Get to Know Your Tech Team

by Curt Taipale

What do you expect of your tech support volunteers? Is your tech volunteer the type that arrives at church ahead of you each weekend, has everything set up, checked, working, with your favorite espresso sitting next to your tuned guitar before the start of the soundcheck? Or are you thankful when your sound tech shows up four minutes before the downbeat of the service, just in time to light up the gear and push up the faders?

If you’re not getting the level of technical support that you need, want or expect, ask yourself if you have clearly communicated those expectations to the head of your tech team. Maybe everything you want is entirely reasonable and appropriate. Maybe not. But until you work through each point with your tech team, then each of you is assuming what the other one wants is correct, and you may not be on the same page.

Be specific. What do you need to hear in your monitor? Beyond that, what do you want to hear in your monitor? What do you not want to hear? Does that list change when Fred is scheduled to sing in the praise team this weekend? What about lighting cues? Is it okay for song lyric slides to be late? What if you change the arrangement of a song, or the order of the service, and neglect to share that with your tech team? Is it still their fault that the lyrics were late!?! Will you take the heat on that topic in the production debrief meeting next Tuesday? You do have a production meeting each week, right!?!

Did you know that a soundcheck and a rehearsal are not the same thing? Your tech team needs to own the soundcheck because that is their one moment to make sure that everything is right, before they get into the rehearsal or the service. The rehearsal is a shared time between the tech team and the worship team because that is the moment when you can mutually refine your respective “performance” during each song and indeed throughout the upcoming service.

Remember that while you and the worship team musicians are focusing on the worship music set, your tech team has to focus on the entire worship service, from walk-in music to the worship set, to announcements, special music, pastor’s message, invitation, walk-out music, and so on. Each move of lighting, video, graphic support for song lyrics and sermon, mic cues and so on needs to be spot on for the next ninety minutes or so. And if you’re doing multiple service, they need to do it a second or third time as well. Plus they don’t get to relax during the pastor’s message. They stay in the hot seat the entire time.

This is a two way street. Has your tech team clearly communicated to you what their needs are from the worship team? Are you providing them with a detailed order of service? Do those details include who is singing lead on each song, where the instrumental solos are, and so on? Do you have a fail-safe communication link to notify the tech team when your senior pastor changes the order of service six minutes before the second service?

Do you make opportunities to discuss such details away from the hot seat? You may have discovered that ten minutes before the downbeat of the Sunday worship service is not the best time to have a knock down, drag out, heartfelt conversation about some issue that has been bothering you for months. So use pastoral restraint and just don’t. Rather, save it for a lunch meeting later next week when you can more calmly present these ideas and have a rational, productive discussion about realities. You may learn that some of the things you want are not reasonable or practical for your team to deliver with their current level of staffing. You may find that some of those things, while perfectly handled in your worship pastor friend’s church across the country may not be reasonable or even possible given the technical realities of your church. Maybe if y’all talk it through you can lead the charge to carve out the budget necessary to bring that vision to life.

While I’m on this topic, don’t let it just be your vision. Let your tech team volunteers dream alongside you. If the tech ministry falls under your supervision, then you can still make the final call and lead the way. But if you allow your tech team, whether they are volunteers or paid staff, take part in the decision process, the rewards of the team spirit that builds will pay dividends for years to come.

Speaking of leadership, have you established clear lines of authority? Do your tech volunteers know who they are responsible to, who they answer to, who their boss really is? Is it the senior pastor? The pastor’s wife? The worship leader? The Youth pastor? An outspoken member of the congregation? A Deacon? Does it depend on what day it is, or even what time of day it is!?!

Nothing hurts an organization more than a lack of communication. So talk with your tech team. Involve them early in the planning stages for the services and major productions. If you’re about to build a new worship center, for goodness sake don’t shut them out of the process. Talk with them! They are the ones who will “live” in those tech areas, so shouldn’t they have a voice in how they are built and arranged?

Talk with your techs. Often. Build a genuine relationship with them. Take them to lunch. Know what their favorite drink at Starbucks is. Come Sunday morning, you’ll be very glad you did. Maybe over time that five-minutes-before-the-downbeat tech will start showing up thirty minutes before.

Copyright 2008. Taipale Media Systems. All rights reserved.