Maybe you use projectors to display song lyrics, and your tech support team just couldn’t seem to put the right lyrics on the screen at the right moment. Or they couldn’t keep up with the graphics to support your message. So tell me, how hard are you on your technical support volunteers when those kinds of mistakes happen? Do you let it go, calmly talk through the problem, or get in their face and scream at them?
I’ve heard horror stories of pastors berating their sound engineers publicly during a worship service, screaming at them backstage between services, and other such nonsense. A friend of mine worked for a well known evangelist who, if he didn’t like what he was hearing at the soundcheck, would throw his microphone across the stage and stomp away screaming at the engineer something about getting a decent monitor mix.
Repeat after me: “My tech volunteers are not dolts.” They pursue technical excellence with vigor. With good presentation software, the appropriate equipment, and a reasonably accurate song list, a musically inclined person can easily follow the worship leader through the song service. If they make a mistake, there’s usually a reason. So your first reaction to a mistake should not be to lose your salvation over it. Admit to yourself that there has only been one perfect person on this planet, and we killed him.
Please remember that your graphics operator is not a mind reader! If you change the order of the song service or make changes to the sermon without telling the person operating your video graphics station, the slides are going to be late. A person could have a Ph.D. in contemporary worship music and have written the presentation software that the church is using, and still be late getting the song lyrics on the screen.
Yes, volunteers and even tech staff do make mistakes from time to time. But we’re not always the ones responsible. Forget about perfection. It’s not going to happen. Instead, pursue technical excellence.
Whose Side Are You On?
By their nature, most people who serve in a tech ministry are detail-oriented. They strive hard to achieve excellence, sometimes at the expense of time with their families. When they blow it by allowing a slide to be late, or missing a mic cue, or whatever, they’re hard enough on themselves. They really don’t need a pastor to get after them about it.
Whatever you do, don’t overreact. If you do, you may shift that person’s motivating force from an enjoyable drive for technical excellence and doing their best at this craft for God to one of simply doing whatever it takes to not get yelled at again. The success of every mouse click is then gauged by whether or not the slide met the timing criteria set by the pastor.
What can we do to reach for technical excellence without chewing up our technical staff or volunteers in the process? First off, talk. You might find that a slide being on the screens late was unavoidable.
If you’re having significant technical glitches every service, arrange for an objective person to document anything that goes wrong with the technical side of each service. We do this at our church on a regular basis. The first week such a report was presented there were several times when we had been late with song lyric slides. Ordinarily, we would have been considered inept. Instead, the documents clearly showed that it was in fact the worship team that had created the problems.
I began looking even deeper into this issue and recognized a fundamental, fatal flaw to the plan. This church wants to do their services totally led by the Spirit. That applies both to the song service and the sermon. With the same breath, they want the polish and teaching aid that supportive video graphics gives them. But using supportive graphics comes with a heavy price – they require structure to be used effectively.
If you haven’t already done so, establish weekly production meetings where you can calmly go over that report and sort out the issues. Iron sharpens iron, and the production meeting is pivotal to making things better while remaining friends.
Third, set aside time in your production meetings to talk through every aspect of the upcoming weekend’s services. I’ve worked with music pastors who were the king of the “Oh, by the way” request. Bringing in a guest singer or musician to perform without discussing your plans during the previous production meeting is discourteous at best.
Fourth, if you’ve yelled at them privately or berated them publicly, apologize. I know that seems like a given, but it doesn’t always happen.
Fifth, plan for success. You’ve probably heard the assertion that one benefit of good planning is that it frees a person up to be more creative and spontaneous. The same is true of service planning. The better you plan for your weekend services, the more prepared your tech support team will be when the Holy Spirit does give you a genuine urging to make a last minute change or addition to the service.
Once you conquer this issue of planning, you’ll find your tech crew eager to do whatever it takes to pull off any last minute request the Holy Spirit tells you to do. Don’t forget, they’re capable of hearing from the Holy Spirit as well. Developing that sensitivity to the Spirit as a team might be a better issue on which to place your focus than tracking who did what wrong last weekend.