“It’s easier to just do it myself!” Did you hear this phrase before? Did you have this thought before?
I did. I am a certified Audio Engineer. For more than two decades I’m doing live sound in churches. I’m hearing everything. I see everything. A speaker turned in the wrong direction. An equalizer switched off which was on before. A vocal sound with too much compression. A de-esser set to strong or bypassed.
Sometimes it’s hard to just enjoy Worship because I‘m constantly observing every aspect of the production. Now there are these volunteers you know? And they don’t see it. They don’t hear it. So, why even care, I better do it myself, right?
I will explain you why we should thrive for higher purposes and I will explain you how I overcame those thoughts and implemented healthy procedures and systems.
Why you better don’t do it yourself
We need churches with loving atmospheres
I’m serving as a Production Leader at the Berlin, Germany campus of Saddleback. In Berlin less than 2% would claim to be a follower of Christ. Also, people in Berlin are very isolated. Many people would say they do not have a real friend.
So, there is a lot to do as a church. We need to create a welcoming and inviting family so that people find a home. We need to create an atmosphere of authentic love. First and foremost that can only happen if we let Jesus change our heart and we let him open our eyes for other people.
People are searching for “intimacy, meaning and a destiny” (Soul Cravings, Erwin McManus) which affects every aspect of our lives. And it is affected also by what we do as Production Leaders. Jesus created people with certain gifts, passions, and abilities and who are we to judge people and stand in their way?
The production of a Sunday service is one of the most undervalued ministries in the church. Only when it’s done bad everyone notices it. Rarely will people notice when we do a good job and really mixed the worship as best as possible. They will all just say: the worship was great today.
Because of that it’s usually people that are shy or introverted to tend to serve in those positions. Maybe they love music and worship in particular and they want to support it, but they would feel very uncomfortable on a stage. As a Production Leader it’s my job to create a great atmosphere in my team where people love to serve and they feel appreciated for what they do. And since no one else might do it, you as a Production Leader need to do it.
As a Production Team we are part of the church and when we as a church want to create a welcoming and loving atmosphere we as the Production Team should do the same. Our job is not only to create a great worship. Our job is to create a great church.
We need more churches
Less than 2% of people living in Berlin would claim to be a follower of Jesus. Heaven has enough space for 100% and God has never created a person He doesn’t love and He has never created a person He doesn’t want to live forever. All that to say it’s a lot to do for us as churches. We need more churches, we need bigger churches, we need healthier churches.
Close to where I live there is a small park with a tower that plays bells every hour. It plays a very old hymn from the 17th century which the church in which I grew up sang a lot. Every time I cross this park and it plays this song I begin singing the lyrics – very oldish style lyrics. I sometimes imagine every person I pass would sing this song as well because everyone just knows it and loves to praise our Lord.
I think that’s what God wants. We trust him completely and we praise him for everything in response. So Production Leaders all around the globe: we need more churches, healthier churches, small and big churches.
We need more Production Leaders
If we have more churches or bigger churches we need more sound engineers, slide operators, light operators, stage managers and so on. Maybe today you’re a church with 80 attendees and you might think why do I even need all of these roles?
Good question and I would throw back the following questions: What would your church and especially your team look like if your attendance grows to 500 people? Or what would it look like if your pastor plants four more churches and he now needs tech leaders for those?
If we lack developing new people in tech, worship will not grow but shrink in quality and thus will hinder the church to grow further. I can tell you I don’t want to be the guy being responsible the church can not grow as expected. It’s people’s eternal lives at stake. Too important to miss that.
All that to say there is enough reason to overcome our quick reaction: “I better do it myself.” So let’s make sure we don’t fall into this trap. But how?
How we overcome “I better do it myself”
As churches we need more great production teams and leaders. So, the main reason we should overcome our “I better do it myself” mentality is we need more sound, graphics, light and video guys. And God is preparing people for such ministries.
Therefore the only way to overcome this unhealthy mentality and behaviour is to understand our role is not to make the production but to make a great production team.
If you’re a pastor and you want to make this happen you must find the right leader for this position and as a leader in this position you need to understand the why of your ministry, you need to implement the right tools and you need to establish reliable mechanisms.
Define the why of your role
If you read this and you’re a pastor I encourage you to search for someone with leadership potential, a passion for music and an understanding of tech and give him the responsibility to lead the team. Sometimes you find those people in the worship team and you need to re-position them. Although this is painful first it will serve both teams in the long run and ultimately the church will benefit from it a lot.
Now you’re given the responsibility of “doing tech”. As mentioned before “tech” is one of the most undervalued ministries in church. “Just make sure we can hear everything, it’s not getting too loud and there is never a feedback” might be your job description.
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are more important things to do as a church for sure. Let me compare it to my home. If you would ask me what’s most important in my home I would probably say something like time together, love, kindness, fun and so on. That’s at the heart of our family and for sure this will instantly change if we have a power outage. Power is a very foundational and existential service nowadays. As a society we’re depending on it.
