I have to be honest, when I sat down to write this article, I had a little bit of writer’s block. I was supposed to present “what worked” in my past Christmas productions before I presented “what didn’t.” I had trouble putting into words exactly what made these Christmas productions work. I could talk about careful planning, rehearsals, systems checks, masterfully executed Christmas music with seamless transitions, children’s ministry involvement and so much more. But as I contemplated this topic, I realized the most memorable moments in all my years of working in production during the holiday season were the things that went wrong. So, since failure is such a great teacher, I thought I’d start with what “didn’t work” first. Perhaps my experiences will prevent you from having mishaps of your own.
The Christmas Decoration Team vs. The Tech and Worship Team
The ladies who decorate the Sanctuary and stage for Christmas create the most beautiful indoor scenery, replete with tons of beautifully lit Christmas trees, cotton snow all over the whole stage, lamp posts, wreaths and so much more. While it’s an absolute winter wonderland, the tech team wondered how much cotton snow we’d have to dig through to access the stage pockets and how many Christmas trees blocked our access to the wireless racks. The worship team wondered where they were going to put the choir risers, drum kit and backline. We did what we needed to access our gear and make room for the worship team which required moving many of the decorations. The audio cable runs turned the fine blanket of white
cotton stage snow into something that resembled dirty blacktop slush. The Decoration Team was VERY unhappy to put it mildly. Just a thought; but it would be prudent for the Decoration Team and Tech and Worship Director to have a few on-site discussions before the big transformation.
The Year the Snow Machines Failed
We had a women’s Christmas event that drew about 2000 ladies dressed in their Sunday best. The grand finale included snow falling from a couple of snow machines mounted in the raisers. The snow consisted of a suds-like material that would be blown and dispersed into fine droplets that resembled snow.
When the time came for the snow to fall, out came these big balls of suds which fell onto the ladies with their fancy hairdos and fine clothes. Needless to say, the grand finale didn’t have its intended effect as the ladies tried to bat the big balls of suds away. But, during cleanup the kids sure had fun playing with the snow suds. The joy on their little faces made the whole disaster worthwhile.
Note: If you decide to try this yourself, run the snow machines for a while before the actual event.
Crying Baby Jesus
The realism in having a live nativity scene was a great idea until baby Jesus got hungry and started crying uncontrollably. Mary was at a loss and didn’t know what to do but was relieved when someone came and took the crying baby Jesus away and replaced him with a plastic doll.
Try Not Burn Down the Sanctuary
The Christmas Eve Candle Light service was epic. The orchestra was playing brilliantly. The choir sounded like angels. Every aspect of the service created a beautiful ambiance that allowed us to focus on Jesus, the reason for the season…and now it was time for the part of the service that everyone was anticipating; the candle lighting.
The music stopped. The house lights went on and one of the associate pastors walked up to the pulpit and gave a fire safety speech. The beautiful ambiance was gone! While the fire safety speech was important information, the timing of the speech might have been better planned.
Christmas Productions That Work
It never ceases to amaze me why tech can work perfectly all year and then fail right before the busiest services of the year. This year it was our presentation screens. But, while the words couldn’t be displayed for all the Christmas carols, the congregation seemed to sing louder and stronger worshiping God with everything they had.
My husband and I served on the mission field in a poor area of Honduras for a year. The Christmas production in the church we attended consisted of 5 gallon water jugs for drums and a couple of of guitars. There was no sound system and no fancy lighting. But, with the few resources they had, the worship team and congregation worshiped God with everything they
In all my years of production work, I am thankful that I have had many flawlessly run productions. I am also thankful that I can learn from the ones where I have made mistakes. But, as I reflect on what really worked in my past Christmas productions, it was the people worshiping God with everything they had. Remember, as you meet with your team to review what worked and what didn’t, that the reason for all of your technology and all of your planning, is that you’re all there to worship God with everything you have.
Golden Preciado is a Training Specialist and House of Worship Specialist for QSC. Golden grew up in the music industry and followed in her dad’s footsteps as an audio engineer, musician and worship leader. Golden is an accomplished front of house and broadcast engineer not only in the church world but in the secular music industry as well. She enjoys teaching her skill set to others, including in the Church Sound Training FaceBook group and on site where training is needed.