The other day I was involved in a conversation in which someone said, “If someone leaves because it’s too loud, we haven’t done our job properly.” Now, I’ve heard this philosophy espoused on more than one occasion, and you probably have, too. It’s a commonly held concept that as tech people we should be invisible and no one should really notice we’re there. And I agree with that, at least in principle. We don’t want to call attention to ourselves, or the technology; we want to call attention to Jesus. I’m on board with that.
However, does that really mean that if someone leaves because it’s too loud—for them—that we’ve failed? I’m not sure I buy into that concept.
We have to establish our philosophy of worship; and that includes volume. I get so sick of the endless volume debate, and especially pastors throwing their tech guys under the bus because it’s too loud; especially when those same pastors have never established an explainable philosophy of worship. And by explainable, I mean that someone could explain it to a mad congregant who thinks it’s too loud.
Pastors, if you’ve never sat down with your music and tech teams and established a good set of guidelines for how loud worship should be, you have no right to complain about the volume or send angry people back to the tech booth to complain. And by the way, this policy should be written down. And it shouldn’t be a single number; e.g.. “Worship shall be no louder than 90 dB.” You have a lot more work to do if you think that’s all it is.
Some congregations like it loud; and that’s OK. It’s also OK if some people are bothered by that. I know some churches who believe that during musical worship, they are celebrating the work God has done on earth through Jesus, and that celebration should be loud. To that I say, Amen! Now, there are other churches who prefer a more subtle, laid back and contemplative approach to worship, with more space for quiet and silence. To that I say, Amen!
I honestly have no problem with either approach, and I enjoy both at times. What I do have a problem with is a person who prefers quiet worship going to a church that worships loud and complains the whole time. Just because someone doesn’t like a particular expression of worship doesn’t mean it’s wrong, or that the tech guys have failed.
You really can’t please everybody and it’s foolish to try. If your philosophy of worship is to not offend anyone, you will either end up offending everyone, or just doing a really poor job. It’s much like a football team that is playing to not lose; they rarely win. You have to decide who you want to be as a church and go all in with it. To do anything less is to squander the gift of uniqueness that God has given your congregation.
Figuring out who you are as a church takes a lot of work and prayer, but the payoff is so worth it. When people know what you stand for, they will lock arms with you and work tirelessly to advance the cause. But when you are wishy-washy and can’t articulate why you do what you do, people will come and go without any real buy in. Figure out who you are, and own it.
Well, at this point, I’ve probably offended more than a few people. But that’s OK. You can’t please everyone…