The Prodigal Altar Boy

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Prodigal Altar Boy Blog 16 September 2014 - Games Worship Leaders Play

Games Worship Leaders Play

1.     Gambit: Wrong Charts, No Charts – Song charts consistently in the wrong key, incorrect chords, or no charts at all.
·        Strategy:  Pray.  Collaborate with musicians, especially ones who have been on the team longer and borrow their charts.  Share the charts you have.  Retain charts in multiple keys.
2.     Gambit: Predicting Failure (e.g.: “Now if you don’t nail the intro of this song, I’m going to just keep going without you.”)
·        Strategy: Pray.  Practice intro/lead parts you know you have to cover on a regular basis.  Practice them with a metronome.  Relax and ignore needless pressure.
3.     Gambit: Continually changing arrangements (e.g.: At practice, “We won’t be modulating on that song this Sunday,” then Sunday during service, BAM! Right to the modulation!
·        Strategy: Pray.  Know your worship leader.  If your worship leader always modulates up a half step, keep that in the back of your mind.  Keep track of all the songs that modulate, listen for the telltale intro to the modulation, and be ready.  Practice modulating, especially if you are a “position player.”
4.     Gambit: “You shouldn’t need those charts…”
·        Strategy: Pray. Practice. 
5.     Gambit:  Worship Leader singles out particular musicians.
·        Strategy: Pray. Resist the urge to react. Discuss with worship leader offline. Pray. Pray with Worship Leader.

What are some the “gambits” you encounter? 
What are your strategies?

I think this article will disappoint both Worship Leaders and Worship Team members alike.  It is easy to find fault with any situation.  Finding your contribution to the situation and attacking that shows maturity.  Does that mean Worship Leaders do not “play games?”  Absolutely not.  Worship Leaders are human beings and deserve our prayers, our support and our forgiveness.  In spite of what they may (or may not) do, keep in mind, “This is Church.”

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Prodigal Altar Boy Blog - 14 September 2014 - Regal Group Interview

 The big news for this week is that today (14 September) is the last day of the "Visualizing a Visionary" exhibit at ONE11 Gallery in Norfolk.  The owner and staff at ONE11did a fantastic job of staging the paintings and promoting the exhibit.  Thank you for your support and the thoughtful gifts.

Next Saturday and Sunday (20 and 21 September) will be the final screenings of "The Trouble with TQ" for 2014 in Norfolk.  Thom Vourlas of the Naro Expanded Cinema was a great mentor and friend in teaching me the ropes when it came to the World Premiere in May (SOLD OUT!) and inviting us to return. 

These last showing for 2014 in Norfolk will be bittersweet.  Tidewater has been a center of strength for the film and we always feel the love there.  The good news is Norfolk is a springboard for the next phase of the film.  I will announce more at the screening, but I'll give you a hint:  all roads lead to Baltimore!

The Regal Group interviewed me for an article last week.  I learned a few things in answering the questions, so I wanted to share the Q&A:

Regal Group Q&A

 What was your original purpose for doing the film?
o   I originally set out to tell TQ’s story from the standpoint of a radical priest who managed to get a lot of media attention, local and national, for his approach to the Gospel.  As many documentary filmmakers find out, the real story comes out in the process of making the film.  In the case of “The Trouble with TQ,” the story evolved into a study of a man focused on the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), whose entire career as a priest focused on the Principle of Adaptation, an obscure facet of Vatican II.  Rev. Quinlan used the Principle of Adaptation to connect contemporary culture to the Gospel and write the New Parables that garnered so much attention.  What the film brings to light is on the one hand he presided over these creative liturgies, which are part of the public record, while on the other hand, connecting parishioners to the Gospel through these liturgies enabled parishes to follow the examples laid out in the Gospel and serve the needs of the community, which got little, if any publicity.   Now I look at the film as part of a set of learning tools.  

  Beyond, an appreciation for TQ, what was eating at you? What did you see that you may not have seen before? What light went on?
o   Several lights “came on,” so to speak.  I was able to see how TQ, long before anyone had heard of Howard Stern, was the original ‘Master of All Media.’  He knew how to get publicity, how to spin it and get the most mileage out of it.  Watching him in action as a teenage gave me some lessons on media I have never forgotten.  That leads to another revelation, which was the effect TQ had on my life.  In addition to spiritual mentoring, the examples he set in terms of human relations, standing for what you believe and living your faith stayed with me my entire life.  Another thing I realized is that while he was adept with the media, it worked against him sometimes as people focused on what was in the headlines, while ignoring the biblical foundations of the actions he took to generate those headlines.

