Is Sound Subjective? Pt. 3 Politics

Photo courtesy of Camille King

Photo courtesy of Camille King

As we go on in our series of subjective sound, I thought I should touch on the concept of politics. Not nation-state politics (don’t get me started on that one…), but the internal politics of the church. We don’t like to talk about this because we like to believe that everyone is one big happy family and totally on the same page. Sometimes that’s true, but often it’s not. 

Dueling Objectives

Where we run into trouble—especially in church—is when we have multiple objectives. Usually this is the case when the leadership of the church isn’t on the same page when it comes to the musical portion of the worship service. I’ve worked in those environments and it’s no fun. When the senior pastor wants All Sons and Daughters and the worship leader wants Hillsong Young and Free, the poor sound engineer is stuck in the middle. We cannot serve two masters, especially the two masters want very different things. 

This is usually where the questions come from. When the pastor keeps saying, “Turn it down!” and the worship leader is yelling, “Crank it up!” you will never win. I want to be really clear on this so no one misunderstands; this is a leadership issue, not a mixing issue. 

I’ve lived in this tension before and I can tell you it’s not good. This usually happens when a church finds itself aging, so to appeal to a younger crowd, the leadership brings in a young, cool and loud worship pastor who immediately changes the musical style. This leads to all kinds of conflict, and as I mentioned, the sound guy gets caught in the middle. 

I Know What I Don’t Like

Another big challenge is when a pastor won’t tell the sound and worship team what he wants musically, but will only tell them what he doesn’t like. You start to hear comments like, “I don’t like that, it doesn’t fit our culture.” When asked, “OK, what would you like to hear?” “I don’t know, but I’ll tell you when I hear it.” 

This drives me nuts. You are not leading when you’re simply saying, “No” all the time until your team stumbles on the "Yes." Pastors, if you want to continually frustrate your teams and make their lives miserable, don’t give them any direction, just shoot down everything they do because you don’t like it. 

Choose Your Music Style

One of the easiest ways to settle the “sound problem” is to choose a musical style that fits the culture of the church. Not every church is cut out for Bethel. Not every church does well with traditional hymns. Find the style that fits the style of the congregation and mix appropriately. If you do that, the problems will go way down. 

So that’s it. For now. I have a feeling we’ll be revisiting this topic again in the future because this is something that’s not going to go away. But hopefully this week we’ve helped you think differently about it.

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