Echo 13 - Building Teams

One of the hats I wear at Severn Run is "Creative Team Leader," and it's one of the hardest and most rewarding hats to wear. Most of the time I feel ridiculous being a team leader because I'm 24 and I have some experience, but not very much. However, you know how that one verse says "in your weakness, I'm made stronger..."? Well I can tell you that promise has been true in my life. I'm not saying that leadership is a weakness for me (you can ask my parents, I was born a delegator, sorry Robyn), but the life stage I'm in right now doesn't lend itself to making leadership the easiest thing to jump into as one of your first "real world jobs." [Side note: I really can't figure out where to put quotes and punctuation right now so give me a break on that one English nerds]

Anyways...When I was headed to Echo, I was really excited for the Leadership track breakouts because I felt I needed them, and I did! Team building is essential in ministry and I've been blessed to be forced to team building by the crazy amount of job requirements I have and crazy lack of actual paid time I have in which to do those things. The Creative Team at The Church at Severn Run is an infant, and an amazing infant at that, and I was ready to come back prepared to raise them. I got some good stuff so here it goes.

Teams are nothing without a vision! What's the point of the team if you aren't fighting to win something. Think about how sad it would be to see a bunch of big ol' dudes dressed out in football pads just sort of wandering around a field because there are no goals, there's no winning, there's no purpose. We cannot expect our teams to succeed if we don't continually tell our team the vision, the win! No vision = no passion = no creativity. Every project, event, and celebration will develop around the vision, without it you're just a bunch of sweaty wandering football players that are all upset with one another.

Teams must trust one another. You must trust your team, your team must trust you. Whitney George put it this way, the more you trust your team, the bigger the pipeline between you and your team. This means ideas, projects, and jobs all flow more freely between you when you have more trust between each other. I think this is a really hard one for most leaders because we want things done right, and the right way is our way. This is where things get tricky, if you don't trust your team to do the job the right way, your team is never going to trust you to lead them to that way. Trust is a messy thing because jobs won't always be done in your way, mistakes will be made, typos will be found, money will have to be re-spent, BUT if you don't pass on the culture of trust in your team, you'll never get past those problems and you'll never have a team. The other hard component of creating trust on your team is guarding the culture of your team closely. This means that if someone comes along to volunteer on your team and they are a sour apple, a negative nelly, an all around nasty person, you have to get rid of them for the sake of trust on your team. If your team has always been an upbeat environment, filled with creativity, and suddenly when Crabby McCrabs joins your team, you find that meetings are silent and projects are stagnant, it's time to get real about Mr. McCrabs. Never will one person's talent be worth destroying the trust of your team within itself and with you. Now, I'm not saying throw out every complainer as soon as they whine, Mr. McCrabs will have had a couple of conversations with you about attitude and respect toward the other team members without any signs of change before you toss him back in the sea. This is hard, especially for small teams because you're looking for all the help you can get, but you have to make a trusting, united team a priority.

Finally, teams must have processes and check lists to survive. The Severn Run Staff is getting the check list beat down right now and I have to admit that it's something I'm seriously struggling with in light of my team, but the folks from LifeChurch.tv had a lot of helpful hints for processes in creative environments. Start with the "Why?" Get back to the purpose of the project and live there, solve for X they reminded us. Create brainstorming sessions and make them holy. Make sure they are "yes and..." environments with a stern, yet encouraging "designated driver" to keep the team on track. Always have time limits and expectations of outcomes! After brainstorming some serious work begins, once you have some ideas that are ready for second opinions create a "Thrashing" time and make it holy. I love how they used the term "Thrashing" for a critique session. These sessions should aslo have rules, time limits, a reminder of vision, and a focus on the project not the person. From there projects become better, people gain more experience and stories are told effectively through our work.

Be sure to pray for me and the entire Severn Run Staff as we learn to build teams and keep them healthy. It's a challenge and if you have anything else you would like to add to my couple of tips and tricks from Echo 13, please do!

I'll be wrapping up my Echo journey next week with my identity as a child of God.

