This past week, I had the opportunity to speak on the Church Tech Weekly podcast hosted by Mike Sessler and Van Metschke along with Duke Dejong about what I do as a tech director of a National Community Church which meets in theaters and coffeehouses. We discussed the challenges as well as the methods we use to make it work. It’s a pretty conversational and it was a blast to record with these guys.
As a technical director who is was relatively new to the world of church tech and also to ministry, one of the things I struggled with was learning more about what I was doing before I crashed into a barrier of not having enough knowledge or experience to make good decisions. Sometimes, it was that I simply didn’t know enough about a certain area of technology to get the job done and I was at a loss. Other times, my leadership was poor simply because I didn’t have the experience or maturity to weigh all of the aspects of the challenge and make a good decision.
Each time that I’ve come across problems such as this, the Lord has always provided someone to help me, challenge me or guide me. It doesn’t mean I’ve averted failure; nor does it mean that I made good decisions every time. But , it does mean I’ve learned and changed how I do things because of people who the Lord has placed in my path. It comes from people who are older then me and sometimes from people who are younger then me.
In the next month, I want to highlight a few people who I have had the pleasure to get to know over the past few years and some I have had the privilege to do ministry along side of them.
Two of these guys are church technical ministry gurus. Bill Swaringim and Kevin Poole have been huge influences in my life over the past two years for church tech but also for leadership in technical ministry. Their voices carry experience and wisdom. Bill is the leader of CTL (Church Technical Leaders) which has networked church technical directors across the nation. His website and faithfulness was one of the reasons I figured out that being a church tech director was something I could actually do and pursue as a career and had a life-altering effect on my life. Kevin is the tech director of Mobbery Baptist Church in Longview, TX but has been a TD at First Baptist Church of Dallas as well as the audio director for Liberty University. He’s attention to detail, intricate planning and technical orchestration is amazing and there is much to be learned in the church world today from his insight.
The other two guys are up and coming leaders who I meet while I was on tour as an audio engineer with Valley Forge Christian College in Chosen and Pneuma. David Brock was a youth leader who that I connected with and wound up touring with a year later and is now a Children’s Pastor integrating tech into other areas of ministry. Pete Wituszynski was a camper in my cabin as a youth leader who is now on his way to becoming an electrical engineer and has become a solid production tech. He’s an ultra-nerd when it comes to gear functionality and workflow and is doing an in-depth product comparison on two new consoles that are rocking the market right now.
I’ve done alot of writing…and you all have done alot of reading! I just wanted to take some time to kind of sit back and stop talking and allow some of these stellar tech guys to talk for me. They’ll be posted on Mondays this month and potentially next month depending on the response so make sure you’ve subscribed to the blog and you’re getting updates. I’m also asking people to tweet these articles if you enjoy them or if you’ve learned something from it. I want to amplify the voices of these guys because of their knowledge and faithfulness.
Thanks for your support!
Sometimes, as tech directors on staff at churches, it’s easy to forget that we are the only ones getting paid to be at church making it happen each Sunday. A lack of preparedness or leadership when directing volunteer teams is just completely unacceptable when it’s “go time” on a Sunday morning.
1. Connect with your team during the week
It doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it. Connect with them in small groups (whether it’s one you lead or just participate in that happens to include some of your team members), comment on select, daily things on social media to let them know that you care about their every day life, or keep your team updated on what’s being changed, improved or share small status updates on projects that effect them directly via email or social media. It helps cultivate relationship between team members and leaders as well as allows them to feel a sense of ownership in the ministry they work to support on Sunday mornings.
2. Be Cheerful
At least smile! Sometimes, it’s difficult to be that way on Sunday mornings simply because of stress of making sure everything is ready to roll and because of other conflict or problems that arise. Don’t expect your team to be happy, cheerful, and easy to work with if you, as the ministry leader, are not. As the leader, your team will mirror your attitude and outlook, so make it a good one!
3. Know your gear
The gear you use and run production with is your tool for making it happen. While your tech gear will not LEAD YOU INTO worship, it certainly will keep you from ENTERING INTO worship. To overcome this is to have things set up and prepared beforehand to reduce problems. This will help you with last minute changes and service flow modifications because you’re already pretty close to where you need to be already. But, when there are serious problems or failures, knowing exactly how your systems, setup, design and gear works is critical in troubleshooting problems and getting fast results. Production errors tend to get way more notice then anything else over the course of a church service. That understanding will help you get out of sticky situations quicker! I wrote about when one nightmare came true for Sunday| Magazine a little while back. Check it out here.
4. Don’t be afraid to call shots
You’re the tech director, it’s your job. So many times, I talk to people who are afraid to make a judgement call because they are afraid that they’re going to make the wrong call. Then, instead of actually making a decision, they don’t do anything thinking that it will just work itself out. If you’re really directing and coordinating this thing, do something and say something. Weigh the pro’s and con’s taking the time frame into consideration and make the call being as intentional as possible. If you make the wrong decision, evaluate your performance and learn from your mistakes. Then, change how you make decisions for next time. If you’ve done something well or made a tough call that ended well, then take what you’ve learned from that and see if it can be applied to anything else you may be struggling with.
5. Circle back afterwards
Bring your team together if possible after you execute a service together and talk about what went well, what didn’t go so great and could be better, and what was a total failure. Allow them to give input from their perspective and from the specific roles that they served in. Weigh their input and take it into consideration as your prepare for the following week. You don’t have to use everything, but you may still hear something or realize something that you missed that can help you create a better experience for next time.
