Our new website is finally up and running….and we are very excited about it! At, you are able to find thousands of service support products like videos, messages, drama scripts, holiday packages, music and more. You will find downloadable training for your team, along with details about Wonder ’09, the 2009 Arts Conference and regional arts gatherings for leaders and volunteers. Lastly, you’re able to connect with other artists and teachers through the Idea network and blog.

Thanks for reading our blog here. We will no longer be adding new posts on this site, so please join the conversation at
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All Kinds of Thursday Action at ARISE

I’ve had so much fun today hearing about the variety of experiences connected to the Arise conference. With over 160 different workshops, scheduled conversations with leading artists, a learning expo filled with ideas and practical equipment, and 3 hour Point Leader sessions with some terrific teachers, the attenders could custom design their day.
We capped it off with the Film Festival tonight, where I celebrated creative and impactful video work from many different churches. I can’t wait to hear more stories of how today went for everyone, because I spent my day teaching small groups. I love the more intimate settings, when I can roll up my sleeves with other arts leaders and pastors and talk about the behind the scenes challenges we face in building ministries.

Most of all, I’m thrilled that we can all see we’re not as alone as we think we are, and our problems aren’t entirely unique. I love to watch us exchange ideas, affirm one another, and exhort one another to persevere and stay the course. I locked eyes with some men and women who inspired me with their stories of God’s faithfulness in the midst of tremendous obstacles. I won’t soon forget their faces – they will keep me going!

I can’t wait for our two final sessions tomorrow, including the music of Kendall Payne, the teaching of Richard Allen Farmer and Francis Chan, and a closing that I’m hoping and trusting God will use to launch us all back to our home churches with a sense of hope and tremendous resolve. What a profound privilege to be a part of this event. I am honored to be among all these remarkable individuals who give their lives and surrender their gifts to the advancement of the kingdom.
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Thanking the Lord For a Good Day at ARISE

It’s almost bedtime, and I’m reflecting back on the first day of the Arts Conference. My overwhelming feeling toward God is one of gratitude. The Lord was with us moment by moment, from the drum line beginning all the way through to the song Love at the end. The drum line is a group from the south side of Chicago, a neighborhood called Englewood, where I was actually born. It was started by a young leader who wanted to do something constructive to get kids in that under-resourced neighborhood off the streets.

I was struck all day long by a very sweet spirit in the room. As I taught the first session, it seemed like all of us needed a time of cleansing, confession, and renewed surrender. I hope others will dig into Psalm 40 even further, because it is full of riches for artists and teachers!

Mr. Gilles St. Croix is a delightful man. I think he’s one of those creative geniuses who is so good at what he does that he has trouble explaining it. I wanted so much more time with that interview than the 30 minutes. But I’m not sure if we had more time (based on my additional conversations with Gilles) that he could have articulated what I most wanted to understand – how he and his team have developed their artistic instincts for what makes something beautiful, what makes a moment work, how to fix it when it’s not working. I bet I speak for most of us when I say how much I would treasure watching Gilles at work, observing a creative concept session and an early rehearsal of a Cirque show. I know we only scratched the surface in the interview, and long to learn more from the artistic excellence of that amazing organization.

Finally, I was grateful for the stretching time we experienced with Brian McLaren. I know not everyone agrees with all that Brian writes and speaks about, but I certainly hope we can all agree that Christians need to become more intentional and passionate about bringing God’s kingdom to earth, helping to solve some of the gravest problems in this world. I thought Brian’s list of what artists can uniquely do was worth a lot of further thought and processing. “Humanizing the other” is such a beautiful goal for artists and pastors to aim for.

Well, it’s my bedtime. I look forward to teaching all day tomorrow, to connecting in more intimate settings with some of the incredible people who made their way to Chicago for this event. God has been abundantly good to me and to all of us on this day, and I can’t wait to see what awaits us tomorrow…
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Welcome to Arise!

