On Ticket Sales and Trying New Things

At Reverence’s first recital in 2009, I had 70 dancers performing in the show and no idea what to expect as far as crowds.  I estimated five people per dancer, and so we set up 300 chairs at the space of a local community theater that was graciously allowing us to use their space for a minimal price.  We sold some tickets prior to the recital, but most at the door.  Everything was general admission, so people could just sit wherever they found space.

We sold out.  There were 500 people there.  We had to keep setting up chairs, and then there was standing room only.  We ran out of tickets and programs, and we also had some people sneak in and save seats so they wouldn’t have to wait in line.  Oops.

The next year I had 120 dancers performing, and because we were still broke and in our second year of business, I gratefully utilized the same space at the local community theater that was again graciously allowing us to use their space for a minimal price.  We packed in 525 seats and numbered them so that people had specific seats (which I sold in advance by having people just email me their order).  We also had to turn people away, which made me sad because I wanted everyone to be able to see our recital.

I had to find a new option…a place where we could continue to grow as a studio.  So, I found the location that we’ve been at for three recitals now.  It’s beautiful and convenient and seats around 1000 people.   For the past two years we’ve held a big ticket sales day at the studio and we’ve practically sold out every show.   But this year, with 270 dancers performing and the desire to continue to grow as a studio, I needed to pray about making some changes.

Dilemma #1:  Our recitals were getting lengthier.  Our first recital had 12 dances and lasted about one hour and fifteen minutes (including intermission).  With all of our classes and students, last year’s recital was about two hours and 30 minutes.  That’s starting to get too long for me, the dancers, and the audience.   I remember being a part of recitals that were well over three hours growing up, and how exhausted the audience was at the end.  I wanted our recitals to be different–something that people would come away from feeling refreshed.  Plus, last year I had to turn away people for tickets again.  I don’t like doing that.

Dilemma #2:  We needed a different way to do ticket sales.  Our ticket sales day worked great for the two years that we did it, but the problem was that not everyone could come on that specific day.  While some people didn’t mind waiting in line for hours (they enjoyed talking with other parents), others did not enjoy it so much.

So, starting last April, I began praying about changes to make things better.  I’m always looking for ways to do that at the studio anyway–ways that we can continue to grow as a dance studio, and ways that I can continue to serve the studio families.

What We’re Trying This Year…

Trial #1:  We’re having two recitals.  The older students have the opportunity to perform at both since they want that opportunity.  The younger students are divided up between the two.  With that in mind, our recitals will only be about 90 minutes or less, and people can purchase as many tickets as they want.

Trial #2:  We’re doing online ticket sales.  I’m calling it a success in progress.  We still need to work out some kinks since it’s the first year, but overall, people generally liked the online option better than waiting in line.  You see?  Success in progress!

I have to try new things each year to make things better.  I’m an entrepreneur.  I’m not happy unless I’m creating, changing, or challenging the status quo.  I’m a risk-taker, and everyday I have to make a ton of decisions that impact a lot of people.  I’m constantly working to serve the students, staff, and studio families at Reverence, and I want everyone to be more than satisfied and enjoy their experience with each aspect of Reverence.  I am constantly on my knees before the Lord, asking Him for wisdom.

But…

Trying new things is risky.  There are financial risks, people risks, my own sanity risks…  I get scared sometimes.  A flock of butterflies sets up a permanent residence in my stomach every spring.  I wonder if we’re going to sell enough tickets to make it through the leaner summer months at the studio.  I wonder if enough students are going to sign up for the new school year.  The buck stops with me, and then it turns around and goes right back out again (haha).

And then, every year God always provides above and beyond everything I could ask or imagine, and I ask myself, “Why do I worry again?”  It’s an endless, humorous, amazing, meaningful cycle that I was born to do.

So…with trembling hands and expectant heart, I move forward…completely surrendering my life and the future of the studio to the more-than-capable hands of my God.

A New Type of Competition

When my husband and I announced that we were adopting a child from Uganda, ninety-five percent of the people we told were ecstatic.  They cried with us, they rejoiced with us, they prayed with us, they dreamed with us…it was one of the most beautiful times in our married life together.  We can’t wait to bring home our child and introduce him to the warm and generous spheres that Seth and I are a part of.

