Over two days of conference sessions, attendees at the WFX Conference & Expo in Dallas had a wide array of session topics to select from, with five areas of focus: Tech Arts, Next-Gen Church Buildings, Church Communications, Church Safety & Security, and the WeAreWorship sessions.
At the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, plenty of time was spent visiting nearly a third of the 28 Tech Arts sessions over the two-and-a-half days in the schedule (preconference sessions were held Tuesday afternoon). In all, there were 79 sessions offered across the five concurrent conferences.
In looking to add to your team, "Start with one."
For those attending the conference, whether they were in Dallas to learn about the latest in church audio, video and lighting products, wanted to learn about such things as how to create virtual tours of their church for their website, or sought to discover various tips associated with filmmaking, the variety of choices proved beneficial to each attendee.
Of the nine workshops (and the two preconference sessions I sat in on Tuesday), the three that stood out most were:
[Workshop] Intermediate Level Filmmaking Is Hard, led by Nathan VonMinden.
[Preconference Session] Recruiting, Training, and Empowering an All-Volunteer Staff, coordinated by Karl Vaters.
[Workshop] Lighting: Programming With a Purpose, with Kevin Penrod as the speaker.
For VonMinden, he held three different workshops over two days in Dallas, with two on filmmaking and another on video production. During his intermediate-level filmmaking session, about 60 attendees sat in during the 105-minute session.
Among the topics he covered was what to do in setting up a green screen. That included showing his own workspace setup at Grace Point Church in San Antonio, highlighting how inexpensively one could set up a green screen.
"One can use linoleum flooring, and paint it green," explained VonMinden, a writer for Worship Tech Director. "As long as you don't get shiny paint, and you won't kill yourself with the lighting," pointing to a viable low-cost choice for fashioning a green screen. Another option, he noted, would be to buy a green curtain and tack it up in the space being used for filming, especially if "you don't have the ability to have a static place for the green screen filming location."
In trying to decide what sorts of projects a filmmaker at a church should focus on, he noted that "I am limiting the announcement videos that I do, since there's a lot of work, but not a lot of return." His focus, he explained, was instead toward filming such things as testimony videos, as "I want to affect hearts and minds. I want to work on a story, on something that will flow well in service."
Another prime opportunity for memorable filmmaking to not pass up, the Worship and Creative Arts Pastor at Grace Point Church noted, were mission trips. "People get bored looking at your mission trip photos. So a video of the mission stands out much more." While it might be ideal to have the filmmaker along for the trip, he showed a one such trip to Belize this year with the video he created, where "I had other people take the images and videos. You can gather the video and put in a voice over, which you can do for small events or kids groups."
When the topic of upgrades came up for discussion, he emphasized in looking to devise a long-term plan to successfully make incremental upgrades. "Start a three-year campaign. Start by asking for two cameras this year," he said. "You probably won't get them. Then ask for one the next year. You still might not, so ask again in the third year. By then, you should probably get it," thereby taking first steps toward upgrading your church's gear.
Two days earlier, during the slate of preconference workshops, one of the more impressive sessions was led by Karl Vaters, lead pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.
In a room wedged full of more than 120 attendees, with even a few seats overflowing through the room's two doorways, Vaters' workshop focused on how to recruit, train and empower an all-volunteer staff at a church.
The two-hour session identified scalable ways to implement such steps, which would be applicable to any attendee, whether working at a small or large church.
On the topic of recruiting, Vaters began by bringing up the aspect of millennials, an age group that he noted can often frustrate some church tech team leaders. For example, he noted, they "are demanding certain things of the church, such as doing good work. If we don't do good work, the next generation won't show up. And they shouldn't show up." Regardless of a church's size, he said, "Quality should not diminish, even if it will look different. (At a small church) we won't have the bells and whistles, but you have to make sure the people can hear the pastor's words."
In recent years, Vaters referenced how the approach for recruiting has changed significantly. "A generation ago, recruiting had a destination mindset I'm going to land here and stay here." Instead, it should now be more "about process," and that the "pace of our change is constant," little by little. "In our church, everyone knows we are always fixing our least effective part. Right now, it's kids' ministry. I have created a list of things we need to do for kids' ministry," explained Vaters. By opting to roll out changes a little at a time, but do so at a constant pace, he said, "People can handle change, but not be surprised (by too much at once)."