Good morning and welcome to Arise! We are so thrilled to have all of you here and are excited to see how God will move among us over the next three days. We have been praying for each of you and trusting that God will meet you in powerful ways.
There are many exciting things going on each day…

If you haven’t settled on your Thursday schedule, there are still openings in some of the Point Leader classes. Conference Solutions will help you get signed up if you’d like to attend.

On Thursday night, there are a few tickets still available for Jersey Boys, the Tony Award winning Best Musical of 2006, which tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Check with Conference Solutions for that too.

Lastly, take some time to share your bloopers at the video confessional today. If you have the best story, you may make it into the final video.

Make the most of your time here, get involved, meet new people, share deeply with your team and be open to all that God has in store for you. We’d like your experience with us to be encouraging and rewarding. If you have even a modicum of concerns, please let us know, we’d like to help.

Enjoy Arise!
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Good Morning

We have been counting the days you would arrive for some time now. We have been praying, planning and preparing. We’ve been up early and up late. Adding finishing touches. And making final decisions.

Wednesday morning is finally here. And I believe we all come with a sense of expectancy. There are old friends to be reunited with. New relationships to look forward to. New learnings to grasp. Old ways to let go of.

We come with a desire for God to work in us and through us. We come hoping for God to inspire us and to speak to us. We are here to changed and renewed.

As we begin this experience together, I offer this prayer by David Adam.

O Lord God, Creator of all
Open my eyes to beauty
Open my mind to wonder
Open my ears to others
Open my heart to you.

God bless your days.
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Arise Arts Conference Begins Tomorrow

I am staring out my office window at the sparkling lake on our church campus, so very excited about the thousands of church artists and teachers who will make their way here in the morning for the Arise conference. Even if you haven’t registered by now, you can just show up and register in the morning to join us! We’d love to have you here.

For those who cannot come this year, we would deeply appreciate your prayers. Nothing of substance will happen between now and Friday afternoon without the supernatural outpouring of God’s Spirit on every moment, in every session and workshop and conversation. Please pray that we will sense a mighty wind of the power of our Creator, moving among us and surprising us with His grace.

I’ll be giving some updates at the end of each day, hoping to give you a glimpse of what God does in this place. For the sake of His kingdom…
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Come For The Day!

On Thursday, June 12, over 40 trusted technology vendors from around the country will display at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg as a part of the Arts Conference Learning Expo. Some of the top audio, video, lighting, scenic, etc. vendors will have staff on hand to show guests the latest in technology as well as to answer questions about their equipment or technical arts in general. A few of the vendors include: Yamaha, Panasonic, Shure, Sensaphonics, Digidesign, Acoustic Dimensions, Meyer Sound, Rosco Labs, Vari-Lite....and many more.

While admittance to the Learning Expo is included in the regular conference registration fee, we are opening up Expo only registration for our local technical artists who are not able to attend the entire conference but would still love to attend and receive the benefits of the Expo. The day rate to attend the Expo only is $30. No need to register – just show up and pay at the door.

The Expo is open from 8:30am until 7:00pm. From 5:00pm until 7:00pm, we will move into our “After Hours” Expo. Light refreshments will be served and door prizes will be raffled off during the After Hours.

Of course, you are still able to attend the entire conference. Simply show up tomorrow at registration and we’ll get you in.

Hope to see you at the Expo or at the Conference.
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If you are attending ARISE

I wanted to remind all of you attending ARISE that in an effort to be green we will not be printing out materials for breakouts. You must go to the ARISE site & click either the download button at the bottom of the page or go to the Breakout page and click the Breakout Handout button to retrieve your handouts. You will then see at the top of the download resources page, Breakout Handouts. Click that & find your breakout. You can download them to your computer & work from there during the conference. Or you can print them out & bring them with you.

Not all of the breakouts have handouts. If you don't see your breakout there now, check before you come. Hard to believe but some of our breakout speakers were delayed in turning in their handouts:)

Looking forward to seeing you.
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Your Life Matters

God, I claim the promise that my life matters to you. I am here because you love me, and because I am loved by you my life has meaning and eternal significance.

