Three Top Skills for a TD

Photo courtesy of Ryan

Photo courtesy of Ryan

A few weeks ago, my friend Jason Castellente posed a question on Facebook. He asked what were the three top technical skills a TD needs to have. My favorite answer was that they must like Star Wars, but other good answers followed. As I got thinking about that, I decided to back it up a step and think about the top three skills a TD needs, not necessarily technical ones. 

As I see it, the role of the TD is changing. At first, churches hired technicians to man technical positions. At that time, it was expected the techs would be technically skilled. Over time, the role has morphed into more of a leader of technical teams, which requires a different set of skills than say mixing audio. 

I thought through the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with other TD’s over the years, and based on my own experience, here are my top three skills a TD needs to have. These are maybe in order and this may or may not be an exhaustive list.


The most successful TD’s I know are all teachable. They never stop learning; learning about new products, techniques and ways to do things. For them, being a TD is a constant adventure in growing and learning. These guys never settle into a “this is how we do it” rut, but instead always explore and consider new ways to get better. This is true of guys I know in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s and maybe 50's. The world of technology changes fast, and we simply must keep up. The day we stop learning how we can do our job better is the day we stop being as effective as we could be.

The Ability to Lead and Inspire Teams

While being teachable is easy for us tech guys, leading people is often harder. But I do believe that in order to be a truly effective TD, one must be able to lead others. And not just lead, but inspire them to greater levels of accomplishment. Getting a group of people to show up on time and sit behind a desk is one thing. Challenging, equipping and inspiring them to do great work is another. The guys I know that really have this dialed not only have great teams of volunteer techs, but those volunteers are now leading and training others. That is true effectiveness. 

While it may be fun to sit behind the console every week, I don’t believe we are truly effective as a TD until we can step aside, let someone else mix and no one knows the difference.

Maybe I should point out that I’m defining an effective TD differently than I would define a great audio mixer (as an example—this concept applies to any technical role). I don’t think one is better than the other, but they are different. To be sure, some churches need great audio mixers on staff. But most need great TD’s. 

Able to Communicate Up and Down

Another way to say this is the ability to translate between church leadership and the tech team, or between the musicians and the technicians. Church leaders are not usually technical. As such, they don’t speak our language. They tend to speak vision, mission, concept and creativity. A successful TD needs to know how to take that mission and vision and communicate it to the woman running ProPresenter. Likewise when a highly technical change is required, that need must be communicated in a way that reflects the mission and vision of the church and in language the leaders can understand. 

Like I said, I don’t know that this exhaustive, but these are traits I see in the best TD’s I know. What would you add to the list?


Image courtesy of Hartwig HKD

Image courtesy of Hartwig HKD

Have you ever taken time to consider the word Pace? I’ve been thinking a lot about pace lately and decided to actually look it up. It can be both a noun and a verb and there are some interesting definitions of the word. For example: 

Pace (noun) The speed at which something happens, changes or develops. 

Interesting; that’s one way of looking at the word. Here’s another:

Pace (verb; no object) Walk at a steady and consistent speed, especially back and forth as an expression of one’s own anxiety or annoyance.

Hmmm. Anyone doing any pacing lately? We’re a few weeks from Easter… How about this one:

Pace (verb; with object) To do something at a slow and steady rate or speed in order to avoid overexerting oneself.

That’s interesting; to avoid overexerting oneself. How many of us move at a pace that doesn’t overexert us? How many consider it a badge of honor that we’re so busy we don’t have time to sit down and relax. Ever. Our culture prizes business. We even attach higher honor and status to the most busy. We see people who get up early and work late as “accomplished.” Even in the church this is true. 

I heard one pastor say that being in ministry is 60-70 hours a week. His view was that if a pastor wasn’t in the office 6 days a week and then working the Sunday services, he wasn’t fit to serve. Sadly, some of you are wishing you could get your schedule down to 60-70 hours a week…

What He Did and Didn’t Say

Jesus said, “I will build my church.” He didn’t say, “I will build my church and those that work in it need to work so hard and so long that they will begin to despise the church and eventually life itself.”

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He did not say, “I hope my followers work hard and run fast to acquire more things to impress people you don’t know.” 

Even when you look at the life of Jesus, you will quickly see He did not spend much time pacing from anxiety or annoyance. He managed to live his life on Earth at a slow, steady and deliberate pace, this despite the fact that He had a lot to do. You know, being the Savior of the world and all. 

What is Your Pace?

Tech guys tend to be notoriously bad at maintaining a healthy pace. I know, I am one. We tend to be servants, people pleasers and hard workers. We don’t like letting people down and sacrifice whatever we need to in order to get the job done. That can be good; but it can also be bad. When our pace exceeds our capacity, bad things happen. 

