Getting SMAARTer

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I’m pretty excited. This week, I get to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams. OK, maybe not lifelong dream, but something that I’ve wanted to for a good 4-5 years now. I get to go to SMAART class. For those not aware, SMAART is a acoustical measurement and analysis software package. It’s pretty much the industry standard for testing audio products and aligning PA systems. And while it’s not that hard to fire up and take a measurement, really understanding what you’re looking at takes a little longer to understand. 

I’ll be taking the 2-day Operator Fundamentals class followed by the 1-day Application Practicum. Having read the introductory material, I’m thinking this should be a fun few days. But that’s not what I really want to talk about today. I want to talk about our responsibility as technical leaders to continue to get better at what we do.

Our education is up to us. No one will teach you this business unless you go look for ways to learn. There isn’t even a clear college/training path for becoming a better audio engineer, video director, or lighting guy. We have to take responsibility for our own continuing education. 

I have talked with many, many people, both inside the church and out, who get stuck at a certain point in their career. They have a set base of knowledge, and while that knowledge may be good, it can also become outdated or undesirable as the market changes. These folks have a choice to make; update their knowledge base or find a new way to make a living. I have always preferred updating my knowledge base. 

Be a lifelong learner. It’s probably no surprise that one of my Strength Finder Top 5’s is Learner. I am always learning new things. But I think even if you’re not naturally bent that way, you still need to keep learning. Read books, go to classes, go to conferences, talk to other tech guys, go to concerts, read blogs, listen to podcasts, but by all means do something! I know a few people who have even paid other more knowledgeable people to come spend a day with them sharing their skills. One on one training is perhaps the best (and probably the most expensive). But, what a benefit!

Your church may not support you. Do it anyway! Before you go saying, “Well, Mike, that’s easy for you to say because you work at a big church and you have budget to go to classes and conferences,” let me clue you in. My church isn’t that big, and we get $0 for classes and conferences. I take vacation and pay for them myself. And I do it because it’s that important; to me, anyway.

Most of us work in churches where we don’t get support for ongoing education. That’s OK—it’s just the way it is. Many churches don’t get what we do and why it’s important anyway; they think we’re there to turn microphones on and off. Again, OK. Low expectations don’t excuse us from our responsibility to the Kingdom and to ourselves for getting better at what we do. 

A church service that runs smoothly, sounds and looks good and is free from distractions frees people up to interact with God. That’s our job. The better we are at it, the more people can focus on what is important, and spend less time distracted by feedback, poor intelligibility, late song words, distracting lighting and bad video.

Get better at what you need to get better at. Not everyone needs to take SMAART class. But take some class. Go to a conference. Talk to another tech guy. Do something. Grow. Learn. Get better.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but perhaps we can say 2014 will be the start of a season of technical knowledge growth. Let’s all work to get better at our jobs. It’s good for us, it’s good for our churches and it’s good for the Kingdom.

Roland

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