Several years ago I was invited to lead worship at a church in southern Arizona. As I usually did, I arrived at the church met with the worship pastor and then loaded my equipment into the church’s worship center. I set up my gear and walked back to the tech booth to talk with their sound techs about where they wanted me to plug in. I’ll spare the details, but that’s when I found out that the relationship between the worship team and the audio team was less than what it should be.
After a brief exchange of words, I told them that if there was anything I could do on my end to make their job easier to please ask me and I’d be happy to do what I can. This comment was met with quite a bewildered look. (You know the “What planet are you from” look.) As I walked away I overheard one of the men say to the other; “Wow, [worship pastors name] would never ask us that!” Although this was one of my first encounters with this phenomenon, in time I would see it in many different forms, masked sometimes with Christian niceties, but nevertheless, it was there, the ongoing battle between the Worship Guy and the Sound Guy.
Over the years I’ve heard many reasons for this, artistic temperaments, poor leadership, church administrative structure and the list goes on. All the reasons are less than adequate though. The fact of the matter is, that in most cases, one or both parties have not taken the time to build a relationship with the other, or what’s worse, it hasn’t even crossed their mind to do so. This is a problem, but not one that is unsolvable. Over time I have learned that there are things that must be addressed in order to build a true team environment in the worship/technical spectrum. In an effort to be real practical, I have found that there are five essential things in building a team environment between worship & technical ministries and I’d like to share them you.
Essential #1: Both Worship and Tech Teams Must have a United Purpose.
Sounds simple, but I find that in most cases the worship and music teams purpose is to provide music for the local church services and the tech teams purpose is to provide technical support. Neither of these are the real purpose that we come together. As mutual ministries in the church body, we come together to serve the Lord and to minister to the people whom God brings into our fold. It all starts here. We have differing job descriptions but a united purpose. The bible says that “faith comes by hearing”. Whether the message is spoken or sung, how will people know the message of Jesus if they cannot hear it? Let’s get back to basics here. Sometimes we get so caught up in our specific tasks that we forget the original reason that we are serving in the first place. We are serving in our ministry (Music or Sound) to give God the glory and so that those who don’t know Him might hear the Good News that Jesus died so that we might live.
Essential #2: Both Worship and Tech Teams Must have the Same Philosophy of Ministry.
This one can be a little trickier because often, our ministry philosophy is dictated to us by a specific denomination, a church elder board or the Sr. Pastor. Many times we confuse ministry philosophy with church structure. For example, in many churches the worship director reports to the Sr. Pastor and the sound ministry reports to someone who oversees facility issues. I have talked with many worship pastors who are frustrated with the structure and state that it’s impossible to work together with this type of “ministry philosophy”. OK, worship guys… this is going to hurt a little… When I hear this it is a clear indicator that we are using church structure as an excuse to not build relationships. Organizational structures exist to support ministry, not to work against it. We must find a way to break out of this mindset and it has to start with building relationships. Regardless of what department oversees what, the worship and sound team must see each other as mutual supporting ministries, working together as members of the same team.
Essential #3: Both Worship and Tech Teams Must Keep Each Others Well Being in Mind:
Here’s one that we tend to forget at times. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church; “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Ph 2:2-4 NIV)
If we look at this logically, the way worship “sounds” is in the hands of the Sound Tech. He can make or break the service. The focus of the sound team should be to make the worship team sound the absolute best that they can. Worship directors need to consider their sound techs, as members of the worship team, treating them with the same grace and respect that they treat their musicians. This way the tech team is always in the loop. I am a firm believer in the win-win philosophy. It is not just the job of the sound tech to “serve” the worship director, it is the job of both the worship and technical directors to serve the Lord by serving each other.
Essential #4: Remember that Communication is the Key:
It is not just the key, but essential in building any team. When I travel and visit different churches I am still taken back at the response of the technical department when I want to meet with them and go over the service. I really want them to know what is going on so that they can properly execute their end of the ministry. When I lead worship I travel with a rack that includes 2 wireless systems (one guitar/one vocal), a guitar effects unit, and my own direct box. This way all I need is 2 XLR inputs and we’re good to go. I have found that, since I work with many different churches, this simplifies things and doesn’t keep me nailed to one place. Since I tend to move around a lot when I lead, I want the tech team to know that. I also need to talk to them about my wireless frequencies to make sure that I am not conflicting with another wireless in the room, in another room, or even in another building. There is nothing worse than the youth pastor having to listen to the worship leader’s guitar while he’s trying to teach the youth group. Actually, on second thought there is one thing worse, and that’s a youth pastor’s screaming voice coming over the sound system during the pastors opening prayer. You get my point.
I remember one Sunday morning when the sound tech was having a fairly serious interference problem. He was getting a VERY LOUD humming noise through the system when he was setting up in the morning. By the time I arrived on the scene, things were quiet and there was no sign of the problem on the horizon. Instead of ignoring it, my sound tech came to me and explained what he had encountered early in the morning. THIS IS GOOD COMMUNICATION! Because, when it happened in the middle of the service I was not only able to handle the distraction, but I actually interrupted worship to talk to the congregation about the frustration of bringing your car into a repair shop and them not being able to find the problem. Comparing our sound problem to this little story put people at ease and they actually smiled when it happened again. (Yes, 3 times that morning and Yes, it is now fixed). I think the point is clear. Whether it’s technical, musical or coordination issues, you have to communicate with each other.
Essential #5: Be Constantly Evaluating your Ministry and your Relationship:
We have to remember that all relationships need work, whether it’s a marriage, relating to coworkers or in ministry, good relationships rarely just happen. Make sure that everyone on your team is also on your radar. People are important. (Remember…. Jesus died for them). If you’re the technical director, especially if you are responsible for more than just sound, remember to keep the worship director “on your team” and the same goes for the worship director. I have found that if I take the time to spend it with key individuals, my ministry operates a lot smoother. When our conversations leave the realms of the worship center and move to the ballpark, to the racetrack, or to any common interest, our relationship moves from one of being coworkers to that of being friends.
There is only one documented time where Jesus specifically prayed for His disciples. It’s found in John 17. It’s interesting to note that He didn’t stop with praying for His twelve friends, but he included us. He prayed; “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 NIV) The criteria, if you will, or the defining proof that one is a follower of Jesus is that they are ONE with God and therefore ONE WITH EACH OTHER. Have you evaluated your ministry relationships based on that standard before? If you’re anything like me, you’re a little convicted right now. That’s OK. As a matter of fact, that’s healthy.
As a pastor and worship leader I am constantly mindful that our people need to connect with the Lord. Any distractions that I have from my task on Sunday morning can affect, not just my relationship with the Lord, but it can impact an entire congregation. It is one of the great joys in ministry to look behind the sound console and see a person who I know wants to serve Jesus in their role, just as much as I wish to serve Him in mine. One of my regular prayers is not only that other worship leaders would feel the same way, but that those serving in Technical Ministries will be able to worship as they serve, knowing that by working TOGETHER, people are able to touch God because of the small part that both worship leaders and technical folks play in that mysterious connection between God and man.