19 Sep System Overhaul! (Part 1)

In my September-Set Design Post, I mentioned gathering a team of volunteers together to talk through our current process for set design in our elementary environment. That meeting brought about some of the most amazing changes to the way our set design process will work. So far, we have implemented those changes for the months of September and October and all I can say is WOW! I wish I had done this years ago! Here’s a look at what prompted this change and all that I am learning from it.

A Faulty System

Set design and creating environments are two of my favorite things I get to do as part of my role as a ministry leader. As a result, I’ve held onto these things – TIGHTLY! I have enlisted the help of volunteers for the creation of our sets and I’ve even gathered people together from time to time to brainstorm ideas for what the set should look like. I did these things – but not very consistently and also without really having a system in place. I told myself I was developing a team and I called it delegating – but I still found myself carrying the weight of most of the process. That was okay though because I love this aspect of my job.

sticky-not-imageHere is what my preparation schedule may have looked like during any given month:

  • 2 weeks prior to the start of a new month, I’d look at the graphics from 252 Basics, check out their Pinterest board, and look on the 252 Partners Facebook page to get ideas.
  • On occasion, I’d gather some volunteers to brainstorm ideas for the set. This really only happened when I found myself ahead of the game enough to get an email out and a date set for this brainstorming meeting.
  • If I wasn’t ahead of the game – I would forgo the meeting and just email graphics to some select volunteers and ask for their ideas.
  • At the end of the day, though – I usually carried the weight of deciding what we were going to do. I didn’t mind this though because I love this aspect of my job.

Here is what my creation schedule may have looked like during any given month:

  • procrastination3I’d email the volunteers who usually helped me with this and give them a few dates that I would be working on our set.
  • I’d ask them to let me know if they could come out and help. I’d choose one of the days that had the most volunteers available and call that our Work Night.
  • I’d shop for the materials – except for large items that wouldn’t fit in my car (insulation foam, etc). I’d ask a volunteer with a pickup truck to get those things and it was usually at the last minute. My poor volunteer!
  • Many days, I was shopping hours before our Work Night and would inevitably run into traffic or long lines. I’d be texting volunteers to let them know I was on my way. Can you say STRESS? But it was okay because I love this aspect of my job.
  • Our Work Night would arrive and I would make a list of what needed to be accomplished.
  • Unfortunately, some things that needed to be accomplished could not be done until other things were completed first. I was never ahead enough to have delegated those projects or completed them myself, so my team would busy themselves and help where they could as I ran around trying to prepare things for them to do.

SIDEBAR  – There is nothing that stresses me more than wasting other people’s time. I hate not being prepared for a group of volunteers who are giving their discretionary time to a project. This in and of itself causes me more stress than any last minute preparation or too long to-do list. I do not like to let people down and I really don’t like it when people see that I do not, in fact, have my act together. 🙂 More on that in Part 2 of this series. Back to my schedule (not really a schedule) for the creation part of our sets.

  • Our Work Night would almost always include painting, so tarps would be set out all over the environment. Painting would ensue. I hate this aspect of set design, so I was glad to delegate it – but usually things required two coats or an overnight dry time, so everything was left out.
  • While I had these amazing volunteers who helped me get to this next level, there was still a lot to do and plenty to clean up.
  • Since I hadn’t asked in advance for people to help on two work nights, I would usually come in on a separate day and complete the set design project alone.
  • Clean up would also be in my court and I would often spend hours and hours on the Friday or Saturday before the launch of this new set, finishing up all that was left. But it was okay because – you’re getting the picture – I love this aspect of my job!

What a system – huh? It is true that I loved this aspect of my job, but over time – I began to hate this aspect of my job. I still loved the idea of creating irresistible environments but because of a faulty system – that I created, I was not enjoying it anymore. I was actually beginning to dread it.

Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help sign

Because I did not plan ahead and/or delegate well, I faced stress every month and found myself becoming bitter and irritated about this aspect of my job – this aspect of my job that I always loved. It began to bleed into other areas of my work and it all came to a head this summer as I faced an unexpected case of burnout. I’m usually a “never say die” kinda person. I won’t let myself quit and I push hard to “ring the bell.” But this summer, I found myself screaming UNCLE and not really caring if I ever “rang another bell” again!

Emerging From The Overwhelmed

It was a tough season, but I look back on it now and I am grateful. I learned a lot about myself and have begun implementing some changes in an effort to avoid burnout in the future. Be sure to check out Part 2 of this series to read about those changes. For now, if you find yourself overwhelmed, lacking motivation, frustrated, etc… you should check out the resources below. They were incredibly helpful to me.

I hope you are in a season of balance and your work/home schedule is manageable and enjoyable. I don’t think that’s the case for most Americans and I certainly don’t think that’s the case for most ministry leaders. But we don’t have to let it stay that way. We can be intentional about keeping our schedules manageable, making sure we are resting, and being realistic about what we put on our plates. We can also help each other in our efforts. Please jump in the comments below and share how you manage your time, schedule, and workload for set design or life/work in general. We all need to ensure we are staying healthy and strong in order to do this precious work God has entrusted to us.

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  • Abby Chadwick

    I do not do a lot of stage design, but I find myself doing so much more little things that I could totally hand off to someone else.. Thank you for writing these articles!! I can’t wait to read them all!