brainstorming, team, development, church

Service Planning: Best Brains, Best Storms

Once you have made your decisions, devise a system for explaining, sharing the vision and communicating the moments to the entire staff team. Avoid using email exclusively for such communication.

One of the challenges that can show up in service planning, happens when the staff is placed in brainstorm meetings, exclusively based on their position within the organization. For example, it might be assumed that a worship pastor or arts director would be expected to attend, or perhaps even lead, a brainstorm meeting regarding weekend services.

Determine who the good brainstormers are, include them in your meetings, and then exclude the ones who do not like doing that.

In many cases, the artistic brain of a worship pastor is excited to be leading the charge to create worship services, and brainstorming is a function of that leader, casting their vision for how the service should look and feel. When the meeting contains a select few with a smaller staff, the brainstorms flow from the artistry of that individual.

This can get tricky though, as the church grows.

The larger your artistic staff is, the larger that brainstorm meeting is assumed to be. Many times, staff members will simply be added to the pool of meeting attendees, based entirely on their position, and few ask the question about what that staff member has to offer in terms of brainstorming (or if that is even one of their gifts). This happens when church creative staff grows to include video directors, graphic designers, tech staff, vocal team leaders, etc.

This also happens in a multisite environment that is growing. Multiple locations are often run by site-specific worship leaders, and those artists are assumed a seat at the brainstorming table.

Other times, multisite worship leaders are positionally left out of the brainstorming mix, with the leaders of those meetings well aware that a church with 12 locations would not benefit from a brainstorming meeting with 20 to 30 people in the room. The problem with this, is that many times, a multisite church could benefit from the brainstorming process of a worship pastor out on the "front lines" of their church, in a location different than the original or largest site.

What is brainstorming, but a primary gift of that particular worship pastor, and it's going completely untapped, simply because of a particular pecking order?

The simple thing to do would be to determine who the good brainstormers are, include them in your meetings, and then exclude the ones who do not like doing that, or who do not demonstrate being gifted in that area.

This can present a problem, though, of lack of ownership.

If the person who is expected to make that moment happen didn't participate in the brainstorm when it was invented, how will they know how to execute when Sunday arrives?

And will they feel like it was their idea, or was it simply dictated to them by "higher ups"?

Not to mention the jealousy that can grow when those who aren't included feel like they are missing out of something fun.

So how should an arts team navigate this challenge when service planning?

For the sake of time, I'm going to assume that you have been able to successfully perceive those you want in the room (regardless of position) and those whose gifts are not in the brainstorming category. Accurately perceiving brainstorming skills will vary based on the style and vision of the church.

Get Input Before Decision-Making

If you have groups who brainstorm and others that don't, but who have similar roles, it is important to gain input from those not brainstorming before a "final" decision is made. This will require planning ahead, and some systems set up.

If those who need to give input are not in the room, investigate online resources like shared documents and comment features to encourage the perusal of those ideas, and the opportunity to speak into those ideas that have the most energy. You might also consider a "follow up" meeting to the brainstorm where you present the ideas to a group to allow for some specific feedback, with the understanding that those who are giving that input, are doing so to help the leading staff make decisions, and that this is not a "voting" scenario.

Divide and Conquer, But Stay Together

If you have "brainstormers" and "nonbrainstormers" who have similar roles, it would be worth investigating bringing the entire team together regularly either separately from the brainstorm meetings, or in a larger meeting in which brainstorming is only a part.

Perhaps there is a training element that can take place simultaneously with a brainstorm session. When brainstorming, identify particular skills within the group and allow them to break off into those areas of focus. For example, perhaps Joe and Pat are really good at shaping "spoken word moments" in and out of worship music - so in the middle of the big meeting, send them off to work on it, then have them come back later to present to the whole group.

Ask for input, but don't make decisions.

Multiply that within various kinds of moments, and you could have multiple, smaller and more effective brainstorms happening within a larger meeting that accomplishes multiple goals. This will allow for connection and camaraderie within your creative staff, while understanding that not everyone will participate in everything.

Explain, and Then Allow for All Questions

Once you have made your decisions, devise a system for explaining, sharing the vision and communicating the moments to the entire staff team. This does not have to be "in person", but avoid using email exclusively.

In many cases, a video log or podcast can do the trick. It will be very tempting to allow that presentation to be the "final word" on the matter, but it is very important that the climate you create allows for all clarifying questions to be answered. This is the time for the "nonbrainstormer" to feel most "in the loop," and it's critical that they are having an opportunity to process these moments, especially if they are in high-capacity roles of execution for those moments. You may even find that a well-placed question with enough time to address it could lead to making helpful changes or adjustments to the content.

Brainstorming is a collaborative art, but it is an art that requires a skill set. Capitalize on those who have the skill, without alienating those who depend on who do not have it. Then the best idea wins, and service planning has the potential to be the best part of everyone's job.

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