What other tips and ideas do you employ at your church? What other tips can we all learn from? What things have you learned to avoid?
We were pushing through a set up for a show that was pretty complex; but, since I knew the gear and console workflow well, I was moving extremely quickly. Input names were in place, groups and DCA’s were routed and mics and instruments were patched correctly and methodically because my approach and technique was that of someone who was fairly seasoned and experienced.
On Sunday, one of our volunteers was struggling to figure out why the console wasn’t passing audio to the mains. The channel was registering that signal was passing through the channel, but he was perplexed as to why he couldn’t hear it. Many of you, are thinking, “well, was it routed correctly?” It wasn’t routed correctly and it was easy for me to see because I knew the process well. It was a good moment for teaching troubleshooting and procedure in a real world situation where results were immediately apparent once I explained it.
It’s easy for experienced technical directors and production techs to glaze over the small steps or get frustrated when less experienced people don’t do exactly what we want. But, if we haven’t clearly defined what we want, we are doing them a disservice and we’ve failed as a leader in what we’re doing. Sure, there’s a certain level of experience that we need for specific events and that’s fine. But, we also need to make sure that we’re training new people from whatever level they are on, even if that means from the ground up, and raising up new people to fill the roles of a growing ministry.
Here’s my plan of attack moving forward:
1. Define The Goal
When new people want to get involved, we need to have defined goals and steps laid out. I need to verbalize and set the standards for what is important and what we want the end product to look like. This should be applied to shows, services, presentations and organization.
2. Define the Steps, Technique and Jargon
As I mentioned earlier, not everyone understands how to get to the goal I shooting for. Some may understand the process and technique but might not understand how to communicate it and some may be able to communicate well and show an understanding but get terrible results. The key is to make sure that I know how approach people from both angles. Personally, I can get the necessary results, but struggle more with explaining to others how to get there. I need to learn to unlearn some of the advanced techniques and terminology and get back to the very definitions of what I’m doing and the steps of the processes I’m employing. That doesn’t mean I’m supposed to overwhelm someone and deluge them with everything I know and expect them to run a large format show right away simply because I explained everything, but it does mean that everything can be broken down into smaller, easier and more palatable words, phrases and definitions so that people can grasp what I’m talking about and thereby learn and grow.
3. Define Commitment
This should be a given and I believe it will develop from getting the other two right. If I organize my goals and explain why those goals are important and how important the volunteers who take those conceptual goals and make them a reality, it will help develop a deeper commitment and “buy-in” into what we’re doing in our specific area of ministry.
This is definitely a discussion-based article that I’m looking for feedback (ha…audio guy joke) on. Comments are certainly welcomed here. Let’s here thoughts and critiques…I’m learning along with the rest of you and I’m all ears!
Don’t you hate it when your phone breaks? Yeah, I do…especially when your contract isn’t up yet. Sure, I could submit an insurance claim on it but honestly, the only thing that broke is the battery cover on the back. So, the insurance company doesn’t want to help me but it’s driving me nuts. Even though the phone has honestly been great, now that the battery cover is being annoying and not meeting my expectations and standards, I am willing to throw my old phone away, pay quite a bit of money to get a new phone, take an early upgrade and re-sign a 2 year contract all because the battery cover of my phone is messed up.
Or do we do that in church ministry as well? Continue Reading…
I’m a techie and nerd through and through. It’s like a disease that I’ll never ber cured of. But, that’s okay honestly. Many people even make fun of me because most of the stuff that comes out of my mouth is tech oriented.
I see everything through the lens of a tech guy. But, I also see everything through the lens of church, ministry, and communicating the love of Christ through whatever medium or means possible.
The announcement of Google Fiber recently really hit me in just that way. Continue Reading…
This Wednesday, Sunday| Magazine dropped their 6th issue filled with myths that the creative church has fallen into and believes. It’s pretty killer and hits some really awesome topics.
By my article is not the best article by far. There’s great material in there and wanted to drop a few quotes that impacted my spirit and passion for what I do:
One of the huge perks of what I do at National Community Church is that I get to meet alot of great people who inspire me and push me towards greater things for the Kingdom of God. WAVE Group is a full service AVL company that works with churches across the United States and has been involved in the Miracle Theater project that NCC is working on launching by providing excellent design services and will also be working on the installation. I’ve appreciated getting to know the guys in the company over the past year and have grown from knowing them.
I’ve been convicted over the past year, that in order to grow, I must find new ways to pour out myself in order for God to fill me with something fresh and new. That’s a very spiritual principle that I believe is also practical as well. I can’t grow unless I not only strive for excellence in what I do, but I must also teach what I’ve learned so that others can sharpen their skills.
Most people have heard the news weeks ago that Facebook purchased Instagram for a cool $1 billion. I honestly think that none of us have any concept of just how much money that is. It’s insane how much money that is!
Obviously, the CEO and the co-founder are going to make out with a ton of money because it was their idea. The employees are set to get a decent amount of money because they were seriously in the right place at the right time. But how did they get there? They had to have some type of outstanding talent and some solid networking to be a part of Instagram in the first place.
Instagram had only 13 employees including the CEO and co-founder. They must have been selective with who they brought on board and when they were brought on board.
But, it all started with a basic idea which was revealed to the public in October 2010. It wasn’t worth much then but as it became more and more popular, they founders continued to develop and improve their idea. I’m sure in the beginning they had no idea that the company would sell for $1 Billion dollars less then two years after it went public.
It’s the same thing with YOU.