Help Us Help You

Still on vacation. But in the spirit of helping you survive the summer ministry months, here's a few thoughts on working with other ministries, those that always seem to need our help during the summer.

This is a follow-up to my previous post, Surviving VBS. It’s an open letter to Children’s Ministries, Student Ministries and any other ministry that needs to interact with their technical and production departments.

I’m a big movie fan, and I really liked the film, Jerry Maguire. The language was rather coarse, but the story line was excellent. In many ways, it had a lot of redemptive themes to it. But I digress. One of the more well-known scenes has Jerry standing in the locker room dealing with his reluctant client. He starts repeating over and over, “Help me help you. Help me help you! HELP ME HELP YOU!!” That’s the message I want to convey in this post. It’s not a rant about how disorganized or unprepared other ministries are, but a series of suggestions on how we can work together to create more effective programs. Here we go.

Over Communicate

Techies need a lot of details. Even things that you don’t think are significant can have a huge impact on what we do. One thing you can do to help us help you is to communicate everything. Take VBS for example; when you give us a schedule, don’t simply give us the schedule for the main room, give us the entire schedule. Let us decide what is important and what’s not because, and I mean this in the kindest possible way, you have no idea what’s important to us.

I wrote a post titled The Downside of Making it Look Easy sometime back, and it addresses this issue well. What tends to happen is that people who work in non-technical areas of ministry walk into the church service and see that everything happens seamlessly. Everyone on stage has a mic that’s turned on at exactly the right time. The band is heard and mixed well. Lights are lighting up what they’re supposed to and videos seems to appear from nowhere.

What you don’t realized is that there is a ton of preparation going into all of that, and all that preparation requires a ton of information. I know a week in advance what my band looks like, and I spend 30-60 minutes writing up a patch sheet and configuring my console to make sure every instrument is accounted for. It takes 2-3 people over an hour to set the stage, line check and get the mixing boards ready to go. Lights need to be focused and that requires a lift driving all over the stage. Videos need to be edited, converted and prepared properly in our presentation software. Someone spends hours setting up the run sheets that are timed to the minute so we know what’s coming next.

Help us help you by giving us all the information we need. Even things that you don’t think are significant (like needing 6 mics instead of 5 for a drama) can be a really big deal, especially if we don’t have 6 mics. I always tell other ministries that we can do anything, we just need to know about it in advance.

Answer Questions Quickly and Accurately

In my last post, I advised techies to ask questions, a lot of questions. Know that we’re not questioning your programming, your plans or your heart for impacting kids. We just need information. So if we keep peppering you with questions, just give us answers. If you don’t know yet, tell us you don’t know, don’t make something up. Or connect us with the person who does. We want to help you put together a great program. Whatever we don’t currently know, we’re going to ask about. Don’t take it personally, we just need information.

Don’t Try to “Save us Work”

Whenever someone tells me “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it so you don’t need to do anything,” alarm bells start going off in my head. Usually what it means is that my workload just doubled, because now I’ll have to first fix or undo what someone else did, then do it right. The fact is, we’re really good at what we do, and you’re not really good at what we do. And rightly so; I’m not good with kids, and don’t want to spend my days working with them, that’s why I’m a techie. I want you to work with kids, let me deal with tech and production.

See, we do this every week. We have it down to a science. We know our rooms, our stage, our production and technical capabilities and can pull off amazing programs. As most other ministries do big productions once a year, we have roughly 50 times the experience you do. Leverage that, bring us into the process. When you bring in people to “do it for us,” it really makes our job harder. I put in an extra 10-15 hours last week because of the “help” that I had.

Know that I don’t doubt your motives here. I know you know we’re busy. You want to lighten our load, and that’s admirable. But please let us tell you how to lighten our load. I would never presume to tell you how to run your crafts or recreation programs because my experience there is negligible. What we do is specialized and complicated. Treat it accordingly.

Hopefully this will inspire some improved dialog between tech and other ministries. My goal is to better support the other ministries in the church, not dig on them for making our lives tough. The truth is we love what we do, and we’re really, really good at it. We want to be a big part of life-change as the rest of the staff. We simply do it differently. Use our gifts, and help us help you.

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