Scott Hodge


Plasticky, Produced….and the most AMAZING, OFF THE CHARTS blog post EVERRR!

Sep 12, 2008

Craig Groeschel touches on something in his book, It, that's been on my mind quite a bit lately.  It has to do with finding the balance between doing things with "excellence" and still keeping things feeling raw, authentic, and real.

Over this past year at The Orchard we have added some pretty significant elements to our weekend gatherings in terms of media and technology.  Yet as we've taken those steps, we've also worked hard at being very intentional about not coming across "over produced" or inauthentic in any way. 

And honestly, it helps that most of us involved in the creative process hates anything that feels too produced or plasticky.  So our radars are always up when it comes to things feeling too canned. 

So anyway…  This got me thinking about some of the things we try to be intentional about in order to keep things feeling fresh and authentic.  Here are a few off the top of my head:

We are intentional about avoiding "churchy" and cliche-ish sounding words and phrases during worship and teaching.  Our communication style is very conversational in approach – across the board.  Still passionate and full of life….but mostly conversational.  We don't go from sounding like "regular people" to Southern Baptist radio preachers once we hit the stage. 

We are very careful not to over-hype everything we do.  What's great about this is that when we do show excitement or buzz about something, people really do believe and expect that something unique is getting ready to occur.  Avoiding over-hyping everything builds excitement equity with people.  I intentionally shy away from overusing words like "awesome", "off the hook", "amazing", etc… because using these types of words too liberally cheapens them, and over time, causes them to lose effect.  (Plus, the phrase "off the hook" just bothers the crap out of me.)

We don't try to hide or overcompensate for production mistakes.  Not that we encourage them, but we do play them off pretty well!  We've learned to laugh and make light about slip-ups during our gatherings. 

Our style of music lends itself to feeling raw.  Don't get me wrong, it sounds and feels AMAZING, but it doesn't sound like an overproduced band like this one.  (Ok, that was a horrible example!  That's not over-produced, that's just downright FRIGHTENING!

We stay away from anything that looks, feel, or sounds scripted or canned.  We try to say things in a way that feels fresh every time. 

Moving video backgrounds and cool lights are fun, but they need to be used strategically.  Same thing with lights and video pieces.  Too much motion can get old FAST! 

We are intentional about dressing in a way that communicates to people, "Hey!  We're normal!  Just like you!"  And then after a few weeks, everyone realizes that there's nothing normal about us whatsoever!  :)

So I'm curious….  Is this a challenge for you?  If so, what types of things do you do to help keep things feeling real and authentic?

17 Responses to “Plasticky, Produced….and the most AMAZING, OFF THE CHARTS blog post EVERRR!”

  1. RE: hype
    Increasinly, I’ve recognized that I have a hard-wired value for understatement. It surfaced when a friend started to tell me “You have to hear this story…it’s absolutly hillarious – the best story ever!”
    I interupted him. “Don’t tell me that….”.
    “Because now I feel under pressure to think your story is funny. And because now you should feel some pressure to make sure it’s funny. Just tell me the dumb story and I’ll decide if it’s the best story ever. If it is, I’ll tell y ou and then it’s your listener singing your praises, not you.”
    Akward silence.
    “Never mind…it’s kind of a dumb story.”
    “That’s what I thought. So why set me up for disappointment?”
    Seriously, I make it a practice not to preface stories when I’m teaching – I just launch into them. If they’re funny, whahoo. If not, at least hopefully they still drove the point home. Of course, if a preacher is just telling the story to be funny, that’s a whole ‘nother problem. ;-)

  2. riddle says:

    great post. i feel these tensions as we’re starting Eikon down here in tulsa.
    thanks for the post.

  3. David says:

    I agree with all of those things Scott. You have to find that balance and it is no easy task. Many churches have a challenge with this.

  4. Jake says:

    Great post, I needed this.
    I do video announcements for our church (Kevin & susan Fletcher). I have such a strong desire to do them well, yet like you said: authentic. Good stuff here.

