Worship Team Dynamics

Photo courtesy of handjes

Photo courtesy of handjes

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Northwest Ministry Conference. As part of that event, I sat in a panel with Duke to talk about the sometimes-strained relationships between the tech and musical parts of the worship team.

Several questions came up during that class that I would like to address again here. I say again because we’ve talked about this before. But like many things, it bears repeating. Before I get to some of the specific things, I want to set the tone for this series.

It’s all about relationships.

Often, we get questions that start with, “How do I get my tech guy to do…” You can substitute worship guy for tech guy with similar frequency. It comes up a lot, and people are usually looking for a simple solution to solve a functional problem. If we were troubleshooting a technical system, this might work. But people tend to be more complicated than that.

The only real way to get someone to work with you is to build a relationship with them. That can be hard, and it takes time. But when you invest both the time and energy, it always pays off.

Of course, if the worship leader simply plays the boss card, he may get what he wants in the moment. But it will never be a good long-term solution.

Part of the problem is that we all tend to assume that everyone else is like us. So, we tend to treat people the way we like to be treated. Which can be good, however we’re not all the same. The personality types that tend to gravitate toward tech represent about 1-4% of the population. In other words, we techs are not like most people. That usually makes us really good at what we do, and makes it really hard to interact with others.

The effort is worth it.

Building relationships with those on the other side of the tech booth wall is worth it for both parties, but it’s not without cost. I tell both technical artists and musical artists that you need to take the initiative to build that relationship. Go to lunch, go to coffee, just hang out somewhere. Yes, it may be awkward at first, but you have to push through.

It’s important to keep trying when beginning to build those relationships. Sometimes a worship leader will ask a tech guy to lunch and he will say no. Don’t give up. Keep asking. It’s easy to think that because we said no we’re not interested. But if you stick with it, you’ll find we actually value being included.

Duke pointed out that we’re all trying to achieve the same goal; help our congregations experience a great worship experience. We come at that goal differently because of our skill sets, but we are on the same team.

One thing that you might not be aware of is that when there is tension between the technical artists and the musical artists, everyone in the room knows. They may not be able to articulate it, and no one will likely ask about it. But they know something is off. Plus, when there is tension, nobody on the worship team really enjoys coming to church. And that’s kind of a problem.

We are one worship team.

I also like to remind people that we are all one worship team. The technical side and music side are two sides of the same coin. Neither can exist without the other, and if the two disciplines aren’t working together, neither will live up to their full potential.

I get that we are different, I get that there can be struggles with those differences. Just keep in mind those same differences are what make the team great—when we are working together.

It doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, it shouldn’t be hard. But it does take effort to build the relationships, and create understanding. In the next two posts, I’m going to share some things that the worship leader can do to help the technical artists, and then some things the technical group can do to help the music folks. Stick with it; it’s good when you put the time in!


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Be Authentic

Image courtesy of Dee Bamford

Image courtesy of Dee Bamford

This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. It came up last week when I had the opportunity to attend at the Seeds Conference at Church on the Move. I heard it in several of the sessions, and I experienced it all week long. Everywhere we went on campus, people were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about helping us out. There is a joy in serving at COTM that seeps out like the fragrance of a flower. We all know that everything rises and falls based on leadership, and this joy in helping others clearly comes from Pastor Willie George himself. Throughout the week, I saw him sitting and talking with various pastors and church planters. Unhurried and undistracted, he encouraged those guys with no expectation of anything in return.

The creative elements of the conference were also authentic. If you look closely, and talk to the team, you will find out that much of the production elements are based on something else. Whitney George said in his session that there is nothing new, but there are new things through you. Those guys are masters at taking something they saw somewhere else and adapting it to their situation. 

Don’t Simply Copy

One of the big mistakes I see churches doing is going to another church or a conference, seeing something cool and trying to straight-up copy it. That seldom works out well, mainly because the church doing the copying usually doesn’t have the resources of the big church or the conference. 

The other problem with simple copying is that everything looks different. The people who are best at adapting ideas will make sure that whatever it is they are doing fits the ethos of the church. When you try to copy without adaptation, your people will feel the disconnect between what the church should be and what it does looks like

Know Who You Are

Of course, being authentic presupposes that you know who you are as a church. I feel like many churches today suffer from multiple personality disorder. The lobby was lifted from one church, the sanctuary from another, the set from another still, the kids area from still another. Because all the ideas came from different places, there is no consistency. And when the various ministries are silos unto themselves, there is no consistency of message there either. 

