Be Honest

Image courtesy of rik-shaw

Image courtesy of rik-shaw

Last week we enjoyed the SALT conference. I’ve said before it’s probably my favorite conference of the year. In addition to the great content, there is a tremendous opportunity to rub shoulders with like-minded people. Not only did I meet some great new friends this year, I got to catch up with some old friends. One interaction in particular reminded me of something I haven’t thought about in a while; that is, the importance of having some people in your life you can be honest with. 

The Christian Lie

One of my biggest frustrations about being involved with a mid- to large-sized church is that so often we lie to each other. Now, I’m not talking about lying about things like stealing, cheating on your wife, or being habitually in sin. What I’m referring to are the little lies that are usually precipitated by the question, “How are you?” 

Now, you know what I’m talking about. There are two kinds of answers to that question—no, three kinds. I’ll come back to the third. The first answer is—of course—“Fine.” Or any variation thereof. We’re great; better than ever; busy, but good; hanging in; doing well; keeping on; whatever the phrase is in your town. To be sure, sometimes we really are great. In fact, for many of us, life really is good. Sure, there are small struggles, but overall, things are going in a positive direction and we are content. And that is truly great.

But sometimes, we’re not great. But we say we are. Correction, we lie and say we are. There is an unspoken rule in church that we need to be great, because if we’re not, there is clearly a problem with our faith. So to avoid the potential confrontation, we lie and say we’re fine. And too often, the person asking the question is also anything but fine, but they accept the lie because they don’t want to dig much below the surface.

The second way to answer the question is to start in a detailed description of every struggle in your life. We all know people like this. They have no filter. If they spilled their milk while getting their Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast, you’re going to hear about it. If their husband just left them, you will know all the details. We tend to avoid people like this. The challenge with these folks is they often don’t want any resolution or improvement in their lives, they just want you to know how hard their life is. 

A Better Option

The better option is to be able to answer honestly, with the right amount of details for the level of relationship. Last week, an old friend, one who I spent a some time with in an encouragement group some years back asked me how I was doing. I was able to tell him of some of the joys and struggles of the last 12 months. While I didn’t go into all the details, we have enough of a relationship that I could share enough to get the point across. That prompted a very sincere and heartfelt prayer, right there in the lobby. Those kind of interactions are priceless. 

Who Can You Be Honest With?

This brings me to my point; who can you truly be honest with? I have about 8-10 guys in my life that I can be really honest with. They know not only the good stuff I’ve experienced in the last 12 months, but the really hard stuff as well. When they ask me how I am, I can tell them honestly. And they get it because I can do the same for them. 

We say this all the time, that it all comes down to relationships, but it really does. Working in a church can be one of the loneliest jobs because people assume that because you’re on a church staff, you have it all together. Most people never see the tears that happen just behind the veil. It is imperative that you find someone you can be honest with. Someone other than your spouse. You should be honest with them, but you need someone else, too. And it doesn’t matter if your on staff or not. We all need someone in our lives we can be honest with.


Today's post is brought to you by Ansmann, USA, distributor of Ansmann rechargeable batteries and battery chargers. Used worldwide by Cirque du Soleil and over 25,000 schools, churches, theaters, and broadcast companies. We offer a free rechargeable evaluation for any church desiring to switch to money-saving,  planet-saving rechargeables. Tested and recommended by leading wireless mic manufacturers and tech directors. 

When to Involve the TD in a Building Project

The other day, my friend Erik asked me if he should accept the invitation to be involved very early on with a building project at his church. He’s the TD there, and the leadership asked if he would like to be involved with picking the architect. The question to me was, is it worth being involved that early?


This could be the shortest post I’ve ever written, because I could easily end there. As a TD, staff or volunteer, if you are ever asked to be involved early on in a building project, jump at the chance. Here’s why: You will be the only person thinking about the building project from a production/lighting/acoustical/visual stand point. You know more about how that new room will need to work than anyone else on the staff. You will think of things no one else ever will. 

Not Just Tech

The funny thing is, it’s not just about the gear. This is a common misconception amongst pastors, I think. They are under the (usually false) assumption that the tech guy will just want to spend money on expensive new gear. So they try to keep them out of the process as long as possible to make sure everything else gets budget before production. This is flatly stupid, and never results in agood project. Ever. I’m feeling blunt today.

We tech guys are quite unique in our makeup and we see things differently that normal people do. When looking at the plans, we may be the only one to notice that the HVAC guy put the thermostat right in the middle of the upstage wall. We may be the only one who notices that the doors swing the wrong way in the backstage corridor, creating awkward access. We may be the only ones who note that putting glass doors at the back of the auditorium will drive everyone on stage nuts when the sun rises in their eyes. 

All those are actual building blunders that happened because no one listened to the tech guy (or didn’t ask).

We Think Different(ly)

My English major daughter would be most cross if she saw me use different that way, but you get the reference. It’s not that as tech guys and gals, we’re smarter than everyone else involved in the project, it’s that we view the world differently. That different perspective often can help stave off tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of mistakes. 

Many years ago, I raised so many concerns prior to a building project that they finally put me on the building committee. I was the only one who pointed out that the architect they were considering had never, ever built a church before. I was the only one who pointed out that his initial drawings had so many acoustical problems, it would make services a nightmare for the audience. Everyone else was all starry eyed about the new building and I saw nothing but blunders on the pages before me. My natural cynicism came out and slowed everything down so it could be evaluated properly. Ultimately, Mike the “dream killer” saved the church a lot of money. 

Never underestimate your ability to keep a building project pointed in the right direction. It’s not just about gear, you will look at it differently. And that different perspective is desperately needed. Pastors, if you’re reading this, you should always involve your tech person in a building project early on. I guarantee doing so will save money and deliver a better finished product at the end.