If a significant change does need to be put on the table for consideration, though, Vaters said, "I will not present that big change in the same meeting where I will expect you to decide on it." Recognizing that it "might have taken me months or years to get comfortable with" that idea, it's best to give those being presented what is to them a new idea, "an opportunity to process it."
When seeking out to add team members, it might seem ideal to find individuals who sign up, and then lock in their commitment for the long-term.
But that's largely not realistic, explained Vaters.
"Adapt to how people make commitments now, for blocks of time, and not long-term," he said. Value people's time and value their commitments."
Sometimes, when we are looking for help—making that request in the bulletin certainly helps—we still haven't (directly) asked for help. You know people like to be asked, to be personally asked. They feel honored by that."
In looking to add to your team, "Start with one," he said. When Vaters first started at Cornerstone, he said, "I invested in (one particular volunteer). I spent time with him, as the other people had gone through five pastors over the last 10 years."
When it comes time for training, he said to start by having them "watch you, you watch them, and from there, you tweak the process, as the foundation of everything you do in the church is relational."
In seeking different skill levels among the sought-after leaders, he spelled out how the beginning level should be thought of as "Level 10" leaders, up to "Level 1,000." In a church with 1,000 congregation members, he anticipated needing 100 individuals designated at Level 10, then needing about 20 individuals at "Level 50," and maybe 10 who are at "Level 100."
While it might be tempting to invest most of one's time searching to find that higher-rated individual, Vaters said, "Look for Level 10 leaders first. If you are looking for Level 1,000 leaders first, you will be sorely disappointed."
By first locating those with basic leadership skills, recognize that in time, some may earn their way up the ladder to higher levels.
For example, that particular volunteer that Vaters highlighted when he first began at the Cornerstone, earned such a promotion through his actions. He was first recruited as a Level 10 volunteer, after Vaters noticed how he, "without request, had picked up a cup and put it in the trash."
From there, Vaters gave him a leadership test of sorts, asking whether he could "get volunteers to help in breaking down after service. And he found four friends to help," he said. "He is smart enough and cares enough, to where I then raised him from a Level 10 leader to a Level 50."
The other workshop worthy of note at WFX was on the conference's final day, over in the Next-Gen Church Buildings wing, with the session, "Lighting: Programming with a Purpose," led by long-time Worship Tech Director writer and Trinity Fellowship Church Lighting Designer Kevin Penrod.
In that session, with more than 40 attendees, Penrod discussed how as tempting as it might be to beginning pushing buttons on a lighting console as the first steps to begin programming for a song, one should first learn the song. From there, he emphasized the need to take notes, thinking about the color, focus, intensity and movement of the song, to help decide how best to implement lights for each song. And don't forget having a stopwatch handy as well, to help in figuring how much time you have between steps. Lastly, plan to map out your steps for programming.
By mapping songs ahead of time (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, etc.), it allows for preparations to be done well in advance, even when one might not have access to a console or the room with the equipment.
In addition, Penrod talked about how some lighting tools, while seemingly a strong match for those with high levels of expertise, might not be ideally suited for use for the overall church tech team. When it came to training volunteers, for instance, such tools can create their own set of issues.
One such example, he noted, was when the topic of MIDI triggers was raised, and how his church had previously been running MIDI out of Ableton. That practice was ended because, he said, "volunteers could not follow along. Since we are meant to groom volunteers," his preferred solution was to have the volunteers "get those hits by listening to a song time and time again." Without using MIDI triggers, Penrod indicated that he handles his programming and cue running now with in-ears.
When a new volunteer is brought on at Trinity Fellowship, he explained they are asked to start small, literally.
"Our (worship space) looks super cool and fun, but if you are not willing to serve in the small spaces, then you won't be allowed to do it in the large spaces," said Penrod. The beginning steps for a new volunteer at Trinity is to have them run the equipment "in the children's spaces for six months, before you can take a stab in the alternate room." Once they show an aptitude in that space, they then have the chance to transition to the main worship space.
For the nearly 3,700 registrants who were on hand for any of the two-and-a-half days in Dallas, taking in the preconference sessions, workshops, manufacturer training sessions, making visits to the many booths in the expo hall, or taking time for the many special events (including the Night of Worship Concert), the WFX Conference & Expo offered a worthwhile array of hands-on-training, networking, education, and creative solutions options.