I just returned from the Orange Conference 2016 where I was fortunate enough to have dinner with some FX leaders. One man in particular stands out for me. We were having a quick dinner together (quick because we were on a conference schedule), and he told me that his entire view of FX changed at Orange conference four years ago. I stopped eating and leaned in, wondering what he would say next. Did he realize FX was a great outreach tool for families in his community? Did he understand that FX is a great environment to build and promote a thriving volunteer culture in your church? Did FX lead the way for a comprehensive strategy that combined parents and church?
What he said next thrilled my soul. He said, “It’s not a show.” I dropped my fork. That phrase has been a monumental shift of my thinking for over a decade. “Not a show” may sound counterintuitive for a multi-media stage production, but it’s the key to understanding the strategy necessary to make the environment as effective as it can be.
“Not a show” means the audience:
- is there to participate, not just watch
- knows it wouldn’t be the same if they personally weren’t there
- understands that they own the environment
- recognizes that this live experience cannot be recreated. It’s a moment of time that cannot be duplicated by larger churches, video, or a happy famous mouse.
I know a lot of churches and volunteers can’t help but refer to it as a “show.” I get it. The skill set necessary for a FX requires some expertise in performing arts. People who have trained in theatre know how to do shows. So when you describe what you’d like them to do, if you aren’t careful, they automatically put it in the same category as what they’ve done in the past. It’s a natural human inclination. We want to find a similarity with what we have experienced so we can name a new thing and approach it on some familiar territory.
(In fact, the same thing comes from people inside the church who automatically put FX into the “children’s church” category before they understand the vital strategic difference.)
FX comes alive when it is allowed to do what it is designed to do; help parents become better spiritual leaders in their home. Parents don’t need a show to come and watch. They can do that from the comfort of their own couch. Parents need a shared experience with their kids. They need to talk about the times a character from the stage called out their kid’s name, or the time they were called to play a game and win a prize, or the time when a prop broke and the entire audience tried to tell the host what to do next. These are the moments that help FX live in the lives of the people it serves.
This week, if you’re worried more about getting all the cues smooth, and the songs perfect, and the lights right … relax a little. Yeah, those things are important, but they aren’t nearly as important as inviting families into a unique experience that is all their own.