§  What is your long-term plan for the film? What do you hope it does? What problem or issue do you hope to solve?
o   I look at the film as part of a set of learning tools.  There’s the film, which is the gateway to the World of TQ.  We have three books as companion pieces to the film, and we are developing a tool to allow keyword-searchable access to the interview footage that didn’t make it into the film.  All this will equip a new generation that did not know TQ to write the New Parables of the 21st Century. 

o   How do you specifically quantify that there is an issue? Is it the decline in church attendance? What are the numbers that support that? There are myriad issues.  I sense an intense spiritual hunger in the world today.  Specific issues such as declining attendance, the rise and now decline of the ‘mega Church,’ show people are searching for spiritual meaning.  I have a higher-level, yet focused view.  If we can equip congregations to connect contemporary culture with the Gospel, they can write the New Parables and discern what the church needs to do.

o   And, if Catholic Church attendance is declining, why is that a problem? People could be attending elsewhere? What is the cause/effect?  For parishes integrated into and serving the community, declining attendance translates into a decline in the resources and support a parish can provide the community.  In terms of people “attending” elsewhere, I think the phrasing of the question clearly outlines the underlying problem.  TQ was adamant in defining and reminding people about the purpose of the church.  TQ led all of his parishes to discern and serve the needs of the community.  He complained about the “gas pump” Catholics, who regarded the Church as a “gas station” they came to every Sunday to “fill up” and then go on about their way.  When you look at the ministries he started, the liturgies and the homilies, church attendance was just one component of following the example of Christ.  The other components involved providing resources (money, time, etc.) as well as your gifts to address the needs of the community.  However, if your paradigm of church holds attendance is all that is required, the effect is a decline in the community.

§  You have run into some resistance in the Diocese, why do you think this is?
o   Honestly, I have not run into any direct Diocesan resistance.  What I have run into is fear on the part of people in the Diocese, of doing something that would cause a reaction from the Diocese.  It is no secret how the current Bishop felt about TQ, and the actions of the Diocese regarding TQ sent a message to TQ and anyone who would endorse him.  I have not talked to Bishop DiLorenzo, so other than what’s in the public record, I have no insight on why he feels the way he does.  All I can do is ask the same question TQ asks in the film, “How can you have the Church of Jesus Christ of Love, with people being afraid?”

§  Why does this matter to you? And what is your personal involvement in the church? Are you a frequent, regular goer? Are you getting what you need from the experience? Or do you pine for TQ?
o   It matters because TQ chose me as the custodian of his legacy.  I don’t take that lightly.  TQ could have said “no” at any point, but he gave me the gift of access and honesty.  Telling his story is an important job.  I belong the Grace City in Baltimore, which is a nondenominational church.  Whenever I’m in Norfolk, I always attend St. Mary’s (The Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception) with my mother.  In terms of “getting what I need,” I’m always fascinated to hear someone stopped attending a certain church because he or she did not get what they needed.  Whenever I hear that, I want to ask, “Well, what did you bring to that church?”  This goes back to the “gas pump” mindset of church, which I reject.  My concern is how to best use my gifts to serve the church.  While I miss TQ, making this film showed me that what TQ wanted above all, was to lead people to a certain level of spiritual development, and have them carry the ball from there.  As long as we continue to use the tools TQ gave is to follow Christ’s example, he will never be far away.

§  They say Sundays are the most segregated days in our society. Blacks worship with blacks. Whites with whites. Etc. But here was TQ, a white guy, who appeared most at home with black folks. What does that tell us?
o   TQ’s ease with African Americans was a two-way street.  He said Black people have a keen nose for the authentic and his raw, down to earth, unapologetic attitude hit a resonant chord.  Then there is witnessing how the hierarchy treated him.  I think seeing a White person treated that way, especially because of his work for them, certainly reinforced his credibility.  They were at home with TQ because they knew he loved them and supported them.  Is there a race story there? Certainly, and there’s also a human story there.  The human story is when you treat people with respect, when you treat them as equals, encourage them to uses their gifts and value their input, great things happen.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Prodigal Altar Boy Blog - World Premiere Lessons Learned - How to Work with a PR Person

How to Work with a PR Person

There is no shortage of people on the Web offering their services as public relations professionals.  I was lucky enough to hire a PR person who did a fantastic job helping me promote the premiere of my documentary.  Based on that experience I am offering some tips not only on how to work with a PR person, but what mindset you need to make the relationship work.

Tip #1 Realize What You’re Buying

When you hire a PR person, realize you are renting that person’s network.  You should already be familiar with how to write press releases, ad copy and leveraging your mailing list.  It’s fine is you have your PR person do those things, but what you are really paying for is the opportunity to utilize the PR person’s network to get the word out about your event.  You’re paying to expand your network.

That said; don’t pay for what you don’t need.  While the staple of the PR person’s network you want are their contacts in the community, influencers and decision makers, pay only for what you need.  If you have your own graphic designer, do not be afraid to let your PR person know that you already have someone to do that and you will not need the services of the graphic designer in their network.  Likewise, if you need a printer, do not be afraid to ask for a recommendation.  Good PR people know the good printers in the area and have relationships with the printers that consistently deliver the goods.