Echo 13 - Tell Your Story

I'm sure a lot of you have heard this before about my generation (I'm 24, so whatever the name of that generation is), "You kids think you're the center of the universe because you grew up in a world with Xanga, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter and that made you think that everyone needs to know every little thing you're doing and that they care. Dumb kids!" So that might be a more harsh version than what has popped up in articles and studies, but that's how my brain took it. It shut me up, or down, I don't share about myself and my experiences because, who cares? It's not really about me anyway so what does my experience have to do with anything? Remember how one of the people Echo advertises for is "Storytellers"? Well, having this sort of mindset going in, I totally dismissed that part of the advertising and went in as solely an "Artist" and nothing else. I've come out of this experience feeling very much like a novice storyteller. The very first session I walked into (after mistakenly thinking that a Main Session was first and proving myself a fool in front of my whole team right off the bat), was called "Telling Stories on Sunday" by Scott McClellan. I walked out of this session completely converted to story. Scott posed to us starry-eyed Echo-ers "Where are you taking me?" the question every person in our audience is asking us. I thought "Hey, good question, I'll sketch that in a cool typographic way!" and then he started laying down the good stuff faster than fancy note taking could keep up. As a young twenty-something with the viewpoints I've held lately, Scott reminded me that the Bible is written as a Story, and that God himself called us to be HIS storytellers "and you will be my witnesses..." (Acts 1:8) Notice the Bible says "be" not "do," it's something that should be ingrained in the very fabric of our being, God's own storytellers. Because it is something we are, stories should leak into every aspect of our lives. For me that says a lot professionally. Every graphic, every video, every advertising campaign, every social media plan should be part of, or in itself a story that brings an individual from point A to point B. Scott really helped a silly person like me see how these possibilities were endless by sharing different types of stories: personal experience, imaginative, and vision casting. As you can imagine, my brain nearly exploded when I started thinking about the impact that stories built in these simple ways could have on my community, the one I'm responsible for communicating to, and had been doing a mediocre job of. (If my Executive Pastor reads that sentence he's going to have a cow because it ends in a preposition, but it's my blog so I do what I want).

I went on to the next session with Dawn Nicole Baldwin where the idea of storytelling as advertising and sharing was driven in a little further home. Dawn really did a fantastic job of giving guidelines of how we can push our story through the noise of our culture. She gave some really specific goals for communicators to take a bunch of information and filter it through the lens of the story we are trying to tell in that moment/quarter/year. I won't get into all of that greatness, because it's mostly stuff that will bore you and keep me up all night at this point.

The next day one of the main sessions was a fantastic blitz of really smart people throwing really good information at us. Two of those guys, Steven Brewster and Whitney George both emphasized the role of storytelling and I'm just going to write my notes as they are because they are fantastically written notes: "Let our motivation be to move people from A to B instead of creating art for self praise." - Steven Brewster; "Your ideas are great because they pass through authentic you." - Whitney George. That last quote leads me really nicely into my plane ride home...

On the way home I started reading Scott McClellan's new book "Tell Me a Story" and I almost finished the whole thing on the plane. I still have almost finished it because I haven't stopped and made time for myself to read for pleasure at all since I've been home. Anyways, this book y'all, is very good. Scott takes the time to first convince you why story is good (which he had already done at Echo for me) and then walks you through each component of a story and compares it to the life of a Christian person. Now you may think that this sounds like a book for writers, but it's not, it's for Christians, it's for former Christians, it's for burned out Christians, it's for doubting Christians, it's for strong Christians. One of the things he reminds you of in this book is that, guess what, the Bible is written as a story and as you read it, you should read it like a story. Picking it apart verse by verse looking for answers without considering the entire story handicaps the entire thing. I almost said renders it useless, but I'm pretty sure God can still work through our abuse of his book. I grew up and have spent most of my life treating the Bible this way, as a self-help reference or a spiritual guide guru hoping that if I just flip the page open and point that I will have a huge life revelation and all of my troubles will be solved. I've even used the Bible as an argument tool to prove that I'm right and you're wrong, :P, go sit on a log now. After reading this book, I realized that I've been missing the entire point, well almost. Right now I'm retraining myself to read Scripture with the entire story in mind, and with my story in mind because...

My story is God's story. What? This is such a simple concept now that I can't believe took me so long to understand. When I stifled my own story, my own experiences, my own pains and victories, I'm stifling the story of the Living God. As much as he worked through the people in the Bible, he's working through me now and the same goes for you as you seek him in your life. I'm attempting to live life understanding the story I'm in. Understanding that without pain and conflict, it wouldn't be a story, it would just be stagnant me, the same me from 10 years ago. Without hard work, I'm living pointlessly, following nothing that God has for me. I'll end this post with an amazing tidbit shared by Donald Miller in another main session: What if God has a purpose, an end goal, a Point B for your life, but he hands you the crayons of the journey and says to us "Make the journey meaningful and beautiful!" then allows you to draw?

