Just What Do We Do, Anyway!?!

By EXW Staff
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November 24, 2021

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by Curt Taipale - ChurchSoundCheck.com

I happened to be passing by the door to the church conference room some years ago just as our pastoral staff was finishing their weekly meeting. This was a particularly grueling week for me. As the audio support staff of one, I was putting in a lot of hours. I stopped to say hello and I'll never forget their look of utter disbelief at the hours I was putting in to get the job done. Their deer-in-the-headlights look was followed by this revealing choice of words: "Just what is it that you do, anyway!?!"

Good question. And surprising, since I'd been working alongside them for a few years at that point. They literally didn't have a clue what was involved, let alone why it should take so long.

I wonder if you've had someone ask you the same question. There's a great deal of misconception in the church about what it takes to pull off a worship service with technical excellence. Tasks we take for granted - some of which can take a substantial amount of time - aren't even recognized by people we work alongside. That could probably be said for any profession. But there never seems to be a lack of people who are ready to give their input on how we should do something different about the sound.

The answer is going to be somewhat different for each of us, but I thought it might be interesting to talk it through. So here are some of the responsibilities I would expect to handle as the Audio Director at a church. It really doesn't much matter if I'm full time paid staff, or volunteering my time. The tasks still need to get done. If I were the only member of the audio team, then I'd find myself actually doing most of these tasks personally (which in itself would be enough to make me find some help quickly.) As you read this, be thinking of other things that should be on the list, things that you do that I forgot to mention. We'd like to get your input on this, so read carefully.

System Maintenance

1. Keep the production booth clean and straightened up.

2. Maintain all audio gear in proper working condition. The phrase "all audio gear' includes equipment in the main auditorium, children's ministry, fellowship hall, youth room, foyers, and all other ministries that require the use of sound systems, including portable systems.

3. Do regular preventative maintenance checks on all audio gear.

4. Do regular listening tests of all loudspeaker systems to ensure that all loudspeakers are working properly and still sound as good as they did when installed.

5. Regularly clean and degauss all audio cassette decks and duplicators.

6. Fix or replace broken mic cables, speaker cables, MIDI cables, guitar patch cords, coax cables for wireless mic antenna connections, and other necessary stuff.

7. Fix or arrange for the repair of any equipment related to audio, including microphones, wireless mics, power amps, loudspeakers, source decks, direct boxes, recording decks, intercom systems, hearing assistance systems, and other items.

8. Order and maintain all supplies that impact the audio systems, including batteries, gaff tape, audio cassette tapes, spare connectors for all types of audio cables, bulk wire for building cables, headphones, headphone boxes, mic stands, boom arms, mic clips, and other items.

Administrative

1. Attend staff meetings and any other committee or board meetings necessary to carry out the administrative function of the audio support ministry.

2. Meet weekly with the music pastor, worship leader, and/or worship team for production meetings to stay on top of audio support needs for upcoming worship services and other events, and to review how things went during the previous week's worship services.

3. Take good notes, especially about stuff that went wrong, and be certain to follow through with appropriate measures to ensure that those mistakes don't happen again. Always pass along to your volunteers any encouraging comments from your pastoral staff about stuff that went right.

4. Recruit, develop, support and encourage all audio team volunteers.

5. Develop and document a system and checklist (Operations Manual) to ensure that the audio systems are operated properly and to your standards of technical excellence at all times.

6. Train all audio support volunteers in the correct procedures for operating all audio equipment.

7. Schedule and coordinate audio support volunteers for weekend services, weddings, funerals, concerts, and other events.

8. Pastor the volunteers working under you. If your team can't logistically meet with the worship team for prayer before a worship service or other event, pray with your team before services.

9. Coordinate audio support for worship services, weddings, funerals and special events like Easter services, Christmas productions, concerts, and other events.

10. Ensure that sound systems are checked out and properly managed during worship services, weddings, funerals and other events.

11. Maintain an up-to-date inventory of all church-owned audio equipment.

12. Oversee every aspect of the Audio Support Ministry.

13. Arrange for rental gear as needed, in particular for special events and offsite functions.

14. Continually strive to educate yourself. Stay on top of new developments in audio technology by attending seminars, workshops, and industry trade shows, devouring trade magazines, and of course studying in depth every issue raised in the ChurchSoundcheck Discussion Group. :-)

15. Schedule creative fellowship times with your audio support team in order to get to know one another better. Pray for each other.

Doing Sound

1. Create a workable stage layout. In determining where instruments and vocalists should be placed on stage, we must consider good mic technique, sound isolation from other instruments and monitors, as well as comfortable sight lines for the worship team and for the congregation.

2. Set the stage. This can include moving church-owned instruments into place, placing stage monitors, headphone boxes, mic stands, microphones, connecting all stage gear, testing all gear, pre-setting monitor levels, and so on. Ideally, the stage will be setup and ready, with basic monitor levels and mixes preset when the worship team walks on stage.

3. While you're setting the stage, pray over the equipment and the stage area to make it a peaceful place rather than a battleground. You can be sure that the stage will be a place of spiritual warfare during rehearsal and even during a worship service, but we can each help do our part to usher in angels to guard over the area.

4. Attend rehearsals each week to "practice" new songs along with the vocalists and musicians. Practice might not make perfect, but it can point the way to excellence.

5. Create a flawless, album-quality musical mix for every worship service. (So flawless that out-of-tune vocals and missed brass notes aren't heard.)

6. Create a stunning monitor mix that provides each player with just what they need to lead the congregation into worship of the God of the Universe.

7. Learn how to handle the inevitable "it's too loud" complaints.

8. Educate your players and singers in the most basic elements of audio excellence, like how to properly hold and use a microphone.

9. If the sound volume on stage typically overwhelms the house sound system, then educate your worship team on the realities of God's Laws of Physics, and the benefits of electronic drums and headphones.

10. "Do sound" for all other church-wide meetings, including concerts, retreats and other offsite functions. If your church offers women's retreats, then you have just learned one important reason why you should invite and include women as part of the audio support team.

First Things First

1. Know who your boss is. We serve God with technical excellence in every worship service by attending to the technical needs of our pastor and worship team. Recognize God's structure of authority as it's been defined in your church, and affirm that in your every action. If you don't know what that structure is, ask.

2. Come into agreement with church staff regarding who determines "good sound".

3. Cooperate with the Senior Pastor and Music Pastor by performing any other obligation associated with the music ministry when asked to do so. (That's the "...and anything else we can think up" clause. It should relate specifically to tasks that affect the church body. Fixing the music pastor's car stereo should not be on that list, although whether or not you fix it for them is your call.)
This article provided courtesy of Curt Taipale of ChurchSoundCheck.com










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