Barrier Free Worship

Last night marked the kickoff of our Student Ministries at Crosswinds. The turnout was pretty good, and after some fun, announcements and games, the all-student band, powered by the all-student tech team lead the group in a time of worship through song. Jon, our youth pastor, then taught a really powerful message from the book of Acts. What happened next, was completely unplanned and totally a work of the Holy Spirit.

One of the adult leaders walked to the platform near the end of the closing song, took the mic and suggested that we have a time of prayer at the front of the room. He invited all the students who wanted to come down and pray that God would use them this year. What was remarkable to me was not the large number who went forward to pray, but that everyone else sat in their seats and prayed along. It was an especially moving time of prayer; some cried, others prayed boldly. I was reminded why I really enjoy working with students.

I was struck as it was happening, and I've thought about it more since, that those of us in the technical realm have a great responsibility during those spontaneous times: Don't screw it up! I thought back to several other times in my career when the Spirit moved people way off script, and the service became a truly live program. I thought through some of the mistakes I've made, and what I've done right. Those are especially holy moments, and the last thing I want to do is interrupt what God is doing in the Body.

Here are some thoughts to that regard. This is not meant to be exhaustive, nor inclusive. It's just what I've learned during those times.

Pay Very Close Attention to What's Going On in the Room

During these times, more than normal, the tech team needs to be very aware of what is happening in the room. Is someone headed for the platform to speak? Where is the pastor or worship leader, and what are they doing? What is the mood of the room? Is the band on stage and are they looking like they are going to play something?

All of these observations have to be taking place all the time, and you need to respond appropriately to them. Last night, I felt the best response was to change nothing. We left the blank background of the song slide on the screen, we dimmed the lights, but played no music. The key for me was not to disturb the mood.

Think Ahead, and Be Ready for Anything

This is a close corollary to the previous observation. Based on what you see, what could happen? How can you be ready for it? You may need to bring the band back up, or deal with someone else coming up on stage to speak. Which mic might they use? Is the reverb on or off?

If someone starts playing guitar, make sure to not just unmute the channel (because we always mute unused channels), but bring the fader down, then unmute and fade up. If someone grabs a mic and starts talking, the same actions apply. If the pastor happens to stand up in front of the front fills with a lav on and starts talking, think ahead and lower the channel a bit to avoid feedback. The key is to work quickly, but smoothly.

Determine the Least Intrusive Way to Support What's Happening, and Do It

During those special times, people really don't need a big technical presence. The moving lights probably shouldn't. The sound should be quiet. The screens should be static. Major changes to anything are not good. Things should stay subtle and subdued. As the time winds down and people begin to disperse consider carefully what you do next. If you normally have people walk out to a rockin' tune, consider cuing up something a bit more reflective. Or nothing at all. Sometimes people really need silence to be able to hear from God.

These unplanned, Spirit-prompted times are very special. I've experienced a few of them in my life, and I'm always pleasantly surprised by them. While the temptation is to join in and revel in the moment, I think we as techies have a responsibility to keep our heads in the game (as it were) and support, albeit carefully and subtly the work that is happening. Non-verbal communication becomes very important, and everyone needs to be on the same page. For me it's really exciting to be part of watching what God is doing, right in our midst. These are the times to remember, and when we can perhaps make our greatest contribution.

Peace.