Echo 2013 - The Recap Begins

Life is busy, y'all. An exhilarating, life-giving kind of busy, but just dang busy. Most of that busyness has been coming from my work with The Church at Severn Run lately, which means Bonni Mace Design has been sitting on the back burner as far as advertising, reaching out for new clients and updating this website, blog and all. I absolutely love working for Severn Run, my pastors have a unified vision and I'm very much on board with it. Nothing feels more important than designing for ministry and those who are aiming to glorify Christ in their work and through their businesses. It gets my adrenaline pumping.

One of the awesome opportunities that Severn Run has provided me with this summer was the privilege to attend Echo Conference 2013. Echo Conference is an amazing event specified towards church creatives, worship pastors and tech gurus, or as they would say, artists, geeks and storytellers. Back in 2010, I got to be one of the interns for RT Creative Group, the company that works really hard to put on Echo Conference each year, so I knew for a while that I wanted to get back here and get a team there when I started working in ministry. I wanted to write down some of the things I took away from Echo 13 before leaving in the morning for another conference called Willow Creek's Leadership Summit in Chicago. That being said, it's late, I'm tired, and I want to just spit this all on virtual paper before my brain loads up with new inspiration and information so this may be a crazy rambled blog post. Maybe I'll edit it later...maybe not.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from Echo 13:

  • Tell your story!
  • Build healthy teams & creative environments!
  • I am a Child of the Living God and that is where my identity lies!

I'll elaborate on each of these topics over the next couple of weeks. Please let me know what you think down there in the comments!

So, where have you been?

So when I said I wasn't going to promise any post frequency, I was serious. Life has been pleasantly busy, full of change and keeping me on my toes. Here are a few fun things I have been working on, or that have happened in my life recently!

Working at The Church at Severn Run is such a fun thing for me. One of my most favorite things I've come up with was the branding for this Student series that happened this spring. What a random image, but it was really powerful.

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My new friend Alane is a really cool chick who is launching a huge website this summer. Her goal is to help writers with a strong message of hope to not only get published, but to sell out! She is launching this site really soon and its going to be jam packed with resources for writers. It was so fun to work with her on this logo, more soon about this logo in a post soon, but the strong motif of this branding is punctuation. Can't wait to share how she is adapting her brand for her company!

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One of the most ridiculous things I've ever done is have a full out professional shoot with Lego people. This was a message series for Severn Run, and though it's probably not cutting edge design, I was pretty proud of the fact that myself and my team built this whole set and then shot it ourselves. I also had the privilege of having a super small part in 4 stop motion videos using these lego people. It's fun working with talented people and Legos.

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We had a really fun bunch of people that helped turn our Worship Center stage into Lego world too. What a fun Saturday this was!

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Now on a more personal note! My husband and I moved! Our rent was getting a little out of control at our tiny apartment and it was time for a change. We were so lucky to find this cute little townhouse with a fenced in yard and lots of extra space for less than the price we were paying for our 2nd floor apartment. It was a quick decision and a quick move, so that really kept us busy this spring.

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As soon as we moved into our new house, my wonderful cousins came up to Maryland for a visit. It was so fun to have them in town. We did lots of fun things like Hershey Park, a Nationals Game, and the typical DC touring. While I was sick for a day, they even conquered a 6 pound milkshake in Annapolis without me.

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So while we were in the rush of packing up our house and preparing for visitors among the regular work and life stuff, I received a Facebook message from my sister Robyn's boyfriend letting us know that he was popping THE question in about a month. It was followed with a picture text with the picture below. I carried this photo around and showed it to everyone I could for that month, I was so excited! Then something upsetting happened, my grandma was admitted to the hospital back in Texas after she stopped breathing not once, but twice. It was rough news to hear and lots and lots of prayers have been sent up for her healing (I'm glad to say now that she is off of her ventilator and healing well now!). We decided that with these two huge things happening, we needed to take a trip to Texas. I'm so glad we did that because, as you can see in the pictures below, we got to surprise Robyn on her big day and we got to visit Grandma in the hospital. It was a great, but exhausting weekend and we would not have traded it for anything.

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Yay Robyn and Andrew!

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Below is my favorite picture from the proposal party. It's myself and my sisters & our men showing off our rings or lack of rings, and then of course a crazy photo bomb by the little brother. Sums everything up about right.

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Well now you know a little bit of why I've been neglecting my website and this blog. I'm hoping to get back into it again during the summer. Our next big rush will come in September, so that gives me some time (hopefully) to develop a little more content here and add some exciting pieces to my page here. Maybe I'll even update my Facebook page...hmm. I'm going to start talking about the processes for some past projects, highlighting some of my clients, and maybe even dropping in some in-process wedding invites if the bride lets me! I'll also continue talking about my journey in starting a freelance business too. Thanks to each person who has been praying for my grandmother during this time. You're prayers are appreciated and felt more than you know. Please continue to do that! 

