Article Art by Carrie Grant

Getting By Without Expensive Gear

Posted by Blaine Hogan on May 01, 2012.

Author: Blaine Hogan

The light show.

The HD video system.

Stadium seats.

A production that would make Cirque du Soleil look boring.

That’s what it takes to reach people in our churches. Right?

So many churches believe they have to have everything to be modern and effective. But they don’t examine the “why” behind it all.

Expensive equipment can be a trap.

Expensive equipment can be a trap.
Once you have the incredible light shows, hazers, and HD equipment it easily becomes more about the technology than about the story.

So often, in large churches, we hold meetings to try and explain an idea. We throw all our ideas on the table. And they all get used. We don’t think, “Do we need to do this?”

Unfortunately, we tend to only ask that question when budget is a concern. Only when we can’t afford something do we start getting creative.

I want to see more people get the discipline of asking “why” before they actually need to. I want to see people look at constraints as opportunities to actually be creative.

Anyone with money can make something amazing. But true creativity comes when the budget isn’t there.

Anyone with money can make something amazing. But true creativity comes when the budget isn’t there.

My wife and I sat down the other day to watch a movie on Netflix. We had two choices in our queue: Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale Tour and Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never. We chose to watch Britney Spears.

It was awful. She wasn’t really dancing. She was lip-syncing. Everything was mechanical – pyrotechnics and light shows. We turned it off in 15 minutes.

Then we watched Justin Bieber. I’m proud to say we watched that movie. Bieber had so much passion and a story to tell.  Record labels turned him down because he didn’t have the machine behind him. But then he went on YouTube. All he needed was an Internet connection and a good story to tell.

It was amazing to see the contrast of the two people: Justin Bieber and Britney Spears. Both at the Madison Square Garden. Both icons of pop music. But Justin Bieber got creative. It was so much more engaging than Britney’s whole tour – with all her expensive equipment and incredible production.

None of the tools matter if you don’t have a good story.

None of the tools matter if you don’t have a good story.
Any technology you use should be in service of the story you’re telling.

That’s how we’ve avoided the trap of expensive equipment at Willow Creek. Though we have great equipment, we constantly remember that the story we have to tell is more important than the technology or the “cool factor”. There are times we choose to not use some of our equipment because it doesn’t serve the story we’re telling.

There are times we choose to not use some of our equipment because it doesn’t serve the story we’re telling.

The biggest principle is this: use restraint.

Be ok with restraints.

Be ok with restraints.

Edit.

Use only the essential pieces.

Look at your community and figure out what you need to reach your community.

When Rob Bell was starting his church, he wanted to teach on Leviticus for the first year. The whole thing was about Scripture text and story telling.

Instead of going the typical mega-church route, he rented a mall. He put a stage in the round. He wore the same black pants and white shirt each Sunday. And he taught like that for a year – so it wouldn’t distract from the story he was trying to tell.

Most people aren’t doing that because they aren’t thinking about the story they want to tell. Instead they are thinking about the mediums that “attract people”.

It’s sacrilegious.

And our sacred spaces were meant for more than just light shows.

About the Author

Blaine Hogan | w
After 12 years as a professional actor, Blaine now acts as the creative director at Willow Creek Community Church. He lives just outside Chicago with his wife, Margaret, and their daughter, Ruby.

4 Comments

  1. Boom sauce! We’ve lived by this for our set designs and it has been awesome what we’ve come up with (lots of help from churchstagedesignideas.com 😉 Not so good at this principal in other areas but it is such an important challenge.

  2. YES.

    YES!!!!

    This.

    This right here.

    Nothing more to add.

  3. Great thoughts Blaine. I think those really good at doing this (edit, restraint etc) are the ones that might be in the position of not having “stuff”. It takes restraint, it takes conscious effort, but I wonder how many awesome things are happening out there at churches that aren’t mega that we don’t see or hear about. Sometimes you just have to make it work.

    I love this.

  4. Great article. Like “George Lois” the original mad man says, trends are traps.


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