Monday, January 30, 2012

Creativity And A Bucket Of M&Ms

Five years ago, "Creative Arts" at PCC meant that Brian and I sat around and thought up things we thought were creative, and then we scrambled to make it happen. These days, there are a lot more of us doing the thinking and planning, and we have a larger team doing the scrambling.

We plan ahead as much as possible, but to be honest, we have to leave room for spontaneity. Our focus is so intense for the current Sunday; once it's over, it seems like the coast clears and we can make room to really think through the message and the extra elements. A lot happens between Monday morning and 930AM Sunday!

Today's service was typical in many ways, but it was a little more....spontaneous than usual. Here's how the process went:
  • We planned the topic in a vague sense when we outlined the series, right around the end of the year. What that means is we jotted it down on a planning sheet and started thinking about songs, skits and other creative stuff. We finalized the topic with a short outline from Brian right around the first of the year.
  • Lindsay brainstormed a long list of songs that fit each week of the series; going off the idea that giving is a good way to live, we had a few good ideas to choose from. "Satisfied Mind" was on her list - the Jeff Buckley version. We knew there was a bluegrass/country version out there, too, and knowing that we had some great bluegrass resources, we tossed that song to Carlisle Bowling and asked him to put it together for us. We anticipated that as either the set up song or the closer. When Carlisle and his buddies came in today, they were short a fiddle player; their guy had fallen ill. We turned to Matthew O'Donnell and said, "Can you play fiddle?" Yes, he could - but he didn't have a violin with him. Tony Stoddard ran down to Powhatan Music & Sound, grabbed a fiddle off the display shelf and brought it back to Matthew. And voila` - we had a quartet!
  • We thought the topic would make for a great skit, and we talked through some options; the idea of playing of a Hoarders type show was appealing, and we took a look at a few clips. Christine Peyton helped come up with the idea of an old, stingy guy who couldn't let go of his stuff. We sent a few ideas and a summary to Chad Milburn, who wrote the script. Christine cast the skit, set up rehearsals and arranged for filming with Chauncey so we'd have a version for Westchester. Jackie Heberle and Christine put the set together, the actors learned their lines and somebody put baby powder in Matt Morin's hair to make him look old.
  • On Tuesday, we picked worship music. Somebody mentioned "Like A Lion", which has been in my "songs we gotta do" list since last September. Matthew loved it and we knew he would do a great job with the tune, so we programmed it. We were feeling the heaviness of a lot of sickness and illness in the lives of people that we know and love, and that led to a desire to do "Always" to start the service. I started thinking about set-up scripture and decided I'd open the service with Jesus' words in John 16.33. 
  • Brian wanted to find a different way to end than "Satisfied Mind" - we talked about the fact that we had used presentation songs for a few weeks to close the service. We wanted something that would allow us all to respond, react and participate; we picked "Surrender" and "Never Gonna Stop".
  • The band gathered Thursday night, rehearsed the songs and made sure we knew how they would begin and end. We  always leave rehearsal aware that we'll need more individual practice before we return at 730AM Sunday to connect the dots of the music with the entire service.
  • Late in the week, Brian filmed the message for Westchester. I helped with the graphics and listened to the message. After he told the very funny story about his kids hoarding candy in the theater, he said something like, "God could make it RAIN candy if he wanted to!" That line stuck in my head, and as we talked through the message when he finished, I said, "You know....what if we DID make it rain candy?" And off we went.
  • I talked to my engineer husband about the possibility "raining" candy literally with some sort of pulley system. He encouraged me to consider that this might be one of those ideas that we thought were good...but turned out to be a disaster. After input from Lindsay and another conversation with Brian, we decided to go with a bucket. I went to Sam's for M&Ms, Tractor Supply for a galvanized bucket and argued with Brian about whether or not the M&Ms would be salvageable.
  • We saw an email on Saturday regarding the new "Afghanistan Community Church" and knew that we had to say something in the service - it was so exciting! We decided Sunday morning to bring Brian out for the offering prayer and let him share this exciting news with crowd shots and a shout out to the folks on the other side of the world.
  • We went long in the first service and ended up cutting "Never Gonna Stop" from the closing songs on the fly. In between services, we talked about how to tighten up the time and seriously discussed cutting one of the opening songs. We work hard to honor the efforts our children's ministry team and parking team make to move people in and out of the service efficiently. When they loose 10 minutes of time, it makes a big difference. We elected to tighten up speaking parts, start earlier and keep everything as is; however, when we took the stage for the final song, we knew we'd have to cut the closer again.
Those bullet points list the planning and the decision-making elements of a fairly typical Sunday morning. Today was a little tougher for all involved, because we made several last-minute changes that kept the technical team on their toes. Add to that some challenging equipment issues that had Ginger Lewis building the graphics after the service had already started and it made for a day of scrambling.

But there's no question it was a powerful day for our community to be together. I believe we experienced the presence of God as we worshiped through song, and I know we heard truth taught from the platform. We worshiped God for who He is through the attention of our minds and the affection of our hearts. And we have an image of cascading M&Ms that is seared into our brains. Someone said, "I'll never look at M&Ms the same way again."

And that's kind of the point. PCC exists to reach people who are far from God, untouched and unaffected by traditional churches. We worship Him passionately and authentically, because we believe He is worthy - and we seek to lead by example in that worship. We strive to find creative ways to capture your attention and imprint God's truth on your heart.

And we'll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

So - if you attend PCC, or if you watch online, know that that one hour of "church" represents hours of planning and praying and preparation. It's crazy ideas and careful contemplation. It's hours spent memorizing words and chords and scripts. It's hours spent moving furniture and making a living room. It's 20 hours spent wrestling, praying, researching and writing for a 25 minute message. It's a team of incredible volunteers who show up on Sunday ready to be flexible, to smile at last minute changes, to cheer one another on and lift one another up.

When you say, "Service was awesome today!" my hope is that you walked out of the room somehow different than when you walked in. Our prayer is that we create an environment that enables you to connect with God - emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. We believe God will do it - and he does. We work to simply craft the room for you to experience Him.

 If it takes a bucket of M&Ms, so be it. Whatever it takes.

If this sounds exciting to you and you'd like to investigate being part of our team, get in touch with me - beth {at} pccwired {dot} net.
If you missed the service, you can watch it here.

1 comment:

Susie Ross said...

Thank you so much for devoting so much time, effort, and love into the services. Sunday was my husband and my second visit to PCC and we absolutely loved it. I even thought to myself on my drive to work today, that it felt like a performance mire than a service, in a good way. You keep us engaged, attentive, amused, and moved. The m&ms and bluegrass will carry me through the week. Thanks for all you (all) do!