Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Remix: God is in the Details

It’s been a busy week, and I’ve been sick for most of it. So rather than try to create cogent thoughts out of the mush that is my head right now, I’m going back to the beginning and re-working one of my earlier posts. Since a good many of you are new readers, there’s a good chance you missed this 3 1/2 years ago. Enjoy…

It has been said that the devil is in the details. I would beg to differ. I argue that God is in the details. Consider the incredible intricacy of creation for example. If all the details weren’t right, life as we know it wouldn’t exist. Before I go any further, let me issue the following disclaimer: I am guilty of everything I am about to talk about. So there.

In the training I do with our sound engineers, I maintain that we have three main charges as sound techs: 1) Accurately reproduce what happens on stage, 2) Remove barriers to worship and hearing the Word of God and 3) Enhance the worship and preaching experience. Making all this happen is harder than it looks, and it takes an incredible amount of planning, proper design and setup plus good training. Once those things are in place, it comes down to details.

For example, the worship set is just wrapping up, people are in an attitude of worship and the pastor steps up to the platform to pray. Except the mic is still muted. Suddenly it’s unmuted, and he’s way too loud. What happens to that worshipful mood? Doh! Or this, after a stirring message, the worship band takes to the stage to lead a closing song. The congregation is ready to worship and praise God for what they’ve heard. Except the battery in the worship leader’s wireless is dead. Doh! At the end of a powerful service, the youth pastor invites the students in attendance to consider their relationship to Christ. In a very powerful moment students begin to come forward to pray. Suddenly all the lights in the room go full bright then dim. Oops.

Oh, and we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure this has never happened to you, but if it does, I suggest that really blows the mood. I view my quest to make technology seamless, not obvious. When we miss details like the above (and others I’ve omitted), we can really distract from the message. Some might argue that we are all human and mistakes are to be expected. This is true. I also suggest that we should be striving to make mistakes less often. So how do we get there?

I always begin with as thorough a plan as I can develop. The more I have the service planned out in advance, the more I can adapt when things don’t go according to plan. This means figuring out in advance how things will be hooked up (we do a full stage plot and patch chart every week), and testing it in advance. It means paying attention. I am convinced that 80% of technical errors come from loosing focus during the service. It’s easy to do, for sure. We see people we want to talk to, or we get caught up in the worship or message and forget we’re techs that day. Problem is, when it happens, we hurt the experience for hundreds of others.

It also means thinking ahead about what is supposed to happen and about what could happen. Take a look at the order of service in the middle of the last song to see what’s coming next, and you won’t be caught with a muted mic on stage while trying to figure out what’s next. Develop standardized practices and procedures that everyone can follow. Do things the same way every time. We set our board up the same way each week. The kick drum is always ch. 1. Worship leader ch. 25. Pastor ch. 42. Acoustic guitar? Ch. 18. I’m doing this from memory in my kitchen. If I stand up and put my hands on the table, I can mix a service without having the board in front of me. Why? Because it’s always the same and my hands know where to go.

Learn your equipment. The worst time to figure out how the on-board EQ responds is when the pastor steps up to the pulpit and begins feeding back. Once you get settings that work, write them down or save them as a preset. Pay attention when things go right. Look back and see what you did. Then repeat it. Most of all, be willing to change the way you do things.

It’s said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results. If you’re winging it every week and the pastor’s mic feeds back every time he takes the stage, it’s time to do something different. If the sound techs don’t know the equipment well enough to stop problems before they happen, train them, or find someone who can.

It’s important we get it right for a number of reasons. First, for the benefit of those who attend our churches. We need to serve them as well as we can. Second, we need to do it for team and for ourselves, so the entire tech & worship team can feel good about what they do. Finally, we need to do it for God. He didn’t skimp on the details of our redemption. How can we offer Him any less?

Peace.

6 Comments

  1. crazytoadandhare@gmail.com

    Wow Mike! Like you said in the beginning of the post, most of your readers are new readers, me included. So, when I read something like this, it helps give a new perspective to technical ministry. Thanks so much.

  2. crazytoadandhare@gmail.com

    Wow Mike! Like you said in the beginning of the post, most of your readers are new readers, me included. So, when I read something like this, it helps give a new perspective to technical ministry. Thanks so much.

  3. uel-ink@juno.com

    God deserves our best!

    So many secular artists/performers have SO much time and resources to make their events happen. And yet, we are constantly looking for the easy way out.

    Our God created all those performers. He deserves even more!

  4. uel-ink@juno.com

    God deserves our best!

    So many secular artists/performers have SO much time and resources to make their events happen. And yet, we are constantly looking for the easy way out.

    Our God created all those performers. He deserves even more!

  5. studio@beatcave.co.uk

    Hi Mike, thanks for that post. Hope you’re feeling better!

    Regarding the priorities for techie dudes… You’ve suggested:

    1) Accurately reproduce what happens on stage, 2) Remove barriers to worship and hearing the Word of God and 3) Enhance the worship and preaching experience.

    Doing (1) can conflict with (2) and (3), in my experience. If you’ve got a musician playing obtrusively, they need to be turned down, because that’s a distraction. Attempting (3) can often conflict with (2) as well…when the PA op decides the singer needs more reverb, but then the words can’t be clearly heard, for example.

    So, without being too nitpicky, I propose that our duty is…

    …using technology, skill and experience to remove distractions and help people focus on and respond to the message being communicated.

    I think TDs need to understand how *too much* technology as well as too little can create distractions in the worship service.

