March Retro: The Downside of Making It Look Easy

This is another post from March 2007, the first month this blog was on the web. I've tweaked it a little bit, but the concepts are still sound. Some things just don't change...

Really good tech people have one thing in common: we love a challenge. Tell us something can’t be done and we’ll figure out a way to prove you wrong. Need another monitor mix when all the Aux sends are full? No problem, we can swipe an unused group out, or maybe a matrix out. Need to run 40 channels into your 32 channel board? No problem, grab the board from the children’s room and sub it in. Next challenge…

I’ve discovered that all this resourcefulness has a downside. It can lead worship leaders—especially less technically minded ones—to think that we can do anything, and that it will be easy. And fast. I have a saying I use over and over, “Planning will set you free.” When it comes to live production, I plan as many details as I possibly can. The way I see it, the better an event is planned, the more I can enjoy the actual event. And I will have more bandwidth to respond to last minute changes. While I can figure out problems on the fly, I would much rather know what will be expected this weekend, plan for it, configure the system, then be able to worship while I mix.

Planning allows me to serve the band better. This in turn allows them to lead the congregation into a deeper experience of worship. But some worship leaders seem to follow the, “Whatever the Spirit leads!” model of “planning.” Now if the band is simple and everyone knows the words, that can work. But when the band grows larger and the poor ProPresenter operator is just trying to survive following a worship leader that sings the song differently every time, the stress level goes up exponentially for everyone.

Sometimes, technical leaders get no respect. I would never presume to jump up on stage during a rehearsal and say to the guitar player, “Why can’t you just play the right chords, they’re on the page right in front of you!” That’s because I have respect for what they do, and playing a guitar is not as easy as it looks. Why then would a musician come back to the sound booth and say, “I need another mic, it’s easy, just plug it in!” I invite every musician and pastor to shadow a tech guy some week to see what we actually do. Few ever do it, but those that do come away with an education.

If you’re a technician, take pride in what you do and know that your job is every bit as complicated and difficult as any on stage. If you are musician or worship leader, take some time to educate yourself about the technical complexities of a modern sound, video and lighting system. And better yet, plan ahead. Everyone will have a more enjoyable, worshipful experience. Believe me when I tell you, planning will set you free!

Gear Techs