A Banquet, A Pastor's Assistant & A Printing Company

These first few posts are very me-centric. I'm not going to be doing that all the time, just to establish and get started. Like I said, I want to document where I've been and that's step one. When we moved to Maryland, Marc and I wanted to get established in a church and really be a part of it. We sucked at doing that in college, we picked the wrong church, got shut down and then just quit trying. We decided in pre-marital counseling that it was really important to our marriage that we establish a strong relationship with a local group of Bible believing people. I'm not going to lie, we took our sweet time picking a church, we'd been burned too many times in the past so we were hesitant and we wanted to make sure we were getting it right. It's amazing how God even uses our disobedience to work for his plan, because the timing worked out really perfectly for my attempt at self-employment.

We finally settled on The Church at Severn Run in Severn, MD around Christmas 2011. We started going regularly, we sat alone, but we went. One day this guy was wearing an LSU shirt, I made a victory hand gesture of some sort, fast-forward and we are suddenly really plugged into the Young Married Professionals Small Group thanks to him & his wife. Now this group does a lot for Severn Run, which we didn't know getting into it, but I'm glad they do. Two of our leaders had been asked to coordinate this capital campaign banquet and they were trying to figure out invitations and RSVPs and they remembered that I was a designer trying to get started. I like to think of this moment as my big break. They introduced me to Brenda Bailey who is the assistant to the Pastor at Severn Run, and she quickly learned that I was pretty ok at this design stuff. She has been one of my biggest "sales people" ever since February 2012 and I will always be aware of that.

In April 2012, something CRAZY happened – I got a job interview! I had my own little thing petering along, but I was still applying to jobs here and there. I decided that I needed to reprint my portfolio for this job and that was a problem because my interview was the next business day after a holiday. This lead to a frantic search for a printing venue that could do a little better than Kinkos, and I remembered a small company Brenda had mentioned called DigitalWorx. For some reason, they were the last ones I called, but I finally did. After viewing my portfolio, and receiving a raving review from Brenda, DigitalWorx asked me to partner with them as a pre-press designer and they are honestly one of the biggest blessings to my career.

That's a lot of backstory, I know, here's my confession y'all. I was not seeking God through any of this ever, yet he was still setting up these steps for me to take. He was opening windows and I was blindly crawling through them. Remember how I said Marc and I really just stopped trying at the church thing in college, well that can apply to pretty much everything in our relationships with Christ. We weren't seeking, we weren't trying, we just weren't. It's a miracle to me that he still was seeking after me when I was blatantly not seeking him.

Here's my take away from these totally unplanned, yet pivotal events:

  • Don't stop seeking God. How much more peace and assurance would I have had if I was taking the time to seek out where God was taking me?
  • Community is so important. All of these events were based on people, community. Each person involved in this part of the story has taught me to value myself and my talents and that has been monumental in my story today.

If you are starting to get tired of hearing about how God's hand in my life has led me to where I am today, well it's just too bad. I can't deny his provision in my story and I'm grateful for it and humbled by it each time I reflect. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is real in my life, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

In my next post I want to reflect on how my confidence was slowly restored through my relationship with these new people, and we will start talking about some of my early projects (that I'm proud of!).

Product of the Recession

I did pretty well in college. My project were displayed every now in then. I made it into a couple of art shows here and there. My professors rarely told me to start over, just how to improve. I'm pretty sure my classmates disliked me for a while. I did ok. I had some crazy expectations of what my life would be like after walking across that stage. I thought I would get my diploma, move to Maryland less than a month later, and then I would be offered a great job right away! Ideal, right? Here's what I didn't consider: I didn't know what I wanted to "specialize" in, I had zilch web experience, I had minimal job experience in my field period, I was moving to one of the hubs of the design world, the United States East Coast. Silly me thought that employers in the Baltimore/DC area would have heard of my dear Christian college, I was wrong. I spent the first 3-4 months applying to design firms in the area, usually not receiving a single peep or even an automatically generated email back. It was hard. It down right sucked. Instead of adding to my portfolio, I looked at it, got depressed, and went to bed. Who knew I sucked so bad? I thought I was in this huge amount of student loan debt to be good at graphic design, apparently I wasn't good at graphic design. I walked into this time with confidence in my own ability, in the job market, in my own plan for success and all of that crumbled. I finally resigned to being a shoe saleslady at Designer Shoe Warehouse because at least I knew what shoes looked good and were a bargain.