    If you are demonstrating complicated skill with a wide array of technology, even if you use it well (and your motive is the glory of God), people may still find the very fact that it is being used AT ALL as being a distraction. Many people resent attempts to manipulate them emotionally. And the crunch time will be when one part of it fails: does the message suffer as a result? If the potential failure of our technology serves to distract, we need to ask whether it facilitates clearer communication enough to justify such a risk.

    So, what’s the difference between “church” and a “show”? With a “show” the purpose is to take what is there (music, acting etc…) and present it in such a way as to amplify its value. With church, the purpose is to expose something which is already valuable. The former distorts, the latter reveals. The problem with making church about the former is that the response rarely lasts longer than the experience. That’s why people hold up camera-phones at concerts, to record the moment. But if church is about the latter: exposing the awesome glory of God, then there is no reason to believe that this experience of glory is exclusively tied to the church service. And we should not encourage people to think that way.

    One contributing problem is that people want to turn church into a convoluted organism that caters for the use of their particular expertise. The motive is “to feel useful” rather than “to build up the church”. (This prevalent attitude is usually founded on faulty theology!) Some tech people buy equipment so complex that they themselves become indispensible, and become a crucial part of the church, to the degree that, without them, the vital message could not be proclaimed. This is a dangerous situation. And people don’t do it knowingly. It is all done ostensibly “to build up the church” but it can quickly become about marking our territory in our own little social community.

    To avoid these situations, simplicity should be valued. Prioritize communicating the most important message and doing the most important things in the simplest possible way. Does this preclude the use of creativity in worship? No. Creativity is of use, but not for creativity’s sake. We think and act creatively in order to find ways to communicate better. And it helps if everyone knows what the message is!

    We need to remember that the power is in the message, not the method. If people go away thinking “what a great preacher” or “what a great worship band” rather than “what a great God!”, then they are focussed on the method.

    Therefore remove anything which focusses people on the method, and help them see the message.

    (PS The message I’m thinking of is the gospel: its historical, theological, personal, communal significance for us. We live in it, we respond to it, our motivation is rooted in it, we love it…all because God’s glory is revealed through it, and his power is manifest in it…just so you know I’m not thinking that all the church has to offer is good community and OK coffee!)

    I hope these thoughts are of value to you,

    In Christ

    Greg

  6. studio@beatcave.co.uk

    Hi Mike, thanks for that post. Hope you’re feeling better!

    Regarding the priorities for techie dudes… You’ve suggested:

    1) Accurately reproduce what happens on stage, 2) Remove barriers to worship and hearing the Word of God and 3) Enhance the worship and preaching experience.

    Doing (1) can conflict with (2) and (3), in my experience. If you’ve got a musician playing obtrusively, they need to be turned down, because that’s a distraction. Attempting (3) can often conflict with (2) as well…when the PA op decides the singer needs more reverb, but then the words can’t be clearly heard, for example.

    So, without being too nitpicky, I propose that our duty is…

    …using technology, skill and experience to remove distractions and help people focus on and respond to the message being communicated.

    I think TDs need to understand how *too much* technology as well as too little can create distractions in the worship service.

    If you are demonstrating complicated skill with a wide array of technology, even if you use it well (and your motive is the glory of God), people may still find the very fact that it is being used AT ALL as being a distraction. Many people resent attempts to manipulate them emotionally. And the crunch time will be when one part of it fails: does the message suffer as a result? If the potential failure of our technology serves to distract, we need to ask whether it facilitates clearer communication enough to justify such a risk.

    So, what’s the difference between “church” and a “show”? With a “show” the purpose is to take what is there (music, acting etc…) and present it in such a way as to amplify its value. With church, the purpose is to expose something which is already valuable. The former distorts, the latter reveals. The problem with making church about the former is that the response rarely lasts longer than the experience. That’s why people hold up camera-phones at concerts, to record the moment. But if church is about the latter: exposing the awesome glory of God, then there is no reason to believe that this experience of glory is exclusively tied to the church service. And we should not encourage people to think that way.

    One contributing problem is that people want to turn church into a convoluted organism that caters for the use of their particular expertise. The motive is “to feel useful” rather than “to build up the church”. (This prevalent attitude is usually founded on faulty theology!) Some tech people buy equipment so complex that they themselves become indispensible, and become a crucial part of the church, to the degree that, without them, the vital message could not be proclaimed. This is a dangerous situation. And people don’t do it knowingly. It is all done ostensibly “to build up the church” but it can quickly become about marking our territory in our own little social community.

    To avoid these situations, simplicity should be valued. Prioritize communicating the most important message and doing the most important things in the simplest possible way. Does this preclude the use of creativity in worship? No. Creativity is of use, but not for creativity’s sake. We think and act creatively in order to find ways to communicate better. And it helps if everyone knows what the message is!

    We need to remember that the power is in the message, not the method. If people go away thinking “what a great preacher” or “what a great worship band” rather than “what a great God!”, then they are focussed on the method.

    Therefore remove anything which focusses people on the method, and help them see the message.

    (PS The message I’m thinking of is the gospel: its historical, theological, personal, communal significance for us. We live in it, we respond to it, our motivation is rooted in it, we love it…all because God’s glory is revealed through it, and his power is manifest in it…just so you know I’m not thinking that all the church has to offer is good community and OK coffee!)

    I hope these thoughts are of value to you,

    In Christ

    Greg

© 2021 ChurchTechArts

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