Today music plays a vital role in the lives of people. Thanks to streaming services like Spotify we have all music of the planet at our fingertips. The way music is produced today is very different to how music was produced during the times of the Beatles. A lot of technology goes into the production today. So whether they know it or not people come into churches with a certain expectation how music sounds. And the more we meet such expectation the more they feel at home. There are other more important aspects but this is still relevant.
If you lead your production team you need to explain their role in the health and the growth of the church. It’s important they know they’re just not moving faders or showing the next slide. They’re helping people to connect to God. And when people connect to Him they will find their purpose in live and ultimately serve the whole Kingdom.
If your team understands the whole picture it’s way more exciting to serve in this team.
You always hire more than you actually need
You might think as a church of your size you just need one at the soundboard and one clicking the slides. Both are willing to come every Sunday so I just need those two.
With such conclusion you just decided to not grow in the team and in conclusion this might be a bottleneck in the further growth of the church itself.
So be sure you make the church aware of you’re always open for new people to join. New people can always shadow existing ones and if you have more people in the team you can also always think of next milestones to improve the quality of the sound, the graphics and so on.
Implement the right tools
Tools can help you a lot to simplify things. These are the most important tools we use (in brackets you can see the specific tools we use at Saddleback Berlin):
- A tool for managing and scheduling people (Planning Center Online Services)
- A tool to organize songs and program flow and communicate it with the team (Planning Center Online Services)
- A tool to communicate with the team (WhatsApp)
- A flexible and programmable (digital) mixer (Behringer X32)
- A tool for preparing and showing slides for lyrics, announcements and the sermon (ProPresenter)
- A tool for playing music for intro, outro etc. (Spotify)
The more you can integrate those tools with one another, the more you can concentrate on your people.
You will find a lot information about those tools in other articles, so I will resist the temptation to explain their roles and reasons here in detail.
Implement reliable mechanisms
This one is the hardest part because now you need to reflect on what makes a great production at your church. What makes a great sound? What makes a great visual appearance? What makes a great lightning experience?
When you figure out what aspects make a great production you implement mechanisms that ensure those aspects are always taken care of, independent from the team on stage or at the front of house.
A couple of easy mechanisms to implement are:
- Put labels on your cables that show their length or their purpose
- Make the description of those labels visible evrywhere for everyone
- Teach people to search for descriptions of labels; self service is always quicker and the learning curve is much better
- Put labels on inputs and outputs so that their purpose is clear
Use multi core cables
- Use multi core cables to bring inputs and outputs close to where the worship team has their mics and instruments
- Think about using several multi cores not just one; several smaller multi-cores at certain positions are better than one big one in the middle
Use a digital sound board and make use of it excessively
- Use a standard show or scene file which represents your standard setup for things that never or rarely change (sections, layers, effects, routing, matrix etc.)
- Use preset files for every vocal and every instrument and store them somewhere centrally (i.e. Google Drive or Dropbox)
- Every Sunday load the standard scene file and then all needed preset files. This way you ensure a certain level of quality
- Every Sunday concentrate on the whole mix but also on a certain channel to optimise
- After the Sunday when you found better settings for a certain vocal or instrument, store this setting as your new preset file and use this one from then on
Create checklists for every single position
- The checklists describe the order of activities for setup, rehearsal and tear down
- Review those checklists regularly and improve them whenever needed
Train your people
- Train them on your mechanisms
- Train them on the checklists
- Teach them on their job role
- Ask them for how they see and experience their role regularly
In October 2019 we had a special event at Saddleback Berlin. We where celebrating our sixth anniversary. For this special event we brought our whole church together which usually meets in two services. In addition we had a special guest, Rick Warren, author of „Purpose Driven Live“ (sold 16m times).
This Sunday we where 700 people in one room. This is essentially four times more people in one room than usual.
The event was a blast in all aspects. We made mistakes but we get the setup done on time, the worship was amazing, the sermon was great and we had a lot of fun as a team. But we also get aware of the fact we’re not yet ready to be a church of 700 people at the same time. We were able to handle it once but that doesn’t mean we can handle it every week.
The whole team was very excited about that specific event so everyone wanted to take part of it. It was a much bigger effort than our usual Sunday in terms of planning and operation. Would that team have to handle every Sunday this size the team would drown.
So we’re not yet a church of a 700. We would need to grow the team in terms of number of people and in terms of our skills. We need to grow and optimize our mechanisms.
Wether we are a church of 50 people or a church of 5,000 people we always need to think about how we structure our team for growth. The mission of our team stays the same independent of our size, but our team structure, our mechanisms, our tools and our checklists will look very different.
That’s why there will never be a status quo and we always stay flexible in the way we do and structure things.