Sound Team Tactics


By Craig Janssen

You don’t hear much from them on a Sunday morning, but if it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t hear anything. They are your church’s audio team-the ones who connect the mikes, run the sound system, and oversee myriad technical and acoustical details most of us never consider.

Problem: Let a mike screech or a recorded service turn up blank, and these unsung servants become the sudden focus of criticism.

What can be done to equip these technicians – many of whom may be volunteers – for an effective audio ministry?

Selecting a Team

Churches sometimes gather a sound crew in reaction to desperate, short-term needs. Result: Often a willing but rather directionless and ill-prepared band.

Goal: A team with members whose spiritual gifts, temperaments, and interests coincide with clearly defined team objectives. Advantage: Such a team will work well together and stay together longer.

What to look for: In forming your audio team, seek individuals who:

* Believe in the church. As part of your church’s larger ministry team, the audio technicians need to be strong believers with a passionate faith.

* Submit to church leadership. They should align themselves with the church’s vision and the worship leader’s direction for worship and other audio presentations.

* Initiate technical and creative ideas. They should keep themselves current in audio technology, being able to generate enthusiasm and in-spire worship leaders toward creative new endeavors. Plus: They need the expertise to apply technology effectively in the church.

* Communicate with the worship leader and musicians. They should be committed to building relationships and to sharing their needs and problems with the musicians and other ministry groups in the church. This calls for a servant’s heart.

Supporting the Team

Audio production is an unusual mixture of hard technology and sensitive egos. It depends on individual expertise and group dynamics. An audio team, if carefully organized and administered, can use these differences to positive ends.

Key questions:

* Does your worship and music program have a clearly established ministry direction? This is a fundamental point affecting the audio team’s work. Reason: If the worship team is uncertain of its goals, the sound technicians will be confused in trying to support them.

* Are the right people on the team? People eager to learn are easier to train than those who have experience but wear a know-it-all attitude. What to look for: Servants, not technical knowledge.

* Is your audio system capable of meeting your needs? Without adequate equipment, you will be limited in your ability to facilitate worship and productions. Suggestion: Get advice from an experienced sound person from a nearby large church on what kind of sound system would serve your church best. Also: If a professional-grade sound system is needed, use the services of an acoustical consultant to design the system specifically for your church.

* Have your audio personnel received good training? It will be money very well spent.

* Are there clear management structures and good channels of communication? Important: Be sure only one person is in charge of overseeing and discussing problems with the audio team. Protect them, since they are in a vulnerable position. If they are routine targets for general criticism, they may quit.

* Are your personnel given regular breaks from running sound so they can participate fully in services? The spiritual well-being of the audio team is as important as the spiritual vitality of any other church ministry group.

Key activities: Stay in close contact with your audio team, build relationships with the members, and make sure they are not overworked.

Avoiding Common Problems

Although some personality conflict appears inevitable in churches, it is sad to see miniwars between audio personnel and worship leaders or pastors. Poor communication patterns and neglected relationships are often the root of these conflicts.

Solution: Anticipate the following problems that lead to relationship standoffs and destroy morale:

* Different directions. Without a cohesive vision, the worship leader and the sound technician invariably, if unintentionally, will pursue different courses of action, leading to tensions.

* Unclear requirements. Sometimes audio personnel lack a clear idea of what the worship leader or pastor expects. Major reason: Worship leaders and pastors typically are creative thinkers who communicate in various shades of gray, while audio people tend to be linear thinkers who see things in black and white.

* Unrealistic expectations. When a worship leader or pastor doesn’t possess the technical knowledge to understand what can or cannot be done acoustically and electronically, sound team members may be expected to do the impossible. Solution: A pastor can work with the audio team to develop a relationship of trust, while learning what their capabilities and limitations are.

* Careless criticisms. Sound technicians are often criticized for their mistakes. If they are insecure personally or with their technical ability they may react defensively to criticism, even when evaluation is justified.

* Unhealthy competition. Sometimes there is a creativity-versus-technology rivalry between the music and technical teams. This us-versus-them attitude only alienates the teams from each other, both
socially and in ministry. Also: The sound team and worship team often report to different leaders, which results in mixed lines of communication and a greater potential for problems. Better: View the audio team as a support ministry that plays a vital role in the music and worship ministry of the church.

(The above information was published by YOUR CHURCH, Nov/Dec, 1993)

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