If you read this website regularly, you know we’ve been talking about pacing and taking care of ourselves. I heard Doug Fields say this in a recent message, “The pain people experience in life is directly proportional to the pace they have chosen.” If we are feeling burned out, exhausted, frustrated and ready to quit, perhaps it’s because you have chosen a pace that is too fast. 

I say chosen, because it is always a choice. We may justify our too-fast pace by saying others tell us to do it, but the reality is, we always have a choice. There are seasons where we will be busy. But when busy becomes the new normal, we have a problem. 

Don’t let your pace exceed your capacity. If you don’t even have time to pray, read the Bible, spend time with your spouse, kids and friends, your pace is too fast. Slow down. Enjoy the abundant life. Jesus invites us to walk with Him, not race Him. Check your pace and see if your quality of life doesn’t improve.


The irony of this post is that I wrote it on Sunday with the intention of posting it Monday morning, my first day of vacation—the first week I've taken off in a year. I didn't post it Monday because I got sucked back into work and ended up working the entire day, never having time to post this article on slowing down. Seems like I still have some work to do...


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Lousy Church Sound--Another Perspective, Pt. 3

This week we’ve been unpacking some concepts that appeared in a post on another website titled Trend: Lousy Church Sound. As I said Monday, I don’t disagree with much of what that author said. At the same time, I thought it would be helpful to bring some context to it. Monday, we talked about the need for a professional to at least manage the increasingly complex production systems that are being installed in churches today. Wednesday, I proposed that when led well, volunteers can do a bang-up job running even complex systems. Today, I want to dig into the costs of production. 

The author of the original article said this of a new PA system:

One church spent $125,000! [Emphasis in original]

Here is where some context can come in handy. The exclamation point indicates to me that he thought that was a large figure. And to be sure, $125K is a lot of money. However, it may not be excessive for a PA. In fact, depending on the room, that may be a good down payment. As church auditoriums get bigger, the amount of PA needed to cover the area well and with sufficient level gets expensive. In fact, spending $300,000-500,000 on a system for a 3,000-4,000 seat room would not be out of line. 

Now, $125,000 might be a lot of money, especially if the room in question is 200 seats. On the other hand, $125,000 is about right for a 700-800 seat room. Unless of course, you’re simply amplifying speech. 

Church Leaders Don’t Realize How Expensive Technology Is

I talk with churches nearly every day about technology upgrades and very few have a clue about how much it really costs. After we walk them through the process, they get it, but few do at the beginning. This problem is compounded by the fact that during a building project, the AVL integrator too often gets left out of the budget process. The architect might put an allowance in there for technology, but again, most times it’s way low. When the integrator is finally brought in, they have to either work within the inadequate budget (more likely) or the church needs to raise more funds (less likely).

Back to our original $125K budget proposition, the author talks about how bad such a system sounded when he heard it. I wonder if he considered that perhaps it’s because the church spent only $125K, instead of the $200,000+ it may have really needed? While I agree that spending $125K on a PA only to have it sound “ten times worse than before” would be disappointing, perhaps the fault lies with the church that in an effort to “save money” didn’t spend enough. I’ve seen more than one system that wasn’t done well due to lack of funds, and we usually take it out to put in a good one. As the saying goes, churches that can’t afford to do it right the first time will almost always find the money to do it again. 

Good People Should be Paid Well

Another comment the author made that I’m not sure about is this one:

I know of one megachurch that just hired an excellent soundman away from another megachurch – they’re paying him $60,000 a year and he was making $30,000. [sic]

I can’t tell if he thinks the $60K salary is excessive, but I’d say, it sounds about right for an “excellent sound man,” depending on what part of the country you’re in. Out here in SoCal, that would be a good opening offer. And for the guy who was making $30,000, I would say his previous church was very likely way underpaying him—which is probably why he left. 

Churches that pay their senior pastor $150,000+, their worship leader $90,000+ and their tech guy $30,000 will likely be disappointed with the long term results. Especially if they skimped on the system. 

What is really required here is to look at the big picture. Whenever we throw out random numbers, we can incite shock and awe, but without knowing the context, it’s hard to know what is really going on. This is another reason why it’s so important to have a relationship with a great integration company to help guide the process. Good integrators will help right-size the system for the room, budget and team. When they are brought in early and allowed to do their job well, everyone will be happy with the results. Skip this at your own peril. 

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it! Now that we know some of the reasons for lousy church sound, next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming on how to make it better. Disclaimer, I may or may not write about that exact topic next week, but keep reading, it will come around again…

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