Many of us who work in church tech can readily recall an experience with church leadership where something goes wrong and we’re “called out” from the front. Or, perhaps we have been asked to provide high-quality AV with no support from the leadership, be it proper training, equipment, or personnel. I will offer some advice to church leaders that will shed light on what we in tech have to deal with and how church leadership can better support their tech teams.
There’s No “I” in “Team”
First and foremost, if you as a church leader and you want a high level of audio/visual support in your worship services and programs, than you need to provide your tech team with the support it needs to provide the level of AV you want. This takes the form of money, personnel recruitment, and training. You have to be realistic. Audio, video, projection, and lighting are all separate systems and require more than one person to operate. Given a lack of personnel in most small churches, I can find ways to combine two systems to be operated by one person, but all four is just too much. There is a reason professional AV is run by a team; each system has its own set of functions, controls, and parameters that require constant attention and focus.
When “Upcuts” Happen
One of the most common complaints I hear from church leadership is the “upcut” microphone. It’s a missed cue by the sound operator and the mic is dead when you begin talking then suddenly turns on. This can be due to a lack of anticipation and focus on the part of the operator. However, often, it’s because the operator is attempting to manipulate the controls of different technical systems and they miss the cue to get the mic channel turned on. If it’s operator error, than proper training is in order. If it’s the latter, additional personnel are to be recruited to help the over-burdened operator.
Another issue I see in churches is when someone comments on a tech’s mistake from the front; this is what I term “calling out tech.” This is not to be done under any circumstances; it’s embarrassing for the tech operator and it’s not the way a good leader is to deal with frustration. Most of the time, we already know there is a problem and don’t need the added pressure from the front to find the problem and fix it. The proper way to approach an error in tech is after the service, in private, to find out what happened and find out what their side of the story is. Perhaps they don’t know what the problem is (training issue), or maybe they were paying attention to another system (training issue/additional personnel), or maybe you have asked them to give you too much from old or poorly made equipment (budget issue).
Most often, issues in tech will stem from these three areas which really are no fault of the tech team at all. You as a leader need to understand where the problem originates and know how to address it. That’s why you’re a leader, after all. Leaders are also responsible for casting the vision of what they want for the church and how tech fits into accomplishing that vision. We as techs get fairly lost in the details of producing the week to week services and it is extremely helpful to continually have that vision cast in front of us by our leaders. It’s helpful for the church, as well, to help keep them focused and on track to help bring that vision to reality all the more quickly.
Props & Kudos
Finally, the best way you can help tech is to give them props and kudos from the front and to do it often. A good leader can change the perspective of the congregation towards tech by helping everyone understand what tech deals with and being patient. For example, our pastor constantly encourages each of our team by appreciating them, both in passing and from up front. We all have fun and enjoy what we do. This positive reinforcement will help your techs feel appreciated, supported, and will garner you more loyalty from your techs and they will in turn want to continue to serve.
You really are the most important determining factor in how long a tech will want to continue serving; if you insist on making that relationship stressful than you will have a high turnover rate in your tech team. However, if you can be positive and give praise to your techs for what they do right and find a way to positively address issues that do come up than you will see a very positive attitude and increased loyalty. Remember, we all want to help and want to use our talents and service for God, but we need you to continue to encourage us and help us develop into better techs through proper equipment and training budgets, and helping us recruit more techs for the team to help make the load easier on everyone.