When to Involve the TD in a Building Project

The other day, my friend Erik asked me if he should accept the invitation to be involved very early on with a building project at his church. He’s the TD there, and the leadership asked if he would like to be involved with picking the architect. The question to me was, is it worth being involved that early?

Yes

This could be the shortest post I’ve ever written, because I could easily end there. As a TD, staff or volunteer, if you are ever asked to be involved early on in a building project, jump at the chance. Here’s why: You will be the only person thinking about the building project from a production/lighting/acoustical/visual stand point. You know more about how that new room will need to work than anyone else on the staff. You will think of things no one else ever will. 

Not Just Tech

The funny thing is, it’s not just about the gear. This is a common misconception amongst pastors, I think. They are under the (usually false) assumption that the tech guy will just want to spend money on expensive new gear. So they try to keep them out of the process as long as possible to make sure everything else gets budget before production. This is flatly stupid, and never results in agood project. Ever. I’m feeling blunt today.

We tech guys are quite unique in our makeup and we see things differently that normal people do. When looking at the plans, we may be the only one to notice that the HVAC guy put the thermostat right in the middle of the upstage wall. We may be the only one who notices that the doors swing the wrong way in the backstage corridor, creating awkward access. We may be the only ones who note that putting glass doors at the back of the auditorium will drive everyone on stage nuts when the sun rises in their eyes. 

All those are actual building blunders that happened because no one listened to the tech guy (or didn’t ask).

We Think Different(ly)

My English major daughter would be most cross if she saw me use different that way, but you get the reference. It’s not that as tech guys and gals, we’re smarter than everyone else involved in the project, it’s that we view the world differently. That different perspective often can help stave off tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of mistakes. 

Many years ago, I raised so many concerns prior to a building project that they finally put me on the building committee. I was the only one who pointed out that the architect they were considering had never, ever built a church before. I was the only one who pointed out that his initial drawings had so many acoustical problems, it would make services a nightmare for the audience. Everyone else was all starry eyed about the new building and I saw nothing but blunders on the pages before me. My natural cynicism came out and slowed everything down so it could be evaluated properly. Ultimately, Mike the “dream killer” saved the church a lot of money. 

Never underestimate your ability to keep a building project pointed in the right direction. It’s not just about gear, you will look at it differently. And that different perspective is desperately needed. Pastors, if you’re reading this, you should always involve your tech person in a building project early on. I guarantee doing so will save money and deliver a better finished product at the end.

Roland

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