Christmas Past, Christmas Future

by Curt Taipale

So is there anything left of you? You have just resurfaced from the recent round of Christmas services, smiling at the “moments” where things really came together, possibly licking a few wounds endured through the process.

And then there was the schedule. Shall I assume that those major events at church were done back-to-back between Children’s choir concerts, other ministry events, home group parties and family get togethers? And to top it off, did your pastor want you to pull down all of the scenery and set pieces from the Christmas drama production and re-light the platform so that the church would look “normal” on Sunday morning? That made for a late night on Saturday, didn’t it?

As techs serving in a church, we want to do everything within our ability to pursue technical excellence with each service and each concert. To us it doesn’t matter how “major” or how “small” the event is perceived by others. We want to execute our part as cleanly and precisely as we know how to do given the gear we have to work with. Still, there is generally a little extra pressure, ‘er, emphasis placed on “getting it right” for Christmas and Easter services.

But excellence isn’t necessarily perfection. We might nail it one time and then make plumb silly mistakes the next. Mistakes happen. The key reason why church techs with a lot of experience can deliver a smooth, seemingly mistake-free service or concert is because they have made a ton of mistakes in the past and have learned from them. They have learned to plan ahead so those mistakes are less likely to happen in the first place, and they know how to recover gracefully from the ones that do happen to sneak through.

Thankfully most of those issues will go completely unnoticed by the majority of people in your audience, but YOU will know they happened and won’t be happy about it. Delivering technical excellence always points back to proper, in-depth planning.

I posted a tweet in mid-December encouraging fellow tech support workers not to get so caught up in delivering such a technically flawless service that they miss the joy of the season or ruin the experience for others working alongside them. Thankfully it was picked up and re-tweeted by several others; hopefully it served to encourage a lot of techs who were silently hurting inside throughout the season.

So why do mistakes happen? Sometimes we allow ourselves to get distracted or lose focus. Sometimes we’re pushing the equipment we have to work with to do things it was never made to do.

Sometimes a last minute change isn’t communicated well to the rest of the team, and that catches us off guard. Lack of communication can be deadly. Literally. I know of one case where a bad decision was made just prior to the opening night of a church pageant; that decision was not communicated to others who needed to know, and that sequence of events quite literally caused the entire church building to burn to the ground. Talk about a mistake!

Sometimes it’s just the simple fact that there are 500+ knobs, faders and switches on that audio console you’re driving, and it only takes leaving one switch in the wrong position to totally miss THE mic cue of the night that you can’t afford to miss, the one that no one will be aware of if you nail it, the one that everyone will notice if you miss it, the one that everyone will be talking about around the water cooler at the office the next day.

But let’s face it – one major source of stress that techs endure each season is the lack of planning. What if this year could be different? Imagine the difference that your tech team could make on the technical excellence of your upcoming events and productions if you were to invest some time now in planning and training! Think that just might lower the stress level of the entire team? (Not to mention the pastoral staff?)

As you’re reading this, you should have already done your debrief meeting to talk about the successes and challenges of last month’s events and services. You should have already discussed the schedule to see if there is a better way to plan for a less stressful season this year.

Decide to keep those improvements in front of you as you begin to plan for this year’s events and services. If you didn’t have time to spend with your family and enjoy the true reason for the season last month, determine not to let that happen again this year. There is absolutely no need to race through the schedule, and proper, well thought through planning is the key to a low-stress schedule.

I wrote an article based on my own firsthand experience one Christmas season long go. If you don’t already do in-depth planning for such events months in advance, I can’t encourage you enough to read my article titled “My Big Red Christmas Folder”. You can find it here.

Published in the December 2011 issue of Technologies for Worship eNewsletter. Used with permission.