I receive dozens of calls and email each week asking me to troubleshoot problems in church sound systems. Many of these problems can be attributed to inadequate equipment or training. Additional problems are due to a breakdown in communication between the technical staff, worship teams and church leadership.
Does your sound team have an identity within the church or do you simply rely upon them to do whatever it takes, whenever it is needed? We must take our focus off the equipment (not that it's not important, it just shouldn't be number one) and place it on our people. The people we work with and lead are much more important than the equipment we utilize. Therefore, we must understand this critical concept or we will experience people breakdowns, especially during the stress of a major production.
I have found it to very helpful for the church to include a non-technical person to attend to the spiritual needs of the team. As “techs” we often get so involved in what we do and how we do it that we forget who we are. We must be accountable to each other as Christians. We must have time together, just for the purpose of better understanding our relationship with each other, our relationship with our God, and to take time to encourage and pray for each other.
Furthermore, we must take the time and expense to edify and build upon the talents of our technical staff. Encourage and support your technical staff to spend the extra time outside of their jobs and service to the church to learn: studying manuals, reading trade journals, participating in discussion groups and attending conferences. Schedule rehearsals for the sound teams and make time for practice and training. When a tech fails, it's not because they want to, but because they don't know how to succeed. I have never met a sound tech that intentionally wanted to cause feedback. But it happens all the time. Set aside specific time for in-house training and attend local and regional workshops. In addition too formal training, make trade journals, copies of operation manuals, and technical books available to the team members.
Establish an identity as a Sound Team. This shows purpose through common goals and establishes the Team as a valued resource in the church. Design a Tech Team logo and put it on a polo or T-shirt. Wear the shirts to all events requiring tech services. Through the establishment of a Tech Team, we can take ownership and pride for our actions, collectively, and establish a group identity. And by all means, do things together. Go on outings, eat together, maybe after church, and fellowship together. Have monthly meetings to keep all informed of what's going on.
It is equally important to guard against BURN OUT. The best way to do this is to pass the tech responsibilities around. Don't fall in the trap of thinking you are, or for that matter anyone else is, the only person that can do the job "right." It may be true that no one else can do the job the same way you do it and levels of expertise do differ. However, if any one job is limited to one individual that individual will burn out. Provide a rotation that will assure time off for all members of the Sound Team. My preference is a rotation of two weeks on, two off. This method not only provides a break from the routine; it also gives the techs time to worship with their families.
Be the Leader, Not the Doer. This is a tough pill for many leaders to swallow. The reason for this is most of us have attained the level of Tech Director or Team Leader because of our skills in one specific area dealing with Technical issues. And we often want to own that area, not giving in to the desire of volunteers to work in that area. This is most often the case when it comes to the sound console operator. If this sounds like you, step back and view your position from that of the volunteer. Use your skills to teach your expertise, passing your knowledge on to others and allowing yourself to work with all elements of Technical Ministries. Watch over your team, not just the sound console.
As leaders we have taken upon ourselves the responsibility of providing technical excellence to the Church and we can't do it alone. Build your Team and maintain it. It is our people, not our equipment that are our most valuable resource. Make them the priority of your time, and your equipment will never perform better.