How I Overcame Burnout — Part 3 When It’s Good Enough

So I’ve shared my story of burnout in ministry.

I’ve started a series about how I overcame burnout and what I’m doing to stay healthy. In part 1 I talked about how you need to take responsibility for your spiritual health. In part 2 I talked about how we can’t always be “ON” at church.

Today I’m going to talk about learning that sometimes good enough is good enough.

Like many things in life we need to learn to live in balance. Like many people in an artistic job who work in a create on demand atmosphere it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way.

My personality want to create the best product I can. Whether it’s a graphic I design, a video I create, a mix I make, a system I design or an event I produce I want it to be the best. The best by my local church’s standard and the best by the world’s standard.

I believe Jesus deserves the best. I think He’s gotten a lot of bad PR from people with good hearts but not enough budget, not enough talent or not enough time to put together a creative and artistic element to honor Him. I believe art created for Jesus should be the best in the world.

Or do I? Is my desire to produce the best really an expression of worship or is it pride? Do I really want this piece to point people to Jesus or do I really want the recognition? Am I just a modern hypocrite that Jesus called out in Matthew 6:2- & 5 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may u be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” After all I even post my work on this blog. Am I doing this out of a heart to promote Jesus and encourage others in the church or am I doing this for me to be recognized?

I’ve spent hours finessing individual frames of a video edit or animation when my wife is waiting on me to finish to go on a date. I’ve put in the extra hours after the kids go to be working till 2 or 4 in the morning on top of a full day of work only to turn around and do it again the next day and the day after. I’ve worked on my days off because I couldn’t finish a piece to my standard.

So what should my standard be? The buzz word we’ll all respond with is “Excellence”! But what does this word mean?

I think we often confuse excellence with perfection. It’s not the same. Excellence is also confused with being the best. But it’s not the same. Here’s my working definition of excellence: “Doing the best you can with the talent, time and tools you have“.

Let’s break this down:

-Doing the best with the time you have: I’ve heard people say every Sunday is the Super Bowl for the church. While it’s true that every Sunday is important. Hopefully every Sunday your church is seeing salvations and people taking steps to move towards God and away from sin. But the Super Bowl is the biggest production of the year.

The NFL (a multi-billion dollar business) has ONE Super Bowl a year. From a production standpoint they have a year to work up to it. They have a couple of weeks off leading up to it. And they have an off season! And guess what even the best in the business with the best resources have technical difficulties and make poor artistic and communication decisions.

The local church can not sustain the pressure to have that level of highly produced service every week. Every Sunday can not be the best ever. Not to mention the negative aspect of what a highly produced event can say about the church: you’re a spectator, bigger is better, we’re here to entertain you.

From my experience Sunday comes around every week. Not to mention other services and events your church may have during the week. We don’t have an off season. You must recognize what is sustainable. Busy seasons will come and need to go. I’ve heard people compare their church to a freight train. It doesn’t accelerate or brake quickly, doesn’t turn quickly. It’s got momentum that is just going to keep picking up and it’s not going to change or turn easily.

Here’s the problem with that pace. You never get to recharge physically, mentally, creatively and spiritually. You need to refill your tanks or you’ll be running on empty. You won’t have a reserve to draw from to create something fresh. You will burn out.

We want to hit the artistic and creative standards we see at the Super Bowl, Grammy’s or any large event. But our production schedule is often more like the nightly news. Last minute and rushed to meet the deadline.

I believe I have the video production and motion graphic talent to pull of broadcast quality work. But I can’t always hit that standard in the time I have. I’ve learned that sometimes I need to lower the quality to make sure I have a finished piece. I’ve had to make videos simpler and in my eyes at the time not as good because I realized I was working on a 60 hour solution when I only had 20 hours left in the work week.

When I’ve talked to my boss about not hitting a standard I’ve always been told to get the content down and add the eye candy latter.

Think about it: teaching pastors can ad lib, worship pastors reuse songs but new creative graphics and videos are expected every week.

I need to be realistic with production schedules. If I have the time to create something great then that’s awesome. But most the time I have a tight production timeline and I need to create the best I can in the time I have. Is it the best I could do? No if I had a month instead of 3 days the product would be drastically different. Is it the best I can do in 3 days? Yes.

Let go of the pride of having to be the best.

Some practical steps:
– Look ahead at your busy times (new series starting, holidays, tech upgrades/ building, large extra events) and plan some down time before and after.
– Don’t forget that after that large event and big push is another Sunday a week away.
– Make the most of your time by planning ahead. We’re working on laying out the 2010 teaching calendar so we know what we’re focusing on as a church and gives me production time to pull everything off.
– Look for simple solutions
– Set aside time to “sharpen your axe”. You must be taking time to refill your creative tank and to sharpen your skills. This not only makes you better but more effective.

Doing The Best With The Talent You Have. Like many guys on staff at a church I’ve become a jack of all trades and a king of none. I have a natural curiosity and love to learn so I like learning new skills. But I’ve learned I can’t be great at everything. In fact since the nature of my job requires me to have a broad skill set I can’t be great at one thing. Business tells you to find a niche and excel at it.

But I recognize now where I’m good at and where I’m not. I think I’m good at motion graphics and video production but I’m not the best at coming up with creative ideas on my own. I think I’m good at graphic design and layout but I’m not the most creative. I am strong at technical setup and trouble shooting A/V/L but I don’t have a strong musical ear for my mixes.

I’ve focused on developing my strengths and I delegate my weakness to volunteers or we outsource them if possible. Technically I can do web design but it’s slow and painful for me. Most the time I’m doing web design and development I’m thinking about how being poked with sharp sticks would be more fun. So I outsource all but basic web design out.

I need to be comfortable with my talent and stop trying to measure up to someone else’s talent. In 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul tells us that we are one body made up of many parts. Don’t be jealous of another part. So I focus on being the best me I can be.

Again am I wanting to create the best because I want to honor Jesus or am I doing it out of pride?

Some practical steps:
– Focus on developing your strengths
– Look for volunteers to delegate your weakness to or possible outsource those weaknesses. If you don’t see anyone you can delegate/ outsource begin to pray about it. This is God’s church, not yours. He loves it more than you do and He can provide the talent that’s needed.
– Learn on being content with who God has made you and stop trying to compare yourself with others.

Doing The Best With The Tools You Have. I know it’s easy to look at megachurches with gear lust. It’s easy to think that if we just had this camera, this audio system, this mixer, fill in the blank with that piece of gear you’re thinking of, then we could create something awesome.

Honestly this is a great time for the media production in the church. The prices are falling and the quality is rising on almost every piece of gear I use. It’s a great time. I’m very thankful for the gear I get to use at Lakeshore on a weekly basis. It makes my job easier.

There have been times when render times on a video have prevented me from going down certain creative paths. I could have waited for the render but that would have meant working on my day off and being away from my family. That’s a limit of the gear I have. So I chose a simpler solution to meet my deadline.

I’ve worked with consumer level gear, prosumer and I’m thankful I’ve been able to work with pro level gear for the most part. Don’t let the gear limit you. Do the best with what you have and move on. Focus on what you can do, not on what your tools can’t do. Play to your strengths.

But I need to be thankful for what I have. Do the best with what I have. And stop comparing myself to what others are working with.

Some practical steps:
– Learn to make the most of what you have. This usually means reading the manual for gear. Learn your software.
– Focus on learning your tools so you can use them creatively (example- does your video camera allow you to over/under crank? Do you know how to do it?, does your still camera do time lapse? Do you know how?)
– Budget and plan for the tools that will give you the biggest ROI, not just flashiest piece of gear or newest software or plugin.

I think a lot of this boils down to two things. The first is pride. Pride in being the best. Pride in comparing ourself with others. The second is busyness. Our society is addicted to it and we think the busier we are the better we are. I’m not talking about being lazy or taking the easy way out. Work hard but establish some boundaries so you can sustain the pace. It’s a balance between working hard and being a workaholic. A line that is drawn between your identity being wrapped up in your work or in Jesus.

When I was burnt out my life was all about improving my media production. If you didn’t want to talk about media production I struggled to carry on a conversation. Media had become the most important thing in my life. My wife tells me now that during that time I talked at her, not with her. Now I recognize boundaries. My identity isn’t in my job or my work it’s in my God.

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October 21, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , . Personal Growth.

One Comment

  1. After Effects – Magazine Page Flip - ChurchMediaDesign.tv replied:

    […] Psyop – How To Animate How to Overcome Burnout Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 Fudgegraphics acrylic […]

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