how to develop a td

Some days I wonder if the size and scale of Willow Creek is a good thing.  From the outside, it seems like Disneyland.  From the inside, it can be daunting.  10 venues, all with events happening at the same time, ranging in complexity from slightly complicated to ridiculously complicated.  Today I had a moment that represented the opposite.

One of the huge advantages of having 10 venues with simultaneous programs happening, is that you are forced to develop new people.  You have a huge need that needs to be filled by people that are first, willing and eager, then hopefully over time, these individuals will develop into superstars.

I was going from one meeting to another (which doesn’t necessarily differentiate it from any other day), and I saw 2 guys that represent a picture of the benefits of tons of opportunities for people to serve and then thrive while serving in production.  Chris is a guy in his twenties, who started serving in Promiseland Production in the 5th grade and has become a part-time staff member on our team.  He will soon be heading off to the Austin Police Academy.  Ben is 17 and has been serving in Promiseland Production since…5th grade and is in his first week as a part-time staff member serving in production.  Chris is training Ben.

Chris and Ben have been exposed to amazing production through the local church since they were little.  When I think about the first time I saw a PM1D (at Willow Creek when I was 30) and the first time Ben saw a GrandMA lighting console (at the age of 12) I am blown away.  Ben and Chris and countless other volunteers have the chance to get their hands on equipment that I couldn’t even dream of when I was that young.

How are you leveraging the talented youth in your church?  There are kids in your church that God created to do production and we have an opportunity to harness that talent for the local church to change the world.  What can you and I do to increase the opportunity for people to learn and grow in the technical arts?

Whether it is for the local church or for taking their Christian world view into the entertainment industry, let’s take the equipment, the venues, and the opportunities we have been entrusted with and leverage them for the benefit of young people gifted in production so that we can change the world one production at a time.

  • “There are kids in your church that God created to do production…”  What a powerfully wise statement and what a gift you are giving a young person by helping them develop what God has created them to do!

    • Thank you, Connie! Even now, there are a bunch of high school production kids making Student Impact summer camp happen for over 1000 high schoolers! I didn’t even think that was possible when I was in high school!

  • Todd, 
    Thank you for these words. I echo your thoughts completely. Right now we have students who are running audio, video, lighting, and producing services in student ministries here at NorthRidge. Some of these students are also getting the opportunity to mix, design, direct, and ultimately serve on our main stage as well as at our 2 satellite campuses. Our student ministry from band to tech is completely volunteer driven, every audio video lighting and program director is a volunteer somewhere between the ages of 13-25. For me it’s sometimes like wrangling and herding cats, but the reward for both them and the church is incalculable. 
    I started playing guitar at age 8 and then started playing worship at 12, leading at 16-present.
    I also started running sound for kids church at age 10 and haven’t looked back. 
    Both opportunities given to me are the foundation to what I do now as the creative director for student ministries here at NorthRidge Church. 

    I’m eternally grateful for the church staff who saw potential in me and poured into me and gave me opportunities. My goal is to pay it forward always developing this generation of students.


    • The benefit of a large church with many opportunities, is that hopefully some of venues are lower risk, lower stress, creating a better environment for kids to learn, make mistakes and grow. I hope you are able to keep pouring into the students around you.

  • I’m one of those teens.  I’m so thankful that our church has allowed me to not only get involved in so many ways, but they have also taken the time to mentor me.  I actually had the opportunity to attend the Gurus Tech Conference with 4 others from New Hope, and I’m so glad that you guys are taking the opportunity to train others.

    I now help not only with production, but I also organize a lot of the systems we use for video.

    • It is so great to hear that your church values having you involved and has the resources to get you behind some pretty cool equipment. Don’t stop taking advantage of it!

  • I love it…lead on Todd…Some of my most rewarding memories in leadership are when I focused on next generation leaders. I don’t want to mention namese here…but I am so proud of what they have done with their lives…and they started in Willow Creek’s Promiseland Production Team. The only challenge can be that many times in a high performance cultures like Willow there can be very little margin for error…For the most part…I am OK with that…kids respond well to bars that are set high. But they also need chances to fail and learn. That’s where the buffer of your leadership comes in. You set such a great pace that balances out the stability of a learning community with the challenges of a high performance team. Way to go man…

    • Thanks for the comments Mike. I forget that you used to lead production volunteers in Promiseland. That’s going way back! Setting the bar high and creating room to fail is a tightrope experience, but we have to create safe places for kids and adults to grow and thrive in production. Call them to something amazing and slightly outside of what seems possible, and giving them grace to become better.

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