Imagine a weeknight meeting held at a local church that showcases that team’s technical challenges and triumphs, followed by equipment training conducted by an acknowledged expert, and closed with a short devotional and season of prayer. Currently, several such meetings are occurring in regions throughout North America and they share a common theme – edifying the body applies to everyone, even the technical members. Actually, a strong case may be made that the technical team receives very little instruction in the art of worship since they are so involved in the science of creating an environment conducive to worship. Putting together a local technical fellowship is not only possible, but also needful if those who enable worship to occur are to become worshipers themselves.
The difference between an ongoing ministry and an ad-hoc gathering revolves around planning. Just as a large-scale Easter production requires tremendous preparation, so, too a technical fellowship needs continuous support to flourish. Secondly, success also depends on variety, both in venue sites and topics of conversation. Finally, a workable division of labor must be established that fairly assigns the workload among the members while safeguarding the integrity and impartiality of the organization.
Despite the challenges and time pressures faced by everyone involved in ministry, consistent preparation for the next event must remain a priority or the group will splinter and disintegrate. Toward the goal of a thriving fellowship, the key personnel must remain committed by self-imposing a monthly deadline that cements the next meeting’s agenda. Primary points include notifying the members of the date, site, and topic as well as extending an invitation to new contacts in the region. Broadcast e-mails and faxes can streamline the process and an evening of phone calls four days prior to the meeting will bolster the attendance. The meetings should start on time, be conducted by a host with time sensitivity, and formally end after two to three hours, allowing members with families to be home at a reasonable hour.
Variety truly is the spice of life, and in the technical fellowship that means scheduling meetings around several disciplines, including audio, video, lighting, and staging. Designing an event for a venue that reflects the focus of the scheduled training makes sense and lends a professional cohesion to the proceedings. Diversifying the physical location of the meetings is also helpful, especially in larger cities with a multitude of suburbs. The choice of topics should correspond to the calendar, with lighting issues covered just prior to Easter and choir micing techniques discussed in November.
Every event involves work and a successful technical fellowship is no exception. The democratic election of a slate of officers may prove to be an effective form of government, but only if the officers are willing to devote the energy and resources necessary to maintain a thriving entity. In some cases, a person with a distinct burden for the fellowship ministry will stand forth and accept the responsibility of leadership. Once the overseer is in place, he or she should select a team of prayer warriors to guide the group’s decisions and to serve as a moderating panel for issues that will inevitably arise. Some members will have direct links to the technical industry and can be relied on to provide the technical instructors used at each meeting. However, care should be taken to prevent the unscrupulous use of the fellowship as a sales arena. Discernment of the leadership is a key element in balancing the legitimate equipment needs of the members with the desire of others to sell equipment and services. Fortunately, the technical industry is filled with Christian brothers and sisters who have both a pure heart and amazing technical expertise.
An excellent case study that encompasses all three of these attributes is the Atlanta Audio Fellowship, the brainchild of Paul Hendrix. In 1996, while serving as the technical director for First Baptist Woodstock outside Atlanta, Paul became burdened to share his ministry with others outside his own congregation. After discussing these thoughts with us, we set out on an uncharted course to bring Paul’s vision to reality. From the beginning, Paul insisted that AAF, as it became known, be focused on ministering to all the technical personnel in the metro area, with equal standing between paid and unpaid staff members. Therefore, whether a person was a full-time veteran of the tech-wars or a neophyte on their first assignment, they could share equally in the meetings. Scheduling the monthly meetings was the next order of business. After prayerful consideration, it was decided to hold a regular meeting the first Monday evening of each month, thereby avoiding most rehearsal and family nights.
Developing a list of potential members was made easier by the database we had from existing church clients and personal contacts each of us had made within the technical community. Trust became a major part of the relationship as we compiled the names and contact information through Paul. True to his character, he discreetly processed the data without offending anyone in the process. Once the names were on the hard drive, broadcast faxes were sent to each person along with a personal invitation from the core members asking for each church’s support. Financial obligations were met communally, with everyone giving what they were led to contribute on a freewill basis.
Drawing people to an event like AAF requires the promise and delivery of practical, relevant information. Fortunately, most technical equipment manufacturers have field clinicians who are willing to share their expertise for no charge on the premise that future sales may result from the class. For every event, a theme was chosen and speakers selected to explain the topic using that company’s products. To keep the transit times reasonable and add spice to the meetings, a different church was selected from among the member facilities. Given the multitude of congregations in the Atlanta area, AAF was blessed to hold meetings at mega-churches such as First Baptist Atlanta, Mt. Paran Church of God, and Peachtree Corners, but some of the best meetings have been held in smaller venues staffed solely by volunteers. After several years, the meetings became such a part of life that the group has held Christmas dinners for the needy and soldering parties for churches without resident technical personnel. AAF has become a true ministry and has spawned several sister fellowships throughout the Southeast.
A technical ministry creates an environment that promotes spiritual renewal and technical proficiency. Armed with the edification of fellow technicians, each member can go on to better and greater things, making the promise of Philippians 4:13 a reality in hundreds of lives.