choice and discipline

Having worked at Willow Creek for over 10 years, I would often talk to people who were visiting from other churches. As I was giving people tours of the production spaces, I would often get comments about how “easy” it must be to do production at Willow, since we had everything we could ever want. While being far from true, I was never quite sure how to respond.

Now that I’ve been gone for some time, and spent more time with other churches, and seeing how they do production, I think I have something to say. I listen to audiobooks a lot in the car, and I was just re-listening to “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, and this statement really resonated with me.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance, but of choice and discipline.” – Jim Collins

This is the response I have been searching for. For me, it has never mattered if there were 100 people in a room or 10,000. I’m going to handle my responsibility the same. I’m going to come in early to make sure everything is checked and working before everyone gets there. I’m going to be concerned with preventing audio feedback regardless of the event, size, or who is in attendance.

When I moved from Kensington Community Church to Willow Creek, someone asked me what it was like to do productions in such a large room. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. The goal is to do great work. Period.

A big difference I see between how Willow Creek does production and churches that are struggling with production is the second half of Jim Collin’s statement: choice and discipline. This is about setting expectations for how we want the production to go; making the choice to set up effective processes for getting results, then having the discipline to keep doing the process week after week.

A few weekends ago, there was a portion of the service that I was working on that required lots of work to get right. I think we talked through a particular transition 4 or 5 times, then during our run-through, we walked through it another 4 or 5 times. At a certain point, I felt like the volunteers were looking at me like “Can you please go away?” We were all a little frustrated with each other. However, in the end, we nailed it and that moment went flawlessly every time. Because we chose to hold ourselves to a high standard, then had the discipline to work it until we got it right, we experienced a little piece of greatness that morning.

Greatness in production isn’t something that just happens, it is a choice, that takes massive amounts of discipline to follow through on. Your church deserves it.

Todd Elliott

Todd Elliott

Todd is a writer, speaker, technical artist in the local church and founder of FILO.

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MAY 2-3, 2023