Today’s post is brought to you by Digital Audio Labs, The Livemix monitor system is simple for volunteer performers to use while providing professional tools for great mixes. Featuring outstanding sound quality, color touchscreen with custom naming, 24 channels with effects, remote mixing, intercom, ambient mics, and dedicated ME knob, Livemix provides more and costs much less than competing systems.


Photo courtesy of Flaxe

Photo courtesy of Flaxe

Back in the day, Heinz ran an ad campaign for their ketchup called “Anticipation.” If featured all sorts of people eagerly anticipating something, which of course, ran parallel to their eager anticipation of the delicious red sauce coming out of the bottle. It was clever, and by licensing the classic Carly Simon song, memorable. 

The Mac Dictionary App defines Anticipate with the following two possibilities:

1) guess or be aware of (what will happen) and take action in order to be prepared: they failed to anticipate a full scale invasion.

2) look forward to: Stephen was eagerly anticipating the break from the routine of business.

Heinz was referring to the second definition. Today, I want to focus on the first; to guess or be aware of what will happen and take action in order to be prepared (especially the last part).

I am becoming convinced that one of the keys to being a great tech leader is to anticipate. We need to be aware of what will likely happen, and prepare in advance for that eventuality. This is not nearly as hard as it sounds.

For example, take a look at the service order around Wednesday or Thursday. See an interview on the list? You know that means you will likely need a handheld or two prepped and ready to go for service. Don’t wait until 5 minutes before service starts for someone to tell you that they will need two handhelds for the interview. You know what is going to happen, and what will be required. Prepare ahead of time.

If your worship leader sometimes (but not always) stops and prays between songs, get in the habit of dumping the effects on her voice at the end of a song so if she does pray, there won’t be 3 seconds of reverb at the beginning of the prayer. Prepare in advance.

If you always do a big Christmas production that requires extra wireless mics and lights, start booking them in late October; don’t wait for someone to tell you about it in early December. 

When I was a TD, I was told on many occasions by my boss that he appreciated the fact that he didn’t need to manage me. I hear from a lot of tech guys that they hate how much “management” their boss exerts on them. The reason I didn’t have that issue is that I anticipated what needed to be done, and got it done it before he had to say anything. Thus, he never felt the need to track my movements and monitor my time. I just got it done, and he didn’t worry about it.

If you want to enjoy the same freedom, anticipate the needs and deal with them before someone else has to tell you to do so. This works in concert with one of my earlier posts, Do a Good Job. If you learn to anticipate well, and then do a good job, you will enjoy a level of freedom in your work that will make your job a real joy. Fail at those tasks, and expect to have a lot of micromanaging in your life. The choice is yours.


Try New Things

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

Photo courtesy of Alan Levine

One thing about working in the church is that it happens pretty regularly. Every week, in fact. That can be good because you get plenty of opportunities to practice and hone your craft. But it can also be bad because it’s so…routine. For the most part, church services don’t vary much. Most churches get into a rhythm and stay there. Three songs, announcements, offering, message, dismissal. It’s a formula, but it works. People know what to expect. But it isn’t necessarily a breeding ground for growing your skill set. That’s why we as technical artists have to stay self-motivated to grow. And the best way to grow is to try new things. 

Can The Best Get Better?

When I was in high school, I really liked the band Rush. Still do, in fact. I remember listening to Moving Pictures, Exit…Stage Left, Signals, Hold Your Fire over and over again. I saw them live during the Moving Pictures tour, and was blown away. Neil Peart, the drummer, was particularly notable. I’ve always been fascinated by drummers, and Neil is arguably one of the best in the business. The guy is simply a monster and has a seemingly unbelievable ability to disconnect his arms and legs and play four completely separate rhythms at once. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s amazing.

While watching a documentary on the band a while back, I learned that about 15-20 years into his career, a time when most would consider him one of the best rock drummers in the world, he decided he wasn’t playing up to his potential. He found an instructor and started taking lessons. He changed his entire technique and sure enough, became a better drummer. It takes a rare mix of drive and humility to want to improve when you’re already that good. 

We Have To Try

The thing that struck me the most about Neil’s story is that he was willing to try to get better. It’s completely possible that it wouldn’t work. It’s possible that messing with his technique would make him a worse drummer instead of better. But he tried anyway. He tried something new, and he grew. 

I have found that most times, when I try something new I grow. Not everything I try ends up the way I thought it would. I’ve tried mixing techniques that have failed miserably. But I learned from them. No matter what the outcome is, we always learn when we try something new. Sometimes all we learn is to never do that again. But that is a lesson. 

Some friends of mine recently had a baby. We visited them the other night and it was fascinating to watch her crawl around the floor. She tries everything. Usually, she tries to eat it. But she’s learning at a tremendous rate. The other night, I think she learned that a remote control has no nutritional value, but is fun to chew on. That’s something. 

We should have the same innate curiosity as a baby. Try a new audio effect. Try a new lighting look. Try a different font for your lyrics. If we are serious about getting better at our craft, we should be constantly seeking out new ideas to try and trying them. Simply reading about something on this or any other blog but never trying it defeats the purpose. 

I am a demonstrably better audio engineer than I was 5 years ago because I’ve spent hours talking with other audio engineers and trying things out. 

Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t ever be afraid to try something. It might work; it might not—that’s not the point. Try, learn, grow, repeat. Do that for a few years—or better yet, the rest of your life—and you’ll be better at whatever it is you’re doing. If you’re not getting better at what you do, what’s the point?

Today's post is brought to you by Elite Core Audio. Elite Core Audio features a premium USA built 16 channel personal monitor mixing system built for the rigors of the road. For Personal Mixing Systems, Snakes, and Cases, visit Elite Core Audio.