But then there were those who were upset that our adoption process was taking the attention away or overshadowing their work for justice or missions. “You didn’t even consider our feelings when you announced your adoption,” they said through tears.  “How did you think it would make us feel?”

Happy?  Excited for us?  Call me naïve, but I certainly did not expect them to be upset!

But, it got me to thinking…as the American church continues to change and more and more Christians are embracing the call to get involved in “social justice,” have we created a new form of competition?  One where we compare who sacrifices and suffers more for Jesus?

Here’s a quiz for you to check yourself:

Do you feel guilty when you hear of other people doing things like:

*Adopting a child;

*Selling their dream house and moving to a poor and dangerous inner city;

*Living below their means and giving all their extra money away;

*Moving to another country to be missionaries?

If you are someone who has sacrificed so much in your life, do you judge other people for:

*Going on vacation;

*Eating out;

*Buying nice things?

Do you get mad when others:

*Accomplish their goals prior to you;

*Accidentally “steal your thunder?”

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might suffer from justice-competition.

Isn’t our generation called to radically make a difference though?

I think of the thousands upon thousands of people who have been quietly and obediently living out their calling behind the scenes for years and years without making a big broadcast about it…

*Those who obediently lead small groups of youth on Sunday evenings;

*Those who donate to people who need money and DON’T tell anyone that they do it;

*Those who visit elderly shut-ins every Tuesday morning;

*Those who raise their children to be Christ-followers;

*Those who are changing their field of industry by working with integrity;

*Those who clean church buildings each week;

*Those who serve the poorest of the poor each day;

*Those who risk their lives to save the lives of others and never get recognized…

The list could go on, and God designed us each to beautifully and uniquely make a difference!  And honestly, there is quite enough work for each of us to do in this world, right?  Why do we waste so much time trying to compete with each other?  The.   answer is “Yes.”  God does call us to radically make a difference in our world today.

David Platt writes in his book Radical, “If “God loves me” is the message of Christianity, then who is the object of Christianity?

                God loves me.

                Me.

                Christianity’s object is me.

                Therefore when I look for a church, I look for the music that best fits me and the programs that best cater to me and my family.  When I make plans for my life and career, it is about what works best for me and my family.  When I consider the house I will live in, the car I will drive, the clothes I will wear, the way I will live, I will choose according to what is best for me.  This is the version of Christianity that largely prevails in our culture.”

The truth is that even when we “serve” and “sacrifice,” we can still make it all about us.  How much do others respect me for my sacrifices?  How much do I get noticed and appreciated for the great things that I’ve done for God’s Kingdom?  That is a HUGE way that the enemy can wreak havoc in the life of a Christian: our pride.

The truth is that our obedience to what God calls us to do is more important than our “sacrifices.”  You can serve the Lord by baking a loaf of bread for your elderly neighbor, and you can serve the Lord by going on a missions trip.  You can serve the Lord in a career, and you can serve the Lord by being a good daddy or mama.  God asks us to listen and obey.  You can start right where you are!

And there is amazing joy and freedom in that….

But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices  as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice,  and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

-1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)

When Your Best is Used Goods

new used

“No nice, Christian guy will ever want me.  I’m used goods.”  As I listened to my friend echo the cries of so many others in our generation, my natural—and hollow—response of “of course you’re not” got stuck on my tongue.  I had no clue as to the depth of emotional torture she was facing because I had never done something like that, but as I listened to her choke out the horrors she had faced, my soul wanted to weep.  Her fragile emotions wouldn’t be able to handle my trite platitudes in that moment, and my honor wouldn’t allow me to speak them.  Instead, we both cried together for what she had lost, and for what the world had lost through her decision.

Because I knew just as well as she did that the church would rank her sins as among the worst. Why do we do that?  The church as a whole seems to have a list as to what sins are worse than others.  It looks something like:

  1. Abortion
  2. Homosexuality
  3. Extramarital affairs/ sexual sins
  4. Being a democrat (or a Republican these days!)
  5. Murder
  6. Not wearing hipster clothes if you’re a pastor or church leader (I’m semi-kidding on this one!)

And then, wayyyyyyyyy down at the bottom are those “little” things like lying, gossiping, idolatry, hating others, judging others, jealousy, and excess.  You know, those things that many of us do and think we get away with every single day.

