Jarrett, Willow Creek Conference Manager, Gary, Exec VP Intl WCA, Johan and Karin Klein, the heart of the Belgium Summit
So people have asked what do I do when I produce a Summit.I thought I’d write some of it out…
I arrived in Belgium on Wednesday and meet a couple who had been pleading Willow Creek to bring the Summit to Brussels for about a decade. This couple, Johan and Karin, lead a small house church of 20 people. They are passionate about leading Belgium to Christ and use events like the Summit to challenge and mobilize the churches in their cities.
This is Brussels second year of the Summit. Last year they had Joe Horness, formerly a worship leader at Willow producing (read: big shoes) and this year, because Willow thought they still needed a little coaching they sent me.
I will work with them, to deliver this (Summit) baby. It is like a baby… because it takes months to get here… and then in a few short hours of labor and delivery it is here… and then the real work begins. It's also a little like delivering a baby because we are strangers to one another, for the most part, but we have to get to know one another quickly, they have to trust my experience and I have to get to know them quickly, and know when to "push" (tee hee pardon the pun).
Belgium is a spiritually dark country.
2% of the population consider themselves proestant and 7% Catholic. This compares with 78% of Americans who consider themselves Christian.
The summit is 6 sessions on video tape of teaching focused at mobilizing church leaders to make a difference in their community and world.
The six sessions
1 Bill Hybels- senior pastor Willow Creek Church - practical advice for managing the church during an economical crises. financial, HR and personal health guidelines
2 Tim Keller- pastor of a NY church- a message on the prodigal son analogy Jesus used. Tells the story in a way that I've never heard it. A great challenge to the stale church.
3 John Ortberg- my favorite teaching pastor and my favorite talk ever. What prevents us from leading to our full potential.
4 Gary Hamel- business scholar and believer. Is the church changing as fast as the rest of the world? We must if we are going to reach people.
5 Bono- Three years ago Bono and Bill Hybels sat down and Bono challenged the sleeping church because it wasn't doing enough about global poverty and health crises. This year they sat back down again and reviewed how the church has made a diffference. Stories were shared from churches around the world who are doing something....
6 Harvey Carey- Detroit (black baptist) preacher who took a 50% paycut to move from NYC to Detroit to pastor a church there. Kick in the pants talk on what we CAN do in our communities. His church does things like... when you come on Sunday we go out and pray for people in the community right then. Every house, ring the doorbell, pray for people kind of stuff. Or an overnight camp out in front of the drug houses in the neighborhood. They've shut down or moved 8 out of their neighborhood.
We have 6 sessions, music, creative elements, announcements, french, dutch and english translations for each session etc. to fit in to Friday night and Saturday.
Thursday we spent the day reviewing the plans for each of the six sessions.
What is the best flow of the session, what songs should we sing, when should the worship leader speak, is the energy of the music right for the moment... Friday night after work... Saturday morning after a late night, or after a lunch break...
If we do this, does it mean we can't do that? Should we start early or on time? Is there enough time for a dinner break? How long does that take?
When should the tech team and band/vocals arrive for rehearsal? How should they prioritize their rehearsal time? Run soundchecks. If they dont get to everything before we open doors to the conference in the morning, can we add another rehearsal during a break?
The band/vocals/tech team had 12 people drawn from 8 different churches in the area. They dont know one another well, but have had a couple of rehearsals together. Who is in charge here? Problem solve when things dont go according to plan. We plan, God laughs. When the technical director is laid up for 4 days and now can't come, help figure out how we are going to do it without him. Who is most capable in what roles (strangers to me and one another) and how can we roll up our sleeves and get it done. Encouraging and coaching all along the way, knowing that 1. they dont do this level of programming week in and week out like we do and 2. that they need to be equipped to do all of this in their own way themselves next year. Watching constantly for who has the right mix of gifts for leadership next year.
Remembering I am an American woman and a stranger with all the baggage that goes with that.
Remembering that because I am from Willow (which is like the Mother ship ) if i suggest something, in most cases all energy and effort will be given to that rather than it just being an idea or a discussion. It's too much power in some cases.
Always keeping the values of team work and serving and excellence (the best with what we have) in mind.
Doing all of this where English is the second or third language.
And then there are the technical aspects.
For this conference that's 4 vocalists, 5 musicians, 2 lighting rigs, 2 dvd players playing simultaneously in case of a failure, 2 facilitators, a mime, some late additions of video/programming elements projected on to 2 large screens in a funky shaped room, none of which was really set up or in the room when we got there.