When things get hard, help me to remember that nothing can thwart your purpose for me. You are always in control, I praise you. Lord, for your goodness to me and for the gift of this, my one and only life.
Marie Carlson
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It’s almost Father’s Day

I can’t believe June is here. My boys finished school Friday, the conference is 8 days away, I leave on vacation two days after the conference (Father’s day) and it feels like June is gone!

So, I’ve been thinking of Father’s day but conference details have kept me busy. I’ve been meaning to post some ideas that leaders were kind enough to pass on. I’d love to hear what your church is planning.

Northridge Church’s Roxann Powell and Kim Graf were kind enough to share some music plus ideas they have used in the past. A musical duet with a dad and daughter of Unforgettable with pictures of dads & children, made a memorable moment. They also used the song Daughters by John Mayer.

One year they used Phil Collins song You’ll be in my Heart. They choreographed a series of life moments throughout the song. It began with a dad center stage. A mom came out, handed him a baby girl and the Father danced her around to the music. The same mom came out from the other side of the stage with a 5 year old girl; she ran out to hug her dad and then stood on his feet as they danced. Next came a teenage girl talking a phone, looking annoyed, reluctantly she hung up and took her dad’s hand and they began to dance. Her mood changed and she began to enjoy the time with her father, eventually laying her head on his shoulder. The daughter had ended each scene by putting her head on her father’s shoulder. Finishing the song, a bride comes out and dances with her dad. People were very moved.

Many churches are doing some extra events for Father’s day. Last year, one church I was visiting had a barbecue and a photographer available to take pictures of dads with their families on a big ol’ Harley. My church has a car show. It brings many people out to church that wouldn’t normally come.

So, what have you got planned? Or what did you do last year? Share the ideas, I am sure there are many like me that can’t believe that June is here and Father’s day is just around the corner.
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The Ballad of Emmet Till

Last night I saw one of the plays in my much-appreciated subscription series to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. The play, The Ballad of Emmett Till, is based on a tragic event that took place in Mississippi in the summer of l955. A young Chicago boy, 14-year-old Emmett Till, was visiting relatives down south. For the crime of allegedly making an improper advance to a young white female store clerk, Emmett was tortured and beaten to death. His body was thrown into the Tallahatchie River. The only way his mother could recognize his remains was by a ring engraved with the initials of Emmett’s father. This horrific event echoes through our history, reminding us of the terrible injustice that raged through our land just before the enormous struggle for civil rights erupted in the l960’s.

I was looking forward to experiencing this night in the theatre. And I am sorry to say that my friends and I were deeply disappointed. We wondered how such an incredibly powerful story could end up feeling so flat and fail to engage the audience. The acting and directing, and most certainly the stunning design, were not the problem. I believe the “miss” was all in the writing - which felt predictable, overdone, and lacked vitality.

Later I thought about how Christian artists and teachers possess the most incredible story to tell in the universe. And yet sometimes in the telling, we miss as well. Our words and music and images rarely capture the wonder of the gospel, the glory of creation, the miracle of grace, the sovereign power of our Holy God. So much rests in the writing – in the craft of the words we choose, the images we portray, the music we compose, the dances we choreograph. I for one long to break out of the same old way of telling such a marvelous story. My experience in theatre last night inspired me not because of greatness, but because I felt so empty at the end. I don’t want people coming to church to leave feeling flat, disengaged, uninspired. Certainly the Holy Spirit and his anointing power plays an enormous part. But so do we, the humans who prepare and design and write and communicate. May we increasingly do our part with innovation, vitality, and fresh words for timeless truths.
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A Stretching CD From Aaron Niequist

I’ve been enjoying – and stretched by- the most recent CD from worship leader Aaron Niequist (formerly from Mars Hill in Grand Rapids). With Broken Fists takes listeners to deeper places I’m hoping all of us will go to – places where we surrender ourselves to God for his purposes of advancing the kingdom and bringing about social justice. The very first song, Resistance, calls us to being a part of the resistance, a movement of God that refuses to settle for the way things are. How refreshing to think thoughts about leveraging our gifts for holy purposes through songs of worship. Aaron is one of several songwriters these days who is expanding our language beyond songs of comfort and songs of praise – all of which certainly have their place – to songs of action, confession, and transformation of our broken planet. Many of his songs propel me out of my cushy, predictably routine life to want to risk something bigger for God.

