In nearly every church service the moment when you, the preacher, walk up on stage, gathers your notes and starts to speak happens. Everyone in the room is ready. Or are they? You open your mouth and begin but your microphone is not on! Frustration rushes through you. “Everyone knows what is about to happen but the one person who is responsible for turning on the mic” you think to yourself. What you say next will have a huge impact on the person at the soundboard. In this article I’d like to address pastors that have to work with technical people to carry out weekend services. I hope to give you a few things you can do that will help you get more out of the team on the weekend. Being on staff as a Technical Director for years, and now a pastor, I hope to bring unique insight that will be valuable for you. Let’s get plugged into leadership.
We live in an age where if you are doing a church service of any kind, there is a good chance that you have an audio system, a lighting system, and a video system. Regardless of how simple or complex these systems are, there is a good chance you do not just let these systems run themselves during your weekend service. With the rise of modern church worship bands, the attractional model of church, and emphases on rock-like services, the need for having a reliable and knowledgeable technical team is a must.
While there is a necessity of having a good tech team to implement a weekend service, there is still a good amount of frustration from both pastors and the tech teams themselves. We live in a fallen world where ministry would be easy if it was not for the people we did it with. But this is also true of the things that are plugged in as well. Without fail, right before the start of the Easter service, the projector that runs just fine 51 weeks of the year, decides to overheat and go dead. I think it would be helpful to acknowledge that tensions run high during a worship service, no matter the team, the size of the congregation or the amount of money you spent on the system. I think this is because on some level we know that people’s eternities hang in the balance. I am not saying that someone may be saved if the mix is just right, but we are all called to give our best to the Lord (Colossians 3:23).
Here are 5 things that I would focus on to get the most out of your weekend tech teams.
- Spend time casting the vision to just them
As a pastor, whether you are the worship pastor planning a set list, a preaching pastor writing the sermon, or something else, I would be willing to bet that you spend time thinking through the service, its goal, and your desired outcome (if you don’t it might be a good idea to start). If you have a vision for how you would like the service to go, a good place to start is to spend time sharing this with your tech team, or at the very least the leader of that team. Tech people tend to be artists, so when you are casting this vision it is important to share how you want people to feel or respond. You might need to step out of your comfort zone and learn a new type of communication style, but the work will be well worth it. Use words like inviting, energetic, warm, relaxing, and other descriptive words. Describe the experience you want the person to have when they are in the service, and be ready to field questions. How often should you cast this vision? As much as possible! It may be helpful to put in your schedule 15 minutes a week to email them, text them, call them, or have a sit down with them. This team can truly make or break your vision – cast it with care.
- Help them live their dreams
I cannot count the amount of times that I had the feeling I was a tool in the tool belt of a pastor’s success. Don’t get me wrong, I worked with great pastors over the years, but often time there was little regard for any aspiration that I had. This is something to keep in mind when leading anyone. Leaders, to be effective, should listen first and be able to cast a vision that aligns their goals with their team’s goals, in an effort to all work towards a common goal. There is a good chance that your sound guy was and wants to be on stage as a musician. The majority of sound and lighting techs I know had their start as a musician. If they want to be a musician on stage, help them get there. “But you will lose a good tech” you might be thinking. I will be honest and tell you that in your dismissal of helping them get where they want, you have already lost them. Yeah, they may show up on the weekend for a time, but in their heart they are not working as hard for your goals because you refuse to work for theirs. Find out what they are passionate about by asking them questions and listening – before Sunday rolls around.
- Create an environment of personal growth
In John C. Maxwell’s book the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, Law #6 states that “Growth thrives in Conducive Surroundings”. You, me, your lighting person, and everyone on your team should be growing in their leadership and their craft. Maxwell claims that we need to have the right soil, air and climate to grow. We can find that out by answering a few questions. What nourishes me? What keeps me alive? What sustains me? If you are blessed enough to have a hired tech staff of one or more, you more than likely hired them because they are the best you could find at what they do. This is good in one sense and bad in another. It is good because they produce the best quality product they can. It is bad because, as John says, “if you’re always at the head of the class, then you’re in the wrong class.” From my experience, tech people love to learn. So help them do that. Budget in an onsite training, or a personal mentor/coach for them; send them to a conference or two a year. I always loved getting around like-minded people, talking shop, sharing war stories, making connections, and then applying what I learn the next weekend. Lead pastors, youth pastors, worship pastors, children’s pastors, and executive pastors all go to conferences, and so should your technical people.
- Let them fail
We have all failed! I was speaking in front of a group of my peers a few weeks ago, giving a presentation, and my fly was down. Major fail! I spent 8 hours programming lights the day before Christmas Eve and forgot to save the lighting show. Which meant I had to do it all over again. If you haven’t failed, you probably aren’t trying new things. If you are going to cast a vision, listen and help them carry out their dreams, and create an environment of growth. Tech people will fail. You should want this! It is not the end of the world when something goes wrong. In fact, you should be proud of your team!
- Respect their time
Tech people are people too. They have hopes and dreams, a social life, maybe even a family. You ought to factor them in when planning. If you and your team are planning a large event that will take up a good deal of their time to pull it off, they deserve the respect of being brought into the decision making process, even if they are on staff. You will gain huge points from them if you ask and don’t require them to give up extra hours to do the event. Their main focus is on the weekend, whether they are a volunteer or a staff member. To add something else on their plate, even though it may be the best idea ever, just know your weekend will suffer at least on some level. They will look at you in a much more positive light, if you give them the choice to veto the event. The chances are they won’t. The mere gesture of asking is often enough for them to delightfully jump on board. You can also respect their time by asking them if they feel like they need to be in certain meetings. Personally I love meetings, but some tech folks are tech folks because they like their buttons over people. If they don’t need to be in a meeting, leave the decision up to them.
In conclusion, it is imperative that both pastor and tech teamwork together to complete the work that God has given the Church. When you begin to speak and the microphone is not on, choose words that will build up despite your frustration. I would be willing to bet, if you apply these 5 things, your microphone will be on at the right time, every time. We all play a part in the body of Christ. Do all you can to make sure the Tech Team doesn’t feel like the butt.