Tip #2 Nail Down the Proposal

As much as you might want to jump right in and get rolling, get a proposal in writing and revise that proposal until it lays out in detail what the PR person is going to do.  The proposal should also outline what you are responsible for (artwork, ad copy, video/audio clips, headshots, etc.).  The more time you spend hammering out the details of the proposal, the less confusion down the road.  Besides specific tasks, a good proposal should have a timeline for implementation, a fee schedule, and a mechanism to terminate the agreement.\

Tip #3 The Bad News

The bad news that if you think you can hire a PR person, write a check, then just sit back and watch the magic happen, you’re in for rude awakening.  While the PR person certainly will take care of some tasks for you during the campaign, you still have your work cut out for you.  Besides monitoring what the PR person’s work, you also have to make sure what is being done is having the desired effect.  If response to the latest email blast was not optimal, you have to make the call to adjust strategy.  Making the relationship works means realizing you and the PR person have to work together, not that the PR person works for you.

Tip #4 YOU are the Expert!

Even if you hire the best PR person in your area of expertise, never forget that YOU are the expert on your product.  Whether it’s a film, a book, a CD, etc., you know your product better than anyone does.  Because you are the expert on your product, you’re also the expert on the market for that product.  The PR person can make suggestions on how to market your product, when it comes to your product’s demographic, you are the expert.  If you’re not, you have not done your homework.  In the run up to my film’s premiere, the original proposal was heavy email blasts.  Knowing a great deal of the film’s demographic either did not use the web or did not rely on it as a primary source of information, I worked with the PR person to revise the proposal to include direct mailing, wider print church bulletin exposure.

Tip #5 The PR Person is Your ‘Man on the Ground’

For this campaign, the premiere was in one city and I lived four hours away.  In this case, the PR person was also my personal representative.  Part of the duties as assigned was to visit the venue, make contact with owner and work out the details for the event.  This also brings up another thing you are ‘buying’ when you hire a PR person; you’re renting their local expertise.  If your campaign is not local for you, the PR person represents you, so choose wisely.  Your PR person is your ‘first impression.’

Tip #6 Constant Communications

The internet is wonderful.  It allows us to communicate with people far away 24/7.  All of this is true, but regularly scheduled meetings are mandatory.  Emails are not read or in end up in bounceback limbo. (Earlier this week I got an email from the newspaper ad salesperson that he sent three weeks ago!)  Phone messages are erased or ignored.  Regularly scheduled meetings (or phone conferences) keep you and the PR person on track.  Even though geographically separated, the PR person and I had weekly phone conferences.  Those meetings were a time to review the previous week’s activities and plan for the week ahead.  Of course, once I got into town, the first meeting I had was with the PR person.  We met daily in the days leading up to the premiere. 

Tip #7 Do Your Part

Do whatever you agree to in the proposal.  Meet the deadlines for deliverables like ad copy, artwork, pictures, review copies, etc.  Be on time and prepared for interviews the PR person sets up.   Do your part to keep the campaign on schedule.  All this should be understood, but I have to say it because it is so important. 

The second part of “Do Your Part” is doing things on your own to advance the campaign.  Of course, these things shouldn’t conflict with the plan laid out, but if there are things you can do on your own that complement the campaign, you should do them.  Whether it is pulsing your personal email list with a call to action or parallel efforts related to the campaign, do not be shy about implementing them.  One of the first things we axed from the original proposal (by mutual agreement) was having an art show of paintings used in the film at a local gallery.  Mid-way through the campaign, I sent press kits for the film and complimentary tickets to several art galleries near the venue, inviting them to the premiere and asking them to collaborate on an art show in the future.  After the premiere, I got a call from an art gallery that wanted to have a show using the paintings and wanted to screen the film in their spaces.

Tip #8 Stay Flexible

Plans are a security blanket.  We make plans for the future, when the reality is we don’t know what will happen in the future.  Plans are the framework that allows us the freedom to make adjustments as soon as we realize the plans of the future don’t support the reality of the present.  Because the PR person and I continually communicated, we were able to adjustment the plan on the fly.  We adjusted newspaper buys, press release and email blast timing based on what we were seeing (ticket sales, phone queries, social media metrics and feedback from the venue owner).  Had we decided to stick strictly to the plan, we would have missed opportunities and in some cases, wasted money.

Tip #9 Trust, but Verify!

You are paying for expertise and connections when you hire a PR person.  The PR person represents you, but you are ultimately responsible.  Make sure you double crucial facts the PR person provides.  Not that you do not trust them, but without accurate facts, you could make a devastating miscalculation.  In preparing for the premiere of the film, the PR person assured me the capacity for the venue was 300 people, so we printed tickets using that number as a guide.  Two days before the premiere, as the PR person and I were touring the facility, I asked the owner what the capacity was.  He told us the lower level held 350 people and when you added in the balcony seating, capacity was a little over 500.  Needless to say, we had to prepare more tickets.  We sold out the venue and if we had not brought the extra tickets, the premiere would have been a disaster. 

Tip #10 Experience is the Best Teacher

Finally, your mileage may vary.  I offer these tips not as an expert, but as what I learned through personal experience.  I am sure there will be PR professionals who will not agree with things I have written here and that is to be expected.  Every PR professional is different, every campaign, location, venue and product is different.  My goal is not to offer detailed instruction, but to get the people who hire them to shift their thinking about the relationship so they can get the most for their money.