In the third session of the arts conference this year, I will be interviewing Brian McLaren, and asking him to help us answer these questions: What can church artists do to make a difference in solving some of the biggest problems in our world? Do we have anything unique to offer? What is our role? I can’t wait to unpack with Brian some of his tremendous thinking from his book, Everything Must Change. That session will also include some video and dramatic pieces we’ve used at our church to awaken the congregation toward justice. As much as any other session, I’m looking forward to that one.
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Heart Goes Out to the Chapman Family

By now I assume we’ve all heard about the tragic traffic accident that resulted in the death of Steven Curtis Chapman’s youngest daughter, 5 year-old Maria Sue. I am deeply sad and grieving for their family, as they experience a loss that is impossible for most of us to fully grasp. While I have never had the privilege of meeting Steven Curtis Chapman, I am sure I speak for thousands upon thousands of us who have been greatly impacted over the years by his music ministry. For that is what it always is with Steven – music ministry. The depth of his lyrics reflect a life devoted to Jesus Christ and advancing His kingdom. Chapman’s work with Compassion, International, and his family’s adoption of little Chinese girls (Maria Sue was the youngest of them), is just one sign of his heart for God and for the under-resourced.

And so today, along with so many other Christ followers, I am sad for Steven, his wife MaryBeth and their entire family. May the comfort of our God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the love of close friends surround and support them today and in the difficult days to come....
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The Joy of Jersey Boys

I recently learned that the Chicago run of the hit show, Jersey Boys, has been extended indefinitely because of such booming business. I’m really not surprised. I have had the blessing of seeing the show twice already – once with my husband and friends, and another time because my sister begged to go for her birthday gift. On both occasions I was struck by the unbelievable joy of the crowd as we experienced hit song after hit song delivered with tremendous skill and passion from the cast. I have seen two different guys play Frankie Valli, and both were terrific. I was struck by the creative way in which the producers and writers wove the songs into a story line, giving the audience a glimpse of the lives of the singers behind the scenes. Mostly, it’s just an evening of great fun and outstanding music.

For anyone attending our Arts Conference in June, we have a few tickets left for Jersey Boys – what we call “Art in the City.” It would be such a gift to any arts team to head downtown Thursday evening and enjoy that show. You can find out more at our website.
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Well, we are 21 days out from ARISE. Our teams are working fast & furiously to prepare a place where God can speak, where we can grow and meet new people.

I am glad for the 21 days but I can’t wait for 9:00 am Wednesday, June 11 when we kick off the conference. God has been working through the hundreds of people contributing to the conference to create some awesome opportunities and some incredible moments.

As usual some of our plans change and that is a good thing because of the other good things that come up. Like Copyright Basics! We just added this class. Cheryl Besenjak is currently the Copyright Director for Willow Creek Community Church. She has over 20 years of experience in the area of copyright. She is the founder and former Director of The Permissions Group. Cheryl has developed and published CopyRights©, a national newsletter and is the author of Copyright Plain and Simple, published by Career Press.

You can go on-line to register for this class. If you are already registered you can go on-line today to change your schedule or call our wonderful Customer Service team, 800-570-9812. After today, when you arrive at the conference breakout sessions can be changed at the Ticket Exchange Booth as long as there is available seating.

One other note, not on–line yet but coming soon, Secrets of Successful Sound-for-Picture by Jon Tatooles. Jon is co-founder and Managing Director of Sound Devices, LLC. This session will look at a variety of techniques for gaining control of audio while out on a shoot. You'll walk through the steps necessary for achieving quality audio, everything from mic placement to gain setup. In this hands-on class, you'll also be given the chance to experiment with audio equipment, and learn how to get the best audio quality to improve your production. We are really excited that Jon is coming! If you are interested send me an email and I will let you know as soon as it is posted on-line,
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