We set everything up on Thursday, make sure it all works, then decide at every moment of the conference what will be heard, seen and how the lighting will affect each moment.
Should it be dark while we're singing, how dark? Should it be a little lighter during the messages so people can take notes? How light? In a rented room where house lighting is funky i.e. everytime you change the lighting up or down, half the lights do this major twinkling thing which is distracting so is the lighting change worth doing or not?
Oh and the mime, with props on saturday morning. How will we clear the musicians off the stage and transition to her mime quickly. Is a mime appropriate in Belgium?
What can we minimize on stage so that she is the focus, with physical stage transitions and lighting? Oh and there's a video clip at the end of her mime. let's decide if we want to have sound, or not for the mime clip, since it's a mime, afterall.
Oh and your trumpet teacher who is not a believe is coming to play Amazing Grace… where and when makes the most sense?
Get them up and running in rehearsal and leave the room to go print something downstairs and come back and of course, there’s something wrong with sound and we’ve screeched to a halrt. And now rehearsal is running late and it's time to open doors now... whats the greater value, rehearsal or open doors? The answer… preparation for when the most people are in the seats… so we apologize for opening late, offer people a cup of coffee and continue to get ready.
These kinds of decisions are made all the time. Competing values is what we call them. There's a value to everything and a cost. Keep the big idea in mind... weigh the costs vs. the benefit and make a decision, communicate the why because it's really just a choice. All the time choices. There's rarely a right or wrong in my world. A producer looks at the big picture and makes the decisions.
Facilitation. Because we are in Belgium, the conference videos are in English with both French and Dutch subtitles on the screen.
Oh, the subtitles are at different positions every talk, so let's think through how we need to test/adjust the screen each time so that the best image is projected for this session.
We have a French and a Dutch translator who do all the announcements. What should they bother to say and when is it too much talking? They also spend time following each session pointing the attendees to a list of questions in their conference notebook and give them time to discuss what they have heard. How much time should this take each session? What should the facilitators say to spark discussion but not repreach the message. Is this more of a personal time of reflection or a team discussion time? What should the lighting in the room be during this moment? What is the mood at the end of the message, is it upbeat- go change your world, or reflective, challenging, introspective and how does that affect the tone of the facilitation. Oh, and what do the 20 or so English speaking people do while the French and Dutch facilitation is going one, how about side screeen announcements for them, ok what's the script? Oh, so the event managers dont like the french or dutch subtitles for two or the sessions, ok, how will we distribute a couple of hundred headsets to people who speak two different languages for those sessions, get them back and charged and back out. Does the translation system work this morning? Oh, the Dutch translator is late, hmmm what shall we do? Oh, and when those lights are on it creates a buzz in the translation systems for the Dutch speaking people. Who can solve this and how quickly?
This is... what I did.
It's event management, volunteer coordination and decision making all the time.
I absolutely love it. I make mistakes every time and learn more every time.
This was my eleventh Summit to produce. Nine at home, 1 in Honduras last year and then Belgium. In most ways, this one was easier primarily because it's my second time doing it so I felt like I better understood what was expected of me and how I fit in and, speaking of understanding… the people i worked with spoke more English so that helped me to be more engaged in the moment and decision making.
I absolutely believe in the content of the conference, in equipping leaders to see their potential and do more with it, this kind of teaching and resources which are so prevalent in the States is so much harder to get there. And, a lot of pastors have teaching and shepherding gifts but may not have a lot of training in team building, equipping and mobilizing volunteers or business management. So any way we can help them is a good good thing.
But, personally my favorite part of producing a Global Summit is the opportunity to work with an individual team on the ground in a new place, the 1:1 conversations, listening to their ideas, why things matter to them, talking through how one thing affects another and reaching, in most cases, a decision together, and occasionally in some cases- making an unpopular call from the gut, for the greater good. I love thinking through every detail, juggling alot at one time, watching people use their gifts to build the church around the world.
On the way to the airport Karin said, “we used to be Sunday Christians but then we heard Bill Hybels talk about the mission and importance of a vision and then we knew we must do something.” Today, just a few years later she and her husband and a small network of Belgium believers are making a difference equipping church leaders through events like the Summit. It's really incredible.
I am unbelievably grateful to my family and team for the opportunity to go and serve and have front row seat.
Every trip I come home realizing how fortunate I am to serve with my team week in and week out at such a resourced church. And the question always remains, are we doing the best w3 can with what WE have…