Ready, Willing and Able

By Brent Handy
Contributing Writer
May 11, 2022

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As most of you know, there is a shortage of capable volunteers for the audio engineer position. I am sure that I am not the only one that had these problems. Right? Maybe this story will inspire you to find a way to staff and fund your ministry. Maybe you will add a great idea or success story that will inspire others.

As a new Technical Director for a 2,800 member church, I immediately started scrambling to recruit and train volunteers. I bought pizza. I had training sessions. Many would come, learn and verbally commit. My people never reached proficiency, so that they could reproduce. Later I found out that many ditched my ministry for silly, political reasons. The ones that were faithful, God bless 'em, were technically challenged.

The church had developed an annual calender of events. From that I developed a production schedule, listing ALL of my needs, liberally. This included the weekly service schedule for Wednesday night band rehearsal and service, and three Sunday morning services. I talked with each staff and committee member, to realize the membership's talent pool. Hints were dropped to key personnel, so that they would take ownership of it, and come up with ideas on their own. Once people took ownership, they usually were more willing to provide funding for the ministry. We did some incredible productions, but my weekly volunteer staff was dwindling.

My job description was minister first, TD second. One of my volunteers, Randy, made too many mistakes with the SongShowPlus-based projection system. I was told by the pastor to exclude the volunteer from the ministry. I understood where the pastor was coming from. People expect excellence. But this would break his spirit. Besides, how do you tell a man with mental health issues that he could not do what he loves to do most-push the "down" key on the computer. This guy had a heart for serving Jesus Christ and his church. So, I found a way to fit him.

We had money allocated for upgrades. I told the church that if we were going to maintain professional results, then we needed faithful people, or I needed to automate the audio and/or video systems. I bought a Soundcraft 324 Digital Live console, with two, eight-channel expansion modules (mic preamps with A/D convertors), for a total of 32 channels. It took some time, but I boiled the services down to three presets. I always had the luxury of no last minute changes and a soundcheck. It nearly always worked without a hitch. I used MIDI to trigger scene advances on the console from the video somputer. I also had a RF wireless mouse, so that I could walk anywhere within the facility and advance the video cue/play list. So, how did Randy fit in? I put a Clearcom headset on him and placed him at the mixing console. I told him to watch the console. He would verify the recall changes, make additional tweaks for me, cue and roll tape/CD's, etc. HE WAS FAITHFUL!

Next, I went to the youth and got some of them involved with the art design and video programming. The youth have the best hearing as well. The average adult is down quite a few dB from 14kHz on up. The youth today are a great talent pool. Most youth learn Power Point in grade school, and have some type of video production experience by junior high. I didn't stop there. I got the rug rats involved. Parents love to see their children's artwork on the big screens, as a background for the children's announcements. This got the parents of the youth involved, which led to their consistant, sometimes uncharacteristic faithfulness.

Not every has a budget, or has a service format that allows, for digitally automating the audio console. Technology is getting cheaper everyday. The day will come when it makes no sense to have an analog console. In fact, I am working on a virtual console, that will allow a mixerto sit anywhere he/she wants in their auditoriun, and mix wirelessly on a laptop. But until that day comes, we will have to strive to attaract those that are ready, willing and able.

By the way, I left that church two years ago to go one the road with Junior Brown. I called them a few weeks ago. Randy is still there, as faithful as ever.

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