We just wrapped up VBS at Coast Hills. It was a busy week, and there was a lot going on. I didn’t have time to write as much as I normally do, but I was thinking back to a post a wrote a few years ago that is very appropriate for this week. I’ve edited it down quite a bit, so if you want to read the original, you can find it here. Reading back through this, we’ve made a lot of progress in the last three years. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about things we’ve done that have made VBS week a lot more fun. But for now, here’s a glimpse into my world from three years ago.
Last week was VBS for us. As it was my first VBS since coming to Coast Hills, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (aside from a ton of really amped up kids screaming their cheers). I had some initial meetings with the kid’s ministries staff to talk about the details of the main sessions. Of course, when we actually got down to the first day, there were a lot of surprises. This is to be expected, however. One thing we need to keep in mind as techies is that when dealing with other ministries (and sometimes even the worship department), they always forget tech.
It’s not intentional, they just don’t think about it. Children’s workers are concerned with how their programs impact the lives of kids, not how it impacts us. And if you think about it, that’s the way it should be. With that in mind, that means we need to be really pro-active about getting the information we need to support them well.
Ask, Ask and Ask Again
As I said, children’s workers usually don’t think about how their decisions impact tech. That means we need to be continually asking for information. Because I had a few crazy-busy weeks leading up to SVBS, I was not diligent in asking for more information. I assumed if they had information to me they would give it to me. I was wrong.
I should have verified the schedule. The run sheets indicated that the main session started at 10:30, so I planned for my team to be there at 9. Turns out that there was a leader meeting scheduled at 8:30 and the kids would all be in the room at 9:00. I should have pressed for a detailed schedule breakdown of every minute of the week, regardless of whether it directly affected me or not.
The truth is, they don’t know what’s important for us to know and what’s not. If something has not been communicated to you, assume you need to ask about it. Never assume they will tell you what you need to know.
Talk Directly to the Band
Or worship leader, or drama team, or anyone else who will be on the stage. Perfect example: We had a guy come in to lead worship; I was told it would be him and his guitar. So I prepped a DI, wireless handheld and a wedge. Monday morning, he walked out on stage wearing ears, a headset mic and carrying an iPhone (he was planning on playing back his tracks from that).
Lesson learned: I should have directly contacted him and found out exactly what his needs were. You can’t trust a children’s worker to communicate the band/worship leader needs from a technical standpoint. They aren’t techies and don’t know that those few subtle changes make a huge difference in how we set things up. We have to be the proactive ones.
Ask for a Map
This was another failing on my part. VBS tends to take over the entire church campus. Rooms that aren’t typically used for production often have production going on. Sometimes that includes parking lots. In our case, we needed staging and portable PAs on both sides of our building, outside. One of the funny thing about portable, powered speakers is that they require power. It’s a rare church architect that thinks far enough ahead to put power in the parking lot (anywhere useful anyway). That means someone will have to run power out there.
And that’s why we need a map. Get a building plan and have them indicate what is happening in every room (and don’t forget parking lots and outdoor spaces). If you see a giant recreation area in the parking lot, start asking questions about portable PA. See a drama in a classroom, start asking questions. This will save you a lot of last minute stress.
Pre-build and Plan
Thankfully, I stayed around late Sunday to pre-set a lot of what I knew. That saved me when it came to the stuff I didn’t. Had I asked more questions, I would have been closer, but at least I had a baseline. Don’t assume you can set it all up the first morning. There will be surprises, things you didn’t think about, and last-minute changes. Set up more than you think you’ll need, put out an extra wireless mic, stage a few extra portable speakers, round up a bunch of extension cords and anything else you can think of.
It’s also a good idea to have more help on hand than you think you’ll need, especially for the first day or two. That’s something I’m big on; and it saved me. My daughter is the master of prepping wireless mics, so I had her working on that. I brought in another guy to float and he was able to run around putting out fires while I re-built my monitors for the worship leader. My lighting guy is self-sufficient and I had an extra pair of hands at ProPresenter.
Hopefully that gives you a few ideas for surviving and even thriving during your VBS. If you’ve already lived through it this year, consider the next 12 months a time to plan for it next year.