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Mr. Davis Presents the Seniors

From the 2009 WHS Spring Chorus Concert.

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Food court lessons


Here’s the scene:  food court in a mall, choir director with 25 hungry high school kids on a field trip.  Everyone has choices about where and what to eat.  Represented at my table were Taco Bell, Sbarro, Saku Japan (my pick), Chick-Fli-A, and few others.

We’re wrapping up the meal when an employee from Chick-Fil-A approaches the student with the Chick-Fil-A meal and offers her a refill on her drink.  As she is leaving with the cup, I make a comment to the kids about going beyond people’s expectations in service and product, and how important it is to get people’s attention by doing what no one else will do (namely, not hiding behind your counter, waiting to be asked for a refill).

Get this:  the Chick-Fil-A lady overhears me, stops, and comes back to our table to ask the rest of us if she can refill our drinks as well.  

My kids are stunned.  I’m giddy.

After the refills were distributed, we talked at length about what just happened, and drew out these lessons:

  1. Forgiveness is a powerful tool in customer relations.  In a real sense, the employee forgave us for not picking her store in the first place, treating us as if we had picked her, as if we were already her customers.  She did not exercise her “right” to deny us the service.
  2. Can you say “leverage?”  Giving away a refill that costs maybe 10¢ in product in a way that will likely produce hundreds of dollars in future sales is “leverage,” class.  That’s L-E-V-E-R-A-G-E, and yes, you’ll be tested on your grasp of this concept for the rest of your life.
  3. Doing flows from being.  Chick-Fil-A is not in the chicken business.  This employee understands that Chick-Fil-A is in the customer-acquisition-and-retention business.  The predicate in Chick-fil-A’s mission statement is a verb of being: “To be America’s best quick-service restaurant at winning and keeping customers.”  This woman wasn’t sleeping through her Chick-Fil-A training classes.
  4. Doing the right thing is more important than getting credit (or a grade) for doing the right thing.  I pointed out to the kids that they were now drinking free Chick-Fil-A product from cups that advertised for Chick-Fil-A’s competition.  Chick-Fil-A had every “right” to get credit for outstanding service, but this employee was more interested in actually providing the service than in getting the credit.  
  5. Advertising (or advocacy) is good, but doing the right thing by people is much more effective at changing minds.

It’s not exactly easy to impress high schoolers, but this Chick-Fil-A associate had the undivided attention of some saucer-eyed kids with a lifetime of purchasing power ahead of them.  

(If Chick-Fil-A’s paying attention, look up the manager at the Hamilton Place Mall’s food court during Friday’s lunch hour.  It’s promotion time for the blonde who gets it.)

Also, if you’re a CFA fan, you’ll love this.

When I grow up someday

Back in the summer of 2005 I spent a week in Los Angeles with Stan Endicott, mentor extraordinaire for worship leaders and pastors across the country.  It was a great experience, and I learned a lot about me, leadership, and how churches work.

One afternoon we spent our time together talking about career and life pacing, and he wrote the following on the whiteboard:

20’s     Find your passion.

30’s     Get really good at it.

40’s     Do it.

50’s     Teach someone else to do it.

60’s     Start over.

This list came to mind this morning because 1) today I qualified for the “Do it” bracket by virtue of my age and 2) I often feel like I’m operating in the “Start over” bracket.  

Where are you in this list?  Does your life look like this?

Advocacy, or Why Choir? (part 2)

Advocacy bugs me.  Marketing doesn’t bug me, packaging doesn’t bug me, but advocacy bugs me.

This past week I accompanied 3 of my students to the annual Tennessee Music Educators Association (TMEA) conference in Nashville.  The students qualified to sing in the All-State Honors Choir, and got to sing under the baton of Anton Armstrong of St. Olaf’s College and Peter Bagley from the University of Connecticut.  They worked very hard and deserved the recognition and honor of being selected, as well as the priveledge of working with 2 masters of the choral craft.

And the payoff for their hard work was to be the final concert in front of their parents and chorus teachers, bursting with pride.  It was a wonderful, magical moment.

Right up until the advocacy part.

Before each choir’s performance, the emcee made it a point to advocate for music education, often in strident, combative terms:  “If your school board even hints at cutting music programs in your communities at home, I hope you’ll stand with me and by God make your voices heard!  Yeah!”  Obligatory applause, and even an “Amen!” here and there.

It was weird.  It was annoying.  It made me want to go out and cut a music program somewhere just because. 

I understand that TMEA is at its core an advocacy group, and that the primary mission of TMEA is to advance and protect music education’s place and role in public schooling.  But must we turn a beautiful music concert into a pep rally for music ed?  Can’t we just let the concert make the point for us?  Can’t we just celebrate the kids and their work?

There will always be school boards that consider cutting music programs in times of financial crisis and stress, but no parent will stand up and take a bullet for a music program because of anyone’s advocacy.  

The best strategy to ensure that music programs survive is not noise and preaching.  The best strategy to ensure that music programs survive is to have awesome music programs everywhere, music programs that provide tangible value to their communities, value that extends beyond the benefit of the participants.  Who are the people in your community other than the parents of your currently enrolled students that would notice or care if your music program was nixed?

What kind of music program would your community fight for?  