  5. Chris Elrod says:

    I just forwarded this post to my entire leadership team…because it was off the hook. :-)

  6. Johnny says:

    I think that the renewed mind is the key.
    Oh great. Now I’ll have that ridiculous tune in my head all day…

  7. Joni says:

    I keep it real by forgetting entire verses of songs I’m leading!
    And I can’t believe I fell for the video link — AGAIN! Stop showing me these people. Flashing back.

  8. Perry says:

    Dude, this post is definitely off the hook!!!

  9. Anna says:

    After watching that video, I thanked Jesus for The Orchard, its raw music and lack of tight dress pants. For like an hour.
    Seriously, I love that everything is genuine. Even being ‘fresh and authentic’ can be fake, but that isn’t the case at The Orchard. There is a reality to it that transcends the weekend gathering and reminds me that I’m part of a community and that everyone from the music team to the first timer in the last row is growing in their journey. It rocks.

  10. Scott, I forgot to tell you… that song/dance is the audition piece that Tricia and I are going to use. Is that a problem???

  11. Ted says:

    I need to check out The Orchard. It sounds “off the chain” awesome!
    Seems like you guy’s are all in “process” (thanks MJ) :-) .

  12. Mike Adams says:

    I’m right with you on these issues Scott. Thanks for the continued inspiration, and by the way. The Renewed Mind song brought tears to my eyes. No really it did.
    (That’s not necessarily a good thing)

  13. Randy Mellichamp says:

    I agree with your statements here. I have listened to some of your sermons and been watching the Orchard website for some time. It is a collection of people who are trying to put their best forward without taking their personalities out of it.
    I believe that if we as other churches are to pattern ourselves to do the same thing, it has to start from the pulpit. The pastor, teacher, or speaker (whatever term your denomination may use) has to be transparent. I know that it is painful and seems to begin more issues for people who are not used to that kind of conversational speaking, but in the long term, it pays huge dividends in relationships and providing a personal touch to groups of people, whether large or small.
    One problem I did have with this post. Did you have to go right to the Southern Baptist Preachers? Well, ok, we do have more than a few that seem to talk that way. Pray for the next generation. We’re trying to change that.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Have to go anonymous on this one… because my pastor reads your blog.
    I have heard the last 4 or 5 series introduced as “life-changing” that “you won’t want to miss a week” because it will “impact your entire life”. Unfortunately, it has all been, for the most part, more of the same.
    I understand that we want people to be there because we have something that’s important to share, but none of these series, except for one (in my opinion), have even come close to meeting the hype.

  15. Mike says:

    I think every series at The Orchard is “life-changing” otherwise why would we do them?
    BTW, I’m totally throwing in some of those dance moves this weekend!
    As an added bonus, we’ve added some of the other songs they have on that site to our repertoire :)

  16. Holly says:

    You asked, “Is this a challenge for you?” “What do you do?”
    It is not a challenge for me or others at my church. But it use to be. It use to be a challenge because I felt the Pastor was not necessarily authentic. I think he wanted to be and tried to be but he was more concerned about “presentation” and what others thought.
    My husband is the worship leader (to use Christian terms) and he struggled so much with this because he is so honest and what you see it what you get.
    Now that the new Pastor is the same way (nothing flashy), it takes very little effort for EVERYONE to be real. To be honest. To be open. To be vulnerable.
    It’s so important for the leaders and staff of the church to be honestly real so they model for others that God loves real people. He loves real, broken, imperfect people!
    Oh and I was cracking up at the person’s comment who said they keep it real by forgetting entire verses of songs he’s leading. That sounds like random stuff my husband would do…well not entire verses. He is so picky about songs he chooses because the lyrics are so important to him. Choosing songs that don’t always have christianese in them is important to him. Doing a U2 song because it’s real and honest is important to him. Singing, “Why do I freak out? God knows what I need” is something I would actually SAY. So why wouldn’t I love singing that?
    So how do you be authentic? Um, by just being your honest darned self!

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