Tech Guys--Help Your Worship Leader

This week we’ve been talking about how to strengthen the working relationship between the musical and technical artists of the worship team. And I phrase that very intentionally. I really do see us as one team with two disciplines. It’s important to maintain that perspective as we try to solve the challenges that we face whenever people are involved.

Last time, I shared some ideas on how the worship leader can help the technical staff serve the whole team better. This time, I’d like to share some things I learned in my nearly 30 years as both a volunteer and paid technical artist.

Be Prepared

This may seem somewhat in contradiction to my previous post in which I implored worship leaders to communicate early with the technical folks. However, the two go hand in hand. Once your worship guy tells you what the weekend will look like, make sure you can pull it off. You should have time in your weekly routine to set up for the weekend in advance (or at least early) and make sure it all works before the band arrives.

Of course there will be last minute adjustments from time to time, but we can handle them because we are prepared. If you can be ready for the 80% you know, the 20% you don’t know about isn’t so stressful.

Be Early

The question from a conference goer last week was about how he could get his sound guys to show up on time and be prepared. This sort of frustrates me. We need to take it upon ourselves to be there not on time, but early. The entire stage should be fully set up and ready to go, and line checked before the band arrives. Nothing frustrates a worship leader more than having to wait for the sound team to get their act together. Folks, this is unacceptable. Show up early, do a great job and watch how much better the whole weekend rolls along.

Get Out of the Booth

So often, I watch tech guys sit back in the booth, arms crossed about their chests while the band comes in and gets set up. If someone on stage asks where to plug in, the sound guy will use the talkback mic to tell him, “The cable!” That is not how it should be.

Get out of the booth, go down on stage and be there when the musicians arrive. Talk with them, find out about their week, help them set up. Make sure they have what they need to be successful that weekend. I have done this for years and I can tell you without reservation that those 15 minutes of “extrovert time” will make a huge difference in the weekend. And not only the weekend, but in the way you are perceived and treated overall. Yes, I know it can be hard. Do it anyway.

Be a Team Player

I’ve heard tech guys spend most of the weekend tearing down those on stage. I can assure you that is not the way to win friends and influence people. I like to joke about worship leaders not knowing the lyrics to the songs they are leading as much as anyone (and that’s probably another post), but when I’m in the booth, I do my best to encourage those on stage.

The truth is, being up there, exposed, in front of the whole congregation is hard. Most artists, despite how they act, have big confidence issues. If you can build them up and let them know you have their back no matter what, they will do a better job. That, in turn, makes your job easier.

One of the nicest going away cards I’ve ever received was from one of our younger vocalists. She specifically thanked me for always encouraging her and putting up with her goofy requests. She told me how much that helped her and built her up, which made it easier to lead worship. That kind of stuff makes a lasting impression.

Like I said last time, this is not an exhaustive list. There is a lot more we can do, but I’ll leave it here for now. Oh, and one more thing. To quote my friend Andrew; Don’t forget to not suck.


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Worship Leader--Help Your Tech Guys

Last time, we talked about relationships. You’ve heard me say it before, but it’s all about relationships. Last week, I was at a conference helping to lead a class on music-tech team dynamics. The first question raised was about getting the tech team to be on time and ready for sound check. That got me thinking about ways the worship leader can help the technical group do a better job—which helps you do your job better. That means there really is some incentive for you to do this stuff.

Communicate. In advance.

Tech guys are usually planners. We like to know what is happening before it does. We like to know how many musicians are going to be on stage and what they will be playing. We like to know how many handheld and bodypack wireless mic’s we’ll need. And we like to know it before Sunday morning.

Years ago, I worked for a church that had Saturday rehearsal for a Saturday service. We really didn’t know until we showed up at 2:30 who would be on stage at 3:00 practicing for the 5:00 service. This created much stress. So I started asking the worship leaders for a band list on Wednesday. That way, I could think through how best to accommodate all the needs for the band in advance.

It took a while for them to get used to the idea of planning ahead, but once they saw the results—faster set up, quicker sound checks, smoother rehearsals, better services—they were all over it.

You’re probably doing this anyway with the musicians, so simply let the tech guys know. This is especially important for smaller churches that may be on the ragged edge of capacity for their systems. Having a few days to figure out how to get everyone in the board will make your tech’s—and thus your—lives easier.

Communicate. As a Team.

As I said, you’re probably already communicating with the musicians and singers throughout the week anyway. And if you’re not, you should; but that’s another post. Why not simply include the tech guys and gals in that email? Make sure they know what songs you’re doing and how you want to do it. That helps them prepare, and they may even have ideas that will make it better.

One worship leader of mine always sent out an email to the entire weekend team every Thursday. It was a short, simple email most weeks that included the theme for the weekend and some encouragement for being involved. It’s not a huge deal, but it helps everyone know—techs and musicians alike—that we’re all in this together.

Equip and resource the tech staff.

I hear from worship leaders often who are frustrated that their sound guys (for example) don’t do a great job. I always start by asking, “How do you train them? When was the last time you brought someone in to do some real training on mixing?” That’s when the line goes dead on the other end.

Look, the technical arts are hard. If it weren’t hard, everyone could do it. Most cannot, and even after someone knows what the compressor threshold does, learning how to use that properly takes years. You cannot expect pro-level results from volunteers who have never been properly trained.

Figure out how to get them some training and ways to practice their craft. This will cost money. Get over it.

If the team is working with outdated and severely compromised equipment, figure out how to get it serviced or replaced. As a worship leader, how long would you try to lead worship on a guitar that refused to stay in tune for more than one verse? How long would you lead from a piano that had 12 keys that only occasionally produced sound?  I would guess a weekend. You would get it fixed or replaced because it’s important. Making your tech guys fight with equipment that only occasionally works will not help them help you.

This is not an exhaustive list, but if you start here, you’ll find your technical artists become more helpful and less grumpy. Next time, we’ll look at it from the other side of the booth.

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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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