by Terry WilhiteOver the years, I've participated in the gamut of church Christmas presentations-from "bathrobe and bed sheet" renditions of Mary and Joseph, to cantatas, living Christmas trees, and full-scale pageants. Even one year someone said, "Terry, why don't you write something and put our Christmas presentation together yourself." It seemed like an overwhelming task. However, I was able to pray and write my way through. I assembled some of our favorite songs and carols, added a couple of scenes of live drama, bonded all of the elements with narration, and used our projection screen to drive home key points. Despite some harried rehearsals, the production came off nearly flawless, thanks to a great team of musicians, narrators and technical support people. Some of the technical people had never performed these tasks before. The Lord may be prompting you to take your Christmas presentation to a higher level this year. One of the most important questions to ask is: Can they see you? When it comes to using audio and visual resources, two things are essential. First, we need to know how to use our equipment. Secondly, we need to know the basics of good communication. Communication happens when understanding takes place. Ultimately, our goal is to be transparent. When we do our jobs right, people get the message. They understand. If they walk away wowed by the music, the video, or special effects and they miss the message, we have failed miserably. How can we become transparent as we present our message? The keys to transparency are: planning and communication among the team of presenters (minister of music, pastor, sound person, projection screen operator, instrumentalists, lighting personnel and choir). I heard a football coach sum it up quite well recently. He said, "Anything done well looks easy." The better we do our jobs, the more transparent we become. As we bring multi-media tools into the worship environment, the following become necessary questions to ask. 1) Is everybody "singing from the same page of music?" When I wrote our Christmas presentation called "Love Is the Theme," I started by formatting it in television news fashion. That is, I divided a page in half, with the left hand side containing all the technical instructions and the right hand side containing the narration. Each technical person received a copy. This communications document keeps everybody on track. I learned how critical this format is when I produced television newscasts. 2) Do the pictures and sound work together? Your computer may be able to process multiple messages at one time, but that is impossible for most people. Out of sync audio and video are particularly noticeable when the speaker is saying one thing and the images on-screen are showing something entirely different. A news director I once worked for called this scenario "wall paper video"-when something is just plastered on the screen to fill in the blanks over narration. Make sure your audio and video make the same point and do not compete. 3) Does your presentation have a clear beginning, middle, and end? In the presentation that I put together, we presented the story of God's love from creation to the cross, and looked ahead with anticipation to the future, the coronation of Christ Jesus. All good stories set the stage, present conflict, grow with anticipation to a climax, and then work toward resolution. Our Christmas presentation did that. The time-trusted rule is this: Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you've told them. Think about the weather forecast during your local nightly television news. That is a perfect example of this principle. 4) Have we had a technical run-through of the presentation? If all of the technical team players are not in one accord, then chaos will result and our audiences' focus will be on technology, not on our message. The only way to make it all work is to plan, plan, plan and practice, practice, practice. 5) Do we have a contingency plan? Have you noticed that among the first places the forces of evil show up is in the sound room? Good team players know how to cover for other players. Talk about the "what ifs" and have a contingency plan. With thorough planning, good communication, and continual practice you can communicate well during the upcoming Christmas season.