But, the truth is that we don’t.  Like the Pharisees, the American church is full of white-washed tombs of men and women.  We look amazing on the outside, and we do all the right things in public.  We create an image for ourselves that screams perfection, forgetting that we’re all dead inside without Christ’s redeeming blood.  And yes, some sins have different and greater consequences than others here on our moaning and groaning Earth.  I’m not condoning or excusing any sin.  I just think that we lie to ourselves when we say that someone isn’t good enough for our church or our Jesus or our ministry because of their past.  Has it really been that long since we’ve experienced the beautiful power and precious gift of Christ’s redeeming love for ourselves?  Have we forgotten what it’s like to live in grace?

Years ago I was a part of a dance shoe drive for an orphanage in Mexico.  I had been connected with a lady there (also named Kirsten!) who had started a dance school in that orphanage that was wildly successful.  She was asking for any gently used dance shoes that we could donate for the kids to use.  When you’re a teenager or an adult, you wear your dance shoes until they have holes in them and are molded to your feet perfectly.  When you’re a kid your feet grow so fast that most times the dance shoes are still practically new.  For kids who don’t have the money to buy a new pair of shoes and have to rely on their parents, it was good for them to give something that had been once meaningful and useful to them to a group of children across the world who couldn’t afford dance shoes.  Was it not from their heart because they weren’t giving new shoes, but rather giving what they had?  Of course not!  Their families would rather the investment be used and multiplied for the good rather than just sitting at home collecting dust.  In this case, the best that the American children had to offer the Mexican orphans was used goods, but it came from their hearts because it was all they had to give.  Used dance shoes became the vessel for God’s love to multiply in another country.

Yet, the American Church still demands perfect vessels.  And that’s why people in my generation have stopped going to church.

Have we forgotten that Christ’s earthly lineage was comprised of adulterers, murderers, prostitutes, liars, and cheaters?  Have we forgotten that when Christ Himself walked on this dusty, broken terra that He went out of His way to eat supper with those same people?  As we piously tell people to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” don’t we know that the devil is knocking at our door as well?

God hates sin because He is a perfect and just and holy God.  His inerrant Word found in Scripture specifically says that there are things that are sins, and they include everything except for democracy and lack-of-hipster-dressing that I mentioned above.  The truth is that all sins are equal in His eyes.  We all start on the same playing field.  We are all used goods.

Nonetheless, because He is a merciful God and because of His great love for us, He sent His one and only Son Christ Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  He offers us grace and the chance for healing and restoration, when He didn’t have to.  Though our sins are scarlet, He can make them whiter than snow.  How precious and sweet a gift that is to each of us!  He blessed the Widow’s Mite because it was all that she had, even though it was a minimal amount.  He picked up the Adulterous Woman and said, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Why then is it so hard for us to offer grace to our fellow sojourners?

That conversation that I had with my friend was over ten years ago.  After we had cried together, I took out some paper and markers and we wrote down the labels that the enemy and other people had wrongfully given us.  Mine were different than hers, but they were just as damaging.  We realized how we were allowing those labels to dictate our lives, and the only One who could break through them and allow us to walk in freedom and victory was Christ.  Arms linked, we walked outside and burned our papers and asked Christ to do a new work in us.  My friend has been able to marry, have kids, and walk countless other women through the steps of healing and restoration.

And you know how my story has unfolded thus far….

“The sacrifices you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” –Psalm 51:17 (NLT)

Surrounding Yourself with People of Vision

One of the studio mom’s and I were recently talking about how she came to see the studio when it wasn’t a studio yet.  We laugh about it now, but in July 2008 she took a huge risk and met with me on the location that is now Révérence Studios.  It was a wall-less, dance floor-less, barre-less concrete room that held nothing but my dreams.  In our recent conversation a couple weeks ago, I joked, “And still you stayed all these years!”  She laughed and said, “Well, I had vision.  I still do.”  I mentioned in Monday’s post about how my Uncle was one of the people around me who had vision for the studio before it was even a studio.  So did my grandparents.  So did my parents.  So did a handful of close friends who have shared this journey with me.  I didn’t meet Seth until January of 2008, but he immediately supported the vision of the studio as well.  Two of my dancer friends recently said that they are like Aaron and Joshua, holding up my arms when I am weary.  I am FOREVER grateful to these people because they have truly been with me on every mountaintop and valley throughout the whole Révérence Studios journey.

As a leader, why is it important to surround yourself with people who believe in your vision? (more…)