Maybe advocacy is just easier than taking a hard look at what we’re producing and re-vamping the product so that people will willingly throw themselves between our programs and budget-cutting school boards.  Maybe it just makes us feel like we’ve done something when for the most part all we’ve done is preach to the choir and irritate the heathen unconvinced.

Maybe I need to redesign the chorus program at West High…

A Day Without Volunteers

Great video from Warsaw Community Church: A Day Without Volunteers

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Family Visit at Fellowship Church

I’m one of those kids who grew up far removed from extended family–we lived in East Tennessee while my Mom’s family was in West Tennessee and my Dad’s family was in Louisiana.  We’d see the cousins, aunts, and uncles on annual trips, and it always amused me to know exactly what each aunt and uncle would say when they saw me:  “Oh, my goodness!  Look at how you’ve grown!”  

One year it was less amusing than others and I started complaining to Mom about the “look how you’ve grown” chorus.  “What’s the big deal?  Nobody else ever makes a fuss over me growing.”  

Mom wisely explained that, while I was growing all along, it wasn’t as obvious to people who saw me every week, because the changes were more subtle.  It’s the people who didn’t sit through the process who most easily notice and appreciate the change from one year to the next.

Today I worshiped at Fellowship Church for the first time since July of last year.  Fellowship is my home church, but I don’t get to attend because of my duties at Powell Church on Sunday mornings.  Today I had the morning off from Powell and went with my family to Fellowship.

And today I got a taste of what Aunt Mae felt when she saw me at Thanksgiving.  “Oh my goodness….”

When I was on staff at Fellowship there wasn’t a lot of growth to be seen.  Change came hard and at a high cost, and every inch gained by those of us who wanted to see Fellowship grow and progress in ministry effectiveness was matched by an inch lost to those who wanted to see Fellowship retreat to its glory days.  Proposed improvements to worship center technology were shot down as “extravagant” and “self-indulgent.”  When we added an audition to our worship-volunteer selection process we were dismissed as “shallow” and “all about the show.”  Concerns about aesthetics in worship and production values were derided as “fleshly,” “frustrating the Spirit,” and “immature.”

I don’t know much about the “how” behind the changes that have taken place–for all I know it may still be a battle of inches, but I doubt it because 1) the differences can be measured in feet and yards now, and 2) the rate of change appears to be accelerating.  The “how” is not for me to know, anyway.  I can sure see and discern the “what,” though!

Here are the markers of growth I saw just in the service today:

  1. Rick Dunn referred to The Pastor of Children’s Ministry as “Pastor Gwen” from the stage.  Back in the day her predecessor (also a woman and for all practical purposes also a pastor) had the title “Director of Children’s Ministry” simply because the church leadership couldn’t abide a woman having the “pastor” title.  Fellowship’s ability to call things by their real names is remarkable and commendable.
  2. There’s been a noticeable bump in the quality of in-house video production.  The interview with the college student about serving in Children’s Ministry was spot-on, not only in its writing and content, but also in its videography and editing.  Nicely done!
  3. Someone’s paying attention to aesthetics and design in the graphic arts.  The onscreen packaging of the sermon topic was fantastic.  I don’t know, but I suspect the message-planning horizon at Fellowship is approaching or even exceeding 3 months now.
  4. Someone’s paying attention to onstage lighting.  The color of the scrim wash now coordinates with the palette of the screen graphic behind the song lyrics.
  5. The speaker can now advance his onscreen slides from the stage with a handheld remote without having to give cues to the production booth!  Sweetness.
  6. There’s a lot of new technology on the stage in general, which means there’s money being spent on making things work well.
  7. The band not only plays together really well, but the playing is very musical.  Noticeable variety in dynamics and energy levels makes this artist very happy.

Kudos to the staff and volunteers who are putting together Sunday mornings at Fellowship.  You’ve come far, and at least one person has noticed.

The Gorilla Parable

Yesterday in a breakout session titled “Music Learning = Life Learning” Tim Lautzenheiser told this great story about our learned aversion to change:

A scientist did an experiment involving 5 gorillas in a cage.  The cage had a bunch of bananas hanging from the ceiling and a ladder sitting right under the bananas so the gorillas could get them.  Simple enough, but here’s the catch:  every time one of the gorillas approached the ladder, the scientist would spray all of the gorillas with cold water.

Gorillas hate being wet, and cold water is particularly uncomfortable for them.  So it didn’t take long before no gorilla would approach the ladder under any circumstance for fear of being sprayed.

Once the gorillas had given up on the bananas, the scientist exchanged one of the “trained” gorillas with one who had never been sprayed.  Predictably, when the new gorilla approached the ladder to get the bananas he was attacked by the other 4.  No water was used this time, but it didn’t take long for the newbie to learn that approaching the ladder would result in a beating.

The scientist then replaced another “trained” gorilla with another newbie, who took a similiar pounding when he approached the ladder.  The kicker this time was this:  the first newbie happily took part in the beating of the second newbie, even though he personally had never been sprayed with water.

The scientist continued to replace “trained” gorillas with newbies until the cage contained none of the original 5.  None of the current gorillas had ever been sprayed with water, and none of them ever approached the ladder for the bananas.  

And none of them knew why.

Tweet, tweet….

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