure you have a healthy definition of excellence. We define it as “doing the best you can with the resources (time, money, ability) that you have.” I want everything we do to be excellent, but I also have to realize that my goal is not a demo reel nor is to impress other designers/engineers/fill-in-the-blank industry idol. I won’t ever run through After Effects projects like Andrew Kramer, Cinema 4D projects like Greyscalegorrilla, and I probably won’t mix as well as Dave Stagl BUT I can do an excellent job for the people God has called me to minister too.
  7. Build trust with your team – I work with an awesome 20+ staff team of pastors, leaders, and ministry directors. They are NOT designers. They are NOT audio engineers. They are NOT aficionados of exemplary design. They do NOT care how awesome the rig was at the Muse show two years ago. They have probably NOT watched the documentary Helvetica… because they don’t care. All of this means that if any of those things are true of you, you might think very differently about things than the people you serve. You are in your role because of your calling and the same is true of them. So, don’t go into meetings like a wrecking ball telling people how wrong they are about the street ministry flyer with papyrus all over it. Over time take opportunities to explain vision, explain reasons why, and give examples. In the past two years my team has gone from a place of too frequent resistance from team mates to almost blind trust. It all starts with us remembering that the groups pastor LOVES getting people connected and growing together and that is his primary motivation. What is yours? Do you let form wreck function? It is a delicate balance in the church world but when you begin to work alongside of and develop teammates on staff, you will get to flex your creative/production/technical muscles more and more. I’ve found that, unless I fear a serious communication error is on the way, it is far better to complete a less-than-desirable task and then discuss it afterwards. It is also helpful to say things like “that might work but I have an idea, can I show you that also?” You might just find yourself driving more and more of those projects before too long.

So that is it. My non-exhaustive yet potentially exhausting list of things I’ve learned in the past few years of leading a tech/media/production/communications/IT team on a decent sized church staff.

Do you have any questions, comments, screams, or cries for help? Chime in in the comments if so. Lets connect. Oh, and search the discussions on this site too, they are rich with experience and advice.