The Downside of Making it Look Easy, Pt. 2

One of the very first posts I wrote for this blog was titled, “The Downside of Making it Look Easy.” Recently, my friend Dennis Choy said something that made me think of that post. His comment came at the CTL Retreat at WFX a few weeks ago. Dennis said (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here…) “Being a church tech is tough. Because for us, normal is excellence. If we do our jobs right, everything goes smoothly and no one knows we’re here. It’s not until something goes wrong that people take notice of tech.” 

I talk to techs who rarely get any encouragement from their worship leaders or pastors; indeed, if they do hear anything, it is criticism because something went wrong. This is a real shame, because everyone, even us introverted techs need encouragement. 

Now to a certain extent, we do this to ourselves. When a good tech is in the house, things do tend to run smoothly. That’s because we’ve spent hours fine tuning our systems, fixing broken stuff, planning for the weekend and pre-setting as much as we can. The band shows up, plays and the congregation worships. The pastor walks up to speak, and is heard by all. It’s a beautiful thing, really.

We really do make it look easy. I was once standing in the green room before a service talking to one of our vocalists. He asked me, “So where else do you work?” I replied, “What do you mean?” “Where else do you work during the week when you’re not here?” I said, “Um, I’m full-time here. I work at the church during the week.” He asked, “Oh, really? What do you do all week?” 

This conversation is possibly familiar to you. I wish I had the presence of mind to respond, “You know how you show up at 2:30, pick up the mic, sing and you hear yourself in the monitor and everyone in the house hears you, too? I work all week so that can happen.” 

I know I’d be preaching to the choir if I detailed exactly what goes into pulling off an average church service every 6-7 days. Different band set ups mean different input lists, monitor configurations, lighting positions and monitor mixes. The song words need to be generated and ordered. Sermon notes need to be created. Lights are programmed, video shots are chosen. And this doesn’t even take into account the steady stream of equipment that needs repair, maintenance, or adjustment. 

And of course, we’re all always planning for the next big event; whether it’s Christmas (as we are gearing up for now), Easter, VBS, Fall Launch, Thanksgiving or any other big event. They just keep coming. 

Because most TDs and church techs are introverted, workaholic, people pleasers with a bent toward perfectionism, we do all this work without fanfare or expectation of being noticed. 

The downside of all this (getting back to the title of this post) is that people can—often wrongly—assume that all the work we do magically happens. Perhaps by elves. They can mistake our service in the shadows for, well, nothing—because it all just happens. 

I know a lot of TDs and church techs, and few of them go out of their way to call attention to themselves. But I think we perhaps do a disservice to ourselves and to our team when we don’t occasionally know how much work something was. 

Not that we should do this in a complaining, “Woe is me,” kind of way, but just pointing out occasionally that what we do takes a lot of effort. A good friend of mine was once asked by his pastor to edit a video for the weekend. This request came on Friday afternoon. Sound familiar? Because he’s a great TD, he agreed to edit the video. What makes him a really great TD is that he agreed on one condition; that his pastor join him in the edit process. 

Eight hours later, at 10 PM, after waiting hours for the video to import, be edited, render and QC’d, his pastor had a whole new appreciation for the process. He even vowed to never ask for a video on Friday afternoon again. My friend is pretty smart.

Now, we might not all be able to get our pastor to sit in on an edit with us, but perhaps we can find creative ways to help our leaders understand what we do. I recently walked our Executive Pastor though the tech booth and explained—somewhat briefly—how the stuff works, how many people we need to run the gear and the process for making it work. His mind was sufficiently blown and admitted he had no idea.

You see, when we keep pulling rabbits out of our hats every week, our leadership—perhaps rightly so—begin to believe it really is that easy. By taking some time to explain to them what really goes into all this, we do ourselves, our successors and the church a big favor.

How have you creatively shared what you do with your leadership?

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