Looking back on this time in my life, I realize there were a lot of things at work against me getting an awesome job right away. I've read several articles that talk about recent college graduates being severely under-employed, which helped me realize I wasn't in my situation alone. Also, I can look back and see that God was really looking out for me during that time. He knew were he wanted me, and I'm sure he wasn't super impressed with how I was reacting. There are a handful of other things I'm discovering about myself that would not have thrived in the 9-5 business world as well. I was protected from that, and now I am grateful.

After working at DSW for almost 6 months, I realized that I was terribly unhappy, I was missing design work, and everything I learned in college was leaving fast. I took a job a at a small promotions company in the area along side shoe monkey-ing and accepted an extremely low pay rate because I was deflated. I owe a lot to the enthusiasm of that tiny promotional company, they built up my confidence just enough to take the leap into starting a solo venture in February 2012. I quit DSW, I jumped into entrepreneurship with both feet and I almost drowned because I had no idea what I was doing or why. I honestly believe it's by the grace of God alone that Marc (my wonderful husband, get used to seeing that name) and I didn't rack up more debt in the following months.

So here I am, slowly learning how to be a good designer again, slowly learning how to be self-employed, slowly learning to be confident in what God created me to be – a product of the recession.

The biggest life lessons I learned during that crazy time can be summed up like this:

  • Expectations empty from God's plan are meant to be broken.
  • You are never alone. You're probably doing better than you think.
  • You cannot rely on the approval of people around you (peers, professionals, industry, etc.) for your own self-confidence. You'll be smashed every single time. Smashed, obliterated, decimated. God is enough.
  • If you are a creative, don't let yourself stop creating for a period of time. You'll coil up so quickly into what you were a decade ago, keep creating, even if its crappy.
  • I am extremely blessed with a supportive husband. He shouldn't have been ok with me quitting DSW because that was logically insane. He trusted my ability and he trusted in God's provision.

I couldn't be more grateful for this season in my life now. I wouldn't be remotely close to the person I am today had I not gone through those things. I allowed myself to be torn down and stripped of my pride early on in my career and through that God's plan and ability have flourished richly in my life. We don't have it all, but that's ok. I keep coming back to Philippians 4:12-13 in all of this "Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." (The Message Version)

My next post will be more about the journey leading me to the purpose I've discovered for my endeavors and some key people that helped me get there.

Introduction

I'm coming up fast on my second anniversary of graduating from college, marrying the love of my life, and moving all the way from Texas to Maryland. Naturally, with this many anniversaries coming around, I'm starting to get pretty reflective. Going from the me of 2011 to the me of 2013 has been a pretty crazy journey, and it's time to start documenting some of this stuff for me, for those of you who care about me, and for those who might be going through the same ride that I did soon. Here are a few things I want to establish about my blog:

  • I don't have my life figured out, that's not why I'm blogging. I'm blogging because I don't want to forget where I was and how I got to this point. If I forget those things, I won't remember how to grow past 2013 me.
  • I'm not a writer. Sorry grammar fiends of the interwebs, I'm just not going to spell everything right or punctuate correctly all the time, but it's not because I'm not trying. My brain is just good at replacing grammar knowledge with other things I learn.
  • I am a Christian and I will write through that lens often. It's how I see the world, it's how I live life. It's messy, it's crazy, it's super hard, but I am continually reminded that it's worth it. If you are here to argue with me about my beliefs, go ahead and take a hike, this isn't for you.
  • I'm not promising any sort of post frequency. I know, I know, blogger no-no, but life is crazy and I want to live it.

One of the things that you guys will realize I have learned is that goal making is really important. Establishing a mission, values and goals for each thing you do will set you up for success. I was a huge rebel to this idea in college, but after being knocked back on my bum after running in meaningless circles a few too many times, I realized having goals and focus isn't a bad thing. Here are a few preliminary goals of my blog:

  • Documenting my journey from fresh out of college, to self-employed and having somewhat of a consistent income.
  • Sharing how I have and am continuing to squash the crushing self-doubt that paralyzed me for quite some time.
  • Sharing how I try to stay motivated, focused and productive without a boss looming over my head.
  • Sharing my growth in faith along side my growth in career.
  • Giving my two cents on how to save two cents. How we are managing our debt, and not letting it keep us from living.
  • Sharing some awesome church communication/design wins in my experiences at The Church at Severn Run as their Brand and Communications Manager.

I'm sure the random fun post will pop in every once in a while, but these are the things I want to reflect on the most. I hope y'all enjoy hearing my story. And if this template lets you post comments, leave me your thoughts.