As the technical leader, you may not be able to solve all your church’s split personality issues, but you can be sure that everything you do on your stage matches the mission and vision of the church. This means adapting ideas to suit your church’s culture. 

For Example…

Andrew Stone and I both grew up in the ’80s and share a fondness for lush, rich reverbs with long tails. Having heard his mixes and talked with him about his process, I set about to take the essence of his technique and apply it to my church. Now, you have to know that there was not a fondness for long reverbs at my church. In fact, it was more like whatever the opposite of fondness is. 

Thus, I couldn’t just layer up three or four reverb units with 5-8 second reverb tails on them like he does. But what I was going for was the essence of his technique. The thing I found so intriguing was the layering effect of stacking multiple reverbs, each to deliver part of the frequency spectrum. So that’s what I did. I stacked up a few reverb units, played around with the high and low pass settings, and pretty much everything else until I came up with a great sounding reverb that didn’t sound like too much reverb to my leadership. 

Had I simply insisted on copying the technique with the justification of “this is what COTM does…” it would not have gone well. But as it was, everyone loved the sound, and I was able to create a more expansive vocal sound that still fit with our church’s ethos. Was it my own personal preference? Not necessarily. Was I happy with the result? Yes. 

Of course, being authentic takes time, energy, thought and work. Which is probably why so few bother. But if you’ll put the time in, the results will be worth it.

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Photo courtesy of MeganLynnette

Photo courtesy of MeganLynnette

This post is another in the series of things that I took away from last week’s Seeds Conference at Church on the Move. They do a great job of bringing in speakers who can speak to larger issues of the church, and those issues can almost always be distilled down to concepts that apply to production team. Such is the case today.

Patrick Lencioni spoke on Thursday and not only thoroughly entertained everyone with his humorous, ADD style, he spoke some great truths. There was way too much content to summarize in a single post, so I’m going to focus on a single facet of his talk, Four Disciplines of a Healthy Organization. I’m going to change healthy organization to healthy production team. These concepts work if you’re fully volunteer, fully paid or a hybrid. In fact, these concepts work for pretty much any team. 

Create a Cohesive Leadership Team

Nothing will demoralize and drive a team to dysfunction like a dysfunctional leadership team. And when I say leadership team, I’m talking about whoever is leading the technical/production teams. That may be a TD, a volunteer TD or a team of staff. Even if you are the only staff member, it would behoove you to recruit one or two volunteers to be part of your leadership team. It’s imperative that as leaders, you are all on the same page. 

When a team senses that it’s leaders are at odds with each other, they will either play one against the other to get what they want, or give up and go home. Neither is a good option for you. 

Create Clarity

Lack of clarity is the second thing that will drive a team crazy. When people don’t know why it is they are doing what they are doing, they are not effective. They can even be destructive. The vision of the production team needs to be crystal clear so everyone knows exactly why they do their task. This is important for the big tasks like mixing and the small tasks like setting the stage. The why questions are the most important, yet we tend to spend the least time on them. When building up your team, spend as much or more time on the why as the how. Once people know the why, the how will come.

Over-communicate Clarity

Most leaders don’t like to over-communicate anything because they think it’s redundant. But here’s the thing—and I’ve said this before—most of your team doesn’t spend their days dreaming about the vision of the church or production team. They have jobs, families and friends. They have their own dreams and plans for the future. If you want them bought into your clear vision, you need to share that vision all the time. 

Reinforce Clarity

Seeing a pattern here? When you see someone who is doing what you want them to do, reinforce that. Publicly. Look for as many teachable moments as possible. If one of your audio guys takes the initiative to straighten up some cables on stage, thank them for that, and remind them why it is so important to maintain a clean, safe stage. It will feel like you are saying the same thing over and over, but remember, many of your team only volunteer once or twice a month. You may say it six times a weekend to different people, but that may be once a month for each person. When you start hearing your team repeat the vision to new team members, then you’re making progress. Just don’t quit, because they need clarity reinforced, too. 

Author Samuel Johnson said, “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” It’s up to us to do the reminding.

Patrick has a new book out called The Advantage and while I haven’t read it yet, it’s on my list of books to read this year. If you want to be part of building a better team at your church, I suggest you give it a read. I’ve read several of his books and have yet to be disappointed.


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