Training the next generation of sound and media ministers in today’s churches
The next time you go into your church auditorium, take a moment to look around you. Church is changing. From large format audio consoles and digitally controlled amplifiers to automated lights, plasma screens, and large format video projectors, the church is embracing the technologies of the new millennium and using them to spread the gospel of Christ.
But it’s not only the church buildings that are changing; today’s children and young people are different too. For the “millennial generation”, those of us born after 1982, technology is a way of life. Today’s children tote internet-capable cell phones to slumber parties, where they watch movies on DVD players, while teenagers carry laptop computers and PDAs to high school and college. Today’s young people are more technology and computer savvy than any generation before them.
Many of these technology and media knowledgeable young people are Christians. They can be found in our churches, youth groups, and children’s ministries. These children and young people are yearning for training and mentoring, as well as a place where God can use their various talents. Many of these gifts and abilities lie in technological areas such as sound and media ministry. I myself was one of those young people. I discovered God’s plan for my life in the area of sound ministry at the age of twelve. Thanks to training and mentoring from the sound and media engineers at my church, I am now well on my way to fulfilling God’s divine destiny for my life as a professional Christian audio engineer.
This series of articles will offer several general guidelines on how you can recognize and utilize young people in your church that feel called to sound and media ministry.
Expose them to sound and media ministry at an early age
Today’s children are used to seeing technology used everywhere. They see computers, sound systems, and video cameras (as well as the people that operate them) used in the school, the concert arena, and the home. Children should also see this same technology at work in the church. The children of this generation need to see media technologies such as sound systems, video systems, and lighting systems being used in their churches. They need to see those who operate this media equipment as leaders that they can receive training from and look up to.
I encourage you to expose children and young people to Christian sound and media ministry by using media technologies in children’s churches and youth ministries. Children’s and youth ministries are one of the best places to expose young people to Christian technological ministry because this is also where most young people will first experience Christianity. This can be done by getting the church’s sound and media teams involved in children’s and youth ministry. There are many ways this can be done:
1. Use quality sound systems and equipment. Move the sound system in your children’s church out from behind the puppet stage, set up a “sound booth” (in a proper mix location, of course), and let the young people see the sound person ministering with his or her talents.
2. Use modern presentation technologies. Put away that old overhead projector and buy a video projector (there are many budget models available that could be used if your facilities are small or cramped). Set up a computer with presentational software and use it to display song lyrics, memory verses, object lessons, and sermon points.
3. Audio and video tape your children’s church and youth services. This will not only help make television ministry more accessible to the young people, but will allow your congregation to keep an archive of youth and children’s ministry events and messages.
4. Invest in automated and concert lighting systems. Don’t be afraid to use trusses, color gels, automated lights, and other concert lighting technology in your ministry to young people.
5. Build a web site. Show young people how graphic artistry, computers, and web page design can be used to spread the Gospel. This can also aid in notifying youth and parents about upcoming youth ministry events and recent messages.
By following examples such as these, you can show the young people in your congregation or ministry that modern technologies are right at home in the church of today. Those with technical talents will see that God wants to use those talents to spread the Gospel.
Find them at an early age
The bible says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go…” Children do not need to wait until adulthood to discover what God has ordained for them. Neither do we need to wait until they are adults to recognize that God has placed a calling on their lives. This principle also applies to technical ministry. When children are exposed to technology in their churches, many of those children will begin to sense God’s calling on their lives in the various areas of technical ministry. Some will feel called to run sound systems; while others will sense God’s calling to minister through their talents with a video camera or a computer.
As these callings begin to be manifested among the young people, the leaders of the church’s technical ministries need to recognize these callings and get those young people involved in training and mentoring so that they can begin to pursue that call immediately and further develop their God-given talents.
Be watchful in your church or ministry for young people who show talents in technological areas. Respond to young people who approach you about their calling to media or sound ministry and help them to get involved.
Avoid telling young people that they are “too young” to be involved in the church’s tech ministries. While the main sanctuary on Sunday morning may not be the place for them to be trained, they can easily be involved in media ministry in your youth or children’s groups.
The calling to media ministry requires an intense commitment, not only to Christ, but also to continual training, practice, and learning. Encourage young people who feel that they are called to media ministries to “count the cost” before committing. Teach them to regard their calling as valuable and of great consequence to the Kingdom of God.
When we involve children and young people at a young age in developing their God-given talents and committing to the call of media ministry, we are laying firm foundations in their lives. When children and young people are involved in active Christian ministry using their technological talents, they are less likely to backslide as they progress through their teenage and adult lives.
Teach and Train Them
The young people of this generation are hungry for teaching and training. A quick consideration of the worldwide success of books and films such as the Harry Potter series will prove this point adequately enough. Once these young people realize that God has called them to serve through sound or media ministry they need to receive proper teaching and training so that they can not only develop spiritually but also develop skills in media ministry. Technical ministry leaders in today’s churches need to be willing and prepared to train and mentor young people who desire to get involved in media ministry.
Provide teaching and training opportunities. Opportunities to train young people abound in youth and children’s ministry auditoriums. These rooms and auditoriums, which often use smaller and simpler systems than the main adult church, offer an easy way for young people to gain experience as they begin their training.
Provide training materials. Not only do young people beginning in media ministry need personal mentoring and a place where they can gain experience, they also need access to the various books, trade magazines, and other materials that can aid in their training. Let them know about the various resources available, or maintain a library of some good resources that you have found helpful. Some churches and ministries may benefit from writing their own training materials that are specific to the ministry.
One of the best ways to teach someone a skill is to demonstrate it to him or her by doing it well yourself. This rule applies in sound and media ministry as well. In order to properly train a beginner, we as professionals must be committed to continual learning, training, and skill development.
Use Them in Ministry
Not only do young people who are called into sound or media ministry need to be properly trained; they also need to be used in ministry themselves.
Start an audio ministry team in your youth or children’s church. With smaller, less stressful services and (often) more simple media systems, children’s and youth ministries are a great place for young people and children to be used in media ministry and gain experience. Start an audio or media team made up of young people in these auditoriums. If a particular young person excels and shows leadership skills, let him be the media or sound director for the children’s or youth ministry under your supervision.
If they continue to excel and reach an appropriate skill level, don’t be afraid to bring qualified young people into the main auditorium and use them in your media team.
Encourage them. As young people begin to be used in media ministry, mistakes are bound to happen. Encourage them not to become disappointed, but to use their mistake as a learning experience. If a mistake occurs, let the young person know why and how the mistake occurred, and how to correct it in the future. Be honest about your own mistakes as well, and use them as a training tool.
Sound and media ministers in today’s churches need to find, train, mentor, and involve young people and children in sound and media ministry so that they can be raised up to continue to spread the good news through today’s (and tomorrow’s) media technologies. This training will also benefit these young people, as they experience God’s power operating through them as they begin to serve God with their technological talents and abilities.