10 Tips for Balancing Quality and Schedule: Excellence Vs. Perfection In Church Media

By May 15, 2014July 7th, 2020Production

Producers and creative ministry team leaders… tell me if you can relate to this tension. The artist in you is drawn to a God-sized vision for the creative project you’re working on. You see the potential for how amazing it could be and you experience that 1% high-octane inspirational spark that ignites creatives like us. You’re ready to attack the project with everything you have, then somewhere in the “messy middle” (where it’s 99% perspiration), reality hits and you realize you don’t have the time, money, or human resources to pull off your original vision.

Years ago, I toured Big Idea when they were a large studio working out of a converted Woolworth Department store in Lombard, Illinois. There was a handwritten sign scotch-taped to the door of the “321 Penguins” production unit that read, “No project is ever done. You just run out of time.” That sign has been good reminder to me as an animation producer and creative team leader, that I need to balance quality and vision with budget and schedule.

If you produce media for ministry, then you know this tension well because another weekend of services is coming at you like a run away freight train. I’ve worked in ministry circles and I’ve worked in animation production and there’s a common thread in both: the due dates just keep coming and you are forced to balance the two dueling brothers: quality and schedule.

There is a way to harness these wild and unruly brothers and let them actually work FOR you instead of against you. We don’t have unlimited time (even open ended projects need to ship at some point), and we’ll never reach perfection until eternity (can you imagine the art we’ll create in Heaven?!), so we need to embrace our limitations here and strive for excellence.

Excellence is defined as: the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.
Perfection is defined as: something that cannot be improved: something that is perfect.

Here’s my working definition for excellence when it comes to media producers.

“Excellence is the pursuit of creative perfection knowing we won’t get there.”

It’s the pursuit that drives us. The artist’s journey is never ending. Excellence in media production is achieved by embracing the limitations and learning from every project. So, what does that mean on a practical level? How can I use that in my day-to-day producer role?

Here are 10 tips for balancing quality and schedule:

1. Plan early and touch often.
The creative teams that thrive and don’t burn out are teams that are led well and plan well. Planning an Easter service 2 weeks out does not allow room for excellence. Another easy mistake to fall into is to meet way in advance but neglect setting milestones thereby leaving the project untouched. Other demands will get in the way if you don’t schedule milestones and assign tasks.

2. Develop systems even if (or especially if) you aren’t the systems type.
People are your greatest resource, but systems allow room for excellence. There should be a process in place for each key creative task. The processes should intentionally move the ball forward and funnel ideas into concrete tasks.

3. Support the vision of the lead pastor (or client).
Every good organization should have a point leader and a leadership team who cast clear vision about where you are going. Your creative vision should support the overall vision of the church or organization. This will give you a sense of mission and purpose as you navigate thru time and budget constraints.

4. Collaborate.
Use the body. Tap into the creative resources around you. There may be other staff or volunteers you may want to invite to the table. The creative team at my church is made up of a mix of staff and volunteers. Chemistry is key here. If you build a team that works well together, that too will help you balance quality and time.

5. Develop a budget and schedule for every project.
I can’t stress this enough. It will help you see where resources are going and it will force you to take a realistic look at the schedule and what you are committing to.

6. Block in the “Big Rocks” for the whole year.
I recommend meeting in early November or early December to plan out the entire next year. Things are bound to change, but the more planning you have done (with milestones set), the easier it will be on your team if an audible needs to be called at some point. Schedule in the important things before other demands schedule your time for you.

7. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
In your pursuit of excellence, set some goals to get better in key areas. These are not resolutions, but concrete measurable goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

8. Embrace the limitations and use them to your advantage.
There’s nothing scarier than staring at a blank canvas with unlimited options. By embracing our limitations (budget/schedule) it forces us to put parameters on our project, and these parameters force creativity. Using a limited color palette helps you make art direction choices. The same is true for producing media. Let your limitations force creativity.

9. Let go.
Figure out what only you can do, or what you do best. Let go of everything else thru delegation and allowing others into the process. Is it risky? Sure. But so is trying to do it all yourself. Keep your sanity and bring others to the table.

10. Don’t Underestimate Post
I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post a while back explaining the 4 stages of animation production using characters for each stage and I depicted post-production as a beast because…well, post-production is a beast! I have often underestimated (read under-budgeted and under-scheduled) post production. Leave twice the amount of time you think you’ll need for polishing and post-production.

So, in your pursuit of perfection, remember we can only strive for excellence and there will always be room to improve. Don’t take it so seriously that you lose your joy or sense of calling, and remind yourself often why you got into this gig in the first place…to use your talents to serve Christ and His Church. Plan well and plan early even if you are not a natural planner (I can relate). It’s a skill you can hone and it will help you, your team, and the body of Christ in the long run. Go and pursue excellence…but make sure you ship on time!

Image from Lightstock.com

Todd Hampson

ToddHampson-125x125Todd is a husband, father, and the founder of Timbuktoons, LLC. He has worked for clients like Phil Vischer (Creator of Veggie Tales and What’s In The Bible?), Saddleback Church, Willow Creek Association, LifeChurch.tv, Orange, BigStuf Camps, ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and has pitched shows to Cartoon Network, Disney Television Animation, Nickelodeon, The Hub, and PBS Kids. Todd is a Metro DC transplant living in Augusta, GA and has served on creative, children’s ministry, missions, and leadership teams in the local church for over 15 years.
Find Todd: Twitter | Blog | Website


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