A few months ago, I was talking with a younger TD. We got to talking about the state of production and leadership in the church today. I mentioned that with all the traveling I do to different churches around the country, it has begun to depress me how things are looking. Sure, the pics on the ‘gram look great, but when the work lights come back on, everything is kind of a mess.
Like most challenges in the church today, I feel this is a problem of leadership—or the lack thereof—and lack of professionalism. When the concept of the Technical Director (or Production Director) began, nearly all of us had years of professional production experience outside the church before joining a church staff. Having either toured or done corporate production for a long time, we came into the church with the mindset that we were pros and ran the departments accordingly.
Then we all aged out. Being a church TD is definitely a young man’s game, and as we get older, we get too tired and too expensive. With church budgets shrinking, churches turned to younger guys with little or no experience outside of the church they grew up in. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. We all started somewhere. However, the current leadership crisis has led to a situation where there is no one to train the younger guys how to be professional TDs. I know a lot of old guys like myself who were explicitly or implicitly told that when our services were no longer required, our opinions, experience and knowledge wasn’t either.
This is tragic because production is a craft—a craft that you learn best from someone older and wiser. I’m thankful to have had several older mentors as I was growing up in the business that helped shaped the way I approach production. Sure, you can figure it out on your own, but it takes a lot longer. And as tempting as it is, the internet is not much help anymore. There is so much mis-information out there that ranges from simply bad to truly awful.
The Facebook groups are mostly the blind leading the blind and often end up like many Amazon questions: Q—“Does this product do X, Y and Z?” A—“I don’t know. But I love mine!” Yeah, super-helpful. Thanks
As I was going on about all this with my younger TD friend, he asked me what I thought could be done about it all. I actually didn’t have any good ideas. Honestly, it’s a bit exhausting to think about. Sometimes, the questions I get make me want to retreat to my reloading bench and spend the rest of my days tweaking powder charges and overall lengths to squeeze the most accuracy possible from my rifles.
But then God got in my head and said, “Seriously Sessler, you complain about this all the time. Why don’t you do something to fix it?” So, here we are. I don’t know that I can fix the entire problem, but I’m at least going to contribute to a solution. This is the first post in a series of advice I would give to young TDs getting started in this business. Occasionally, I do run across guys who are eager to learn from someone with a little more experience. And since I’ve been doing this longer than many TDs have been alive, I may have a few things to contribute to the conversation.
Over the next unspecified number of days and weeks, I’ll be posting short, one-topic articles that will address things I think every TD or Production Director should know and do. Someday, I’ll take on the senior leadership crisis—but for now, I’ll stick to something I know a little bit about. Check back in next time for the first topic: Be On Time.