One of the most important (and difficult) things a church technical director needs to learn is how to determine what is important. We have a never-ending list of things to do, work on, fix, set up, prepare for and take down. There are events to cover, volunteers to train, plans to make and systems to upgrade. Based on my conversations with dozens and dozens of TDs over the years, I think we could all easily fill a few pages with the projects we feel we need to work on.
Obviously, can’t work on all those projects at once. We don’t have the time or the budget to do everything. That means we must prioritize. And that’s where we can get into trouble.
Before we start attacking our list, we need to determine what is important. The problem is, what is important to us may not be important to our leadership. And as my friend Van says, what is important to the Sr. Pastor is what is important. Everything else? Not so much.
I’ve said may times before that what we do is as much about people as it is about technology (regardless of how we feel about that). If we are going to be successful as a TD, we need to learn how to figure out what is important to senior leadership, and make those things priority.
For example, one of the things that is very important to our senior leadership is consistency. They don’t really care for big changes. So we have to move slowly and incrementally improve things. When we take a really big swing at something, we usually get pushback. Audio is a high value as well; it needs to be clear, mixed well, not too loud and—you guessed it—consistent. Video is not as important. So I spend a lot more time tweaking our audio systems and training that team than I do on the video system (much to the chagrin of the video team).
Long-time readers will also know that I consider being a TD a long game. We really can’t measure things in terms of months, but in terms of years. And this is where it gets interesting. If we spend a good amount of time building trust with leadership, focusing on the things that are important to them, improving those things and demonstrating progress, we will get increasing amounts of time, budget and leeway to work on the projects that are important to us.
Trouble comes when we reverse that process. I know guys who have gone into a new situation and immediately started making changes to suit their preferences. They often get a lot of negative feedback from leadership and it starts the relationship off on the wrong foot. It then takes months or years to rebuild that trust—if it is ever rebuilt.
The better plan is to come in and not make any changes for a while. Learn the systems and the people. Figure out what is important—to leadership, not to you—and start working on those things. Once we demonstrate progress on the issues that are troubling management, then we can working on the things we deem important.
As much as we might think we know best (and honestly, sometimes we do), it doesn’t matter. The technical director is a servant role; we serve the needs of the worship leader and senior pastor. Take care of those needs, and you get the freedom to do what you want to do. Start off doing what you want, and your life will be full of strife.
What have you found to be